All about Clean Water Service Fee ballot

By Dave Druker

Del Mar Mayor

By now, if you are a property owner and utility ratepayer in Del Mar, you should have received an official ballot regarding the Clean Water Service Fee. As indicated in the ballot materials, the fee will pay for the implementation of state and federally mandated programs to improve water quality at our local beaches, ocean, and lagoons.

The Clean Water Service Fee has been a part of your Utility Bill, along with charges for water, sewer, and trash pickup since 2004. As a result of a California Supreme Court decision in 2006, collection of the clean water fee must be approved by a majority of the property owners for the City to continue to collect it. So under the provisions of California’s Proposition 218, you are being asked to do two things:

  1. The City is asking you to ratify the existing five-year fee structure. This is simply fulfilling the Proposition 218 requirements, and ratifying the rates that you are already paying, and that defray a portion of the costs of the program.
  2. The City is asking you to ratify a new fee structure, to cover the increased costs of the Clean Water Program, and reduce the burden on our general fund. Under the requirements of Proposition 218, property owners and ratepayers must approve this rate increase.

I hope most everyone understands the importance of voting yes on both ballots, so I would like to explain how the ballots will be kept secret and counted. The city of Del Mar has contracted with Koppel and Gruber Public Finance to tabulate the results. As the ballots are received at City Hall, each sealed envelope ballot is put into a sealed box without being opened by the city clerk. All ballots are due by Monday, Sept. 15 - no later than 5 p.m. On Tuesday, Sept. 16 the sealed box will be delivered to Koppel and Gruber for verification that official ballots were used and the signature matches the name on the ballot. Once the ballots are verified, the results will be tabulated and presented to the City Council on Monday, Sept. 22. If you have lost your official ballot please contact the city clerk for a duplicate/replacement ballot.
This Clean Water Fee pays for a program mandated by the state and federal government to improve the water quality at our local beaches, ocean and lagoons. The city of Del Mar, like most cities in the region, owns and operates a separate storm drain system - a network of gutters, catch basins, channels and pipes that collect storm water and urban runoff and discharge it into local creeks, lagoons and the ocean. The storm drain system was built to collect and convey runoff to prevent flooding, but not to remove pollutants or treat the runoff. Therefore, any pollutants that runoff carries into the storm drain system are discharged, untreated, directly into the ocean and lagoons.

Management of this “urban runoff” is the city’s responsibility under federal and state law, with very specific requirements outlined in a Storm Water Permit issued by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. This permit dictates what we must do and how we must maintain the program. To avoid being fined by the state and to respond to the desire of our community to maintain a high quality of life, the city implemented increased water quality control measures through the Clean Water Program. But to implement these requirements requires additional funding. Based on the current state and federal requirements, the estimated cost of the mandated clean water program is approximately $500,000 per year, and is expected to increase annually as a result of stricter requirements.