Ojai voters approve water takeover
By VCR Staff 08/29/2013
Ojai’s long battle to take water management away from Golden State Water Company (GSWC) is coming to an end. With 87 percent of voters (46 percent turnout of all Ojai’s registered voters) supporting the passage of a bond measure this past Tuesday that would see up to $60 million available for use in securing the rights through eminent domain, the city is now free to move forward.
GSWC prolonged the takeover through legal means, claiming that the franchise is not for sale, and now will file a lawsuit as a last ditch effort to stop the takeover.
FLOW (Friends of Locally Owned Water) was the biggest backer of the bond. Consisting of more than 2,000 Ojai residents, FLOW is a grassroots group formed in 2010 at the onset of the battle against GSWC. Of the many complaints, FLOW accused GSWC of charging two-thirds higher for water usage than locally-owned alternatives, specifically the Casitas Water District, which the group hopes will eventually manage the city’s water.
The bond measure also includes $18 million specifically to upgrade the aging water system. Of the many complaints brought against GSWC was the issue of double-payment. Ojai resides in the Casitas Water District and pays taxes nearing $250,000 despite not being customers. If the use of eminent domain is successful, Ojai’s water will return to public ownership, as Casitas Water District is a public agency.
In June, Judge Mark Borrell rejected GSWC’s attempt to block the election, and with 87 percent voter support, GSWC’s upcoming lawsuit is likely to fail.