Meeting will give proposed KID water fees update

Kennewick urban customers would pay a bit less and farmers would pay a bit more under a revised water rate schedule being presented tonight by the Kennewick Irrigation District.

A special public meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Kennewick Red Lion, 1101 N. Columbia Center Blvd., will give the details of the proposed change in irrigation water fees.

"This is it. We'll be able to tell people what it means," said Chuck Freeman, KID's secretary-manager.

For example, a Kennewick homeowner on one-quarter acre could expect to pay about $20 less for pressurized water, while a farmer taking nonpressurized water directly from the canal could see a $45 increase, Freeman said.

KID has spent more than a year exploring restructuring its rates and hired a consultant from Redmond to do a cost of service study and prepare several methodologies for determining a rate structure.

The new system, which has not been adopted by the board, considers costs for the canals and the piping and pumping of water to KID customers. Those who benefit the most from the infrastructure end up paying the most.

Each classification of customer -- urban or agricultural, pressurized or nonpressurized and the size of the property -- would pay the predetermined share of costs for service.

"This stems from when the tier and toll rate structure was implemented (in 2009) and negatively impacted some ratepayers," Freeman said.

"The board was sensitive to what they where hearing, and the district needs to defend its actions," he said.

Complaints about farmers getting water cheaper at the expense of urban customers has led to the proposed changes.

But those who will reap the most savings will be KID customers who receive water with the least amount of pumping and piping, Freeman said.

For example, a customer who has unpressurized water piped to his 5.25 acres as gravity flow would see the summer irrigation water cost drop from $893 this year under the existing system to $768 under the proposed system. That would be a savings of $125, or 14 percent, Freeman said.

The board will not decide on the proposed rates tonight, but this is the public's chance to ask questions and get answers about their properties.

Freeman said KID staff will be available with laptop computers to do rate calculations for anyone who asks.

"When we started this no one thought it would be this complex," Freeman said.

The public can come early to ask questions and stay as late as they want, he said.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com