Last week, the city of Half Moon Bay proceeded with a lawsuit filed two years ago against Granada Community Services District and Montara Water Sanitary District after the three agencies failed to resolve what began as a disagreement over sharing the costs to repair the region’s sewage pipeline.
The Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside, a 40-year-old joint powers authority, comprises the city, Granada and Montara districts. With the renewed court action, the long-standing partnership is newly under threat.
The public announcement that the city would move forward with the lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court came last Friday in a press release. But in the days since, the two other agencies have issued their own statements, saying the announcement falsely represented the dispute.
“(Half Moon Bay) made inaccurate, self-serving public statements related to pending litigation,” Clemens Heldmaier, general manager of the MWSD, told the Review in an email. “(Half Moon Bay) is seeking to renege on their obligations to this essential joint system.”
According to the Half Moon Bay announcement, the two Midcoast districts ultimately failed to accept the terms of the tentative agreement reached in August 2019. The city’s announcement also described the Intertie Pipeline System, the project replacement that ignited the initial disagreement, as “an extension of the local sewer collection system of Granada and Montara and carries wastewater from those communities to the SAM treatment plant in Half Moon Bay.”
But this description of the pipeline system as an extension that “does not directly serve users in the city” is controversial.
“Contrary to Half Moon Bay’s assertion that the IPS serves as an extension of Granada’s and Montara’s sewer collection systems, the IPS is an asset owned and operated by SAM, and serves residents of Half Moon Bay as well as residents of Granada and Montara,” said Barbara Dye, president of the Granada Community Services District, in a Sunday press release.
“Half Moon Bay’s assertions in its press release that Granada and Montara are responsible for the failure of settlement negotiations ignores the fundamental truth that it takes compromise from all parties,” Dye said.
Half Moon Bay’s lawsuit was originally filed in July 2017. But the agencies entered mediation in September 2018, temporarily halting litigation. Though a tentative agreement was reached, the months since failed to bring resolution.
“This dispute, at its core, is about protecting Half Moon Bay sewer ratepayers from subsidizing the cost of sewer infrastructure from which they receive no benefit,” the Half Moon Bay announcement said.
All sides affirm their actions reflect their commitment to keeping costs reasonable for ratepayers in their jurisdictions.
The tentative settlement agreement would have required the Granada district to assume about 50 percent more of the share of SAM’s operating costs. Meanwhile, through the tentative settlement agreement, the city sought to address its contention that it bears an outsize share of financial responsibility.
Despite the dispute, necessary repairs to the aging system have been made, though they have been delayed, according to SAM General Manager Kishen Prathivadi.
“It always comes down to funding,” Prathivadi said. “(The intertie pipeline system) got pushed a little here and there. I would say it wasn’t completely because of the dispute, but because of that it wasn’t done sooner.”
Replacement of a portion of the pipeline largely spanning Granada began in 2017 and was completed this September. Examination of a section of the pipeline in Montara is scheduled to begin soon, and Prathivadi expects the assessment will be completed by June 2021.