A meeting of the San Diego County Water Authority. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

This post originally appeared in the Nov. 19 Morning Report. Get the Morning Report delivered to your inbox.

The Metropolitan Water District decided Monday that, after about a year of closed-door negotiations, it would go public with an offer to settle its long legal battle with the San Diego County Water Authority.

Both sides have spent about $20 million each fighting for years about how much the San Diego agency should have to pay Metropolitan to deliver water San Diego bought from Imperial County farmers in a 2003 deal.

Monday, Metropolitan offered San Diego a payment of $72 million and a new price structure for the water: $450 per acre feet. The price would increase according to the Construction Cost Index and not the formula the agency uses for setting the cost of water, which has been the subject of the lawsuits.

“We like the idea of decoupling San Diego from our rates. It removes the incentive to sue us every two years. We think price certainty for San Diego has value to them,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of Metropolitan.

San Diego’s response: It’s not great. “The Water Authority is fully committed to a mutually beneficial settlement, which is why we initially offered a proactive settlement to MWD more than a year ago. MWD’s recent counter offer makes additional progress, but to truly reach an enduring agreement, further discussions must be conducted in an open and transparent manner that moves away from costly legal debates,” wrote Chairman Jim Madaffer.

The problem with that: Kightlinger said the offer was take it or leave it. His board would have to decide whether it wanted to continue discussions or go back to court.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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