Henry Mathis, an alternate member of the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission, looks on as the public addresses a vote deciding whether two small water districts can divorce the San Diego County Water Authority on June 5, 2023. / MacKenzie Elmer
Members of the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission at a meeting on June 5, 2023. / MacKenzie Elmer

San Diego’s boundary referees are rushing to push up a vote on a controversial water divorce before the state Legislature can step in. 

The Local Agency Formation Commission is holding an emergency meeting Wednesday to push up a vote on whether two small farming communities can break up with the San Diego County Water Authority in search of cheaper water in Riverside County. 

That’s because they’re in a race against the clock with Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner, a Democrat from Encinitas, who introduced another new bill that effectively would dethrone LAFCO of its power over the decision. She’s also pursuing what’s known as an “urgency clause,” which means the law would go into effect immediately upon enactment. 

Boerner’s bill would amend the County Water Authority act and require not just a vote of the eight-member LAFCO commission for one water district to leave another, but approval from a full countywide vote as well. The legislation would prolong the decision about whether the water districts of Fallbrook and Rainbow can divorce the San Diego County Water District and marry into the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. 

The districts want to leave San Diego in pursuit of cheaper water rates for its farmers. The Water Authority, as well as the city of San Diego which supports Boerner’s bill, say that will push more water infrastructure costs onto the remaining 22 member water districts – an estimated $2 monthly water bill increase per household.

Boerner gutted and amended a climate change bill in the Assembly to host her language. But then she decided to pursue the same legislation by gutting and amending a bill in the Senate, which she thinks will move faster, confirmed Boerner’s spokeswoman, Rajeena Bisla. In an emailed statement, Boerner said she’s moving with such haste to “ensure that all those impacted by detachment have a voice,” detachment being another term for this water divorce issue. 

Keanne Simmonds, LAFCO’s executive officer, said Boerner’s bill would treat water districts differently than the other kinds of special districts whose boundaries they dictate

“I think this bill seems to disenfranchise Fallbrook and Rainbow more than anyone because they clearly went into a process with certain rules to the game, and now those rules are being changed,” Simmonds said.

Correction: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Rajeena Bisla’s name.

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