Friday, March 05, 2010

Needed: Catalina Island Water & Gas Utility

Southern California Edison (SCE) wants to sell its old water and gas utility in Avalon, Santa Catalina Island. Island ratepayers fear rates would increase sharply and that supplies might be jeopardized so they have organized a consortium to try to take over the operation before it can be sold to a Canadian company. The water in the Catalina Island water system is a blended supply, with fresh groundwater sources located in the interior of the island and seawater processed by the desalination system located at the Pebbly Beach Generating Station, right.

SCE is entertaining two prospective bids for the gas and water business, which Edison has valued at $35 million; one is from Corix Utilities Inc. of Richmond, a Vancouver suburb, and another comes from the consortium representing the island's 1,800 ratepayers. SCE intends to continue providing the island's electricity service.

The bid from Corix has galvanized environmentalists, commercial fishing operations, hotel and restaurant owners, city officials, private land owners, summer camps to unite under the auspices of the consortium composed of the Catalina Island Conservancy, the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, USC, a representative of the island's youth camps, the Hamilton Cove Homeowners Assn. and the Santa Catalina Island Co. Edison says the utility is worth $35 million but the stakeholders think it might be worth $5 million. Corix has submitted a bid for the water and gas company and deposited $1 million in earnest money in a bank designated by Edison.

A sustainable, reasonably priced supply of fresh water is the resource most critical to residents, as well as private land owners and developers planning to build an 18-hole golf course, luxury hotel, restaurants and other amenities. (L.A. Times, 3/6/10)

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