Pacific Shores water probe dead

April 10, 2002 11:00 pm

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

An investigation into the Pacific Shores California Water District is apparently dead.

Though it was reported in the Daily Triplicate last week that the state Attorney General's office was still evaluating the district's operations, that office formally dropped the probe Feb. 27 at the same time the California Coastal Commission dropped the case.

The two agencies determined that only the Del Norte Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) has the appropriate powers to evaluate and then dissolve the water district if necessary. Local LAFCO officials said yesterday they don't have plans to pursue an investigation.

"We know that the water district board would step in and refute LAFCO's actions," said Del Norte's LAFCO director Amy Beauchan, and the process to challenge the district would be expensive.

The Pacific Shores Water District was formed along with its board of directors about 14 years ago to develop and provide water and sewer service to the undeveloped Pacific Shores Subdivision.

So far, the water district has not achieved that goal, despite 14 years of collecting taxes from lot owners.

In question is whether the water district is spending tax money legally and whether the district is operating outside of the initial permit granted to it by the Coastal Commission and LAFCO.

"We believe the remaining questions about the district's existence and effectiveness, and what exactly it is accomplishing for its property owners, are best resolved by the district and LAFCO," said Lisa Trankley, deputy Attorney General in a letter to Sandra Jerabek, one of 11 people who asked the Coastal Commission to investigate the water district's legality.

Trankley confirmed yesterday, her office has closed that case, passing it on to LAFCO.

"We had looked into some issues, but we aren't involved in it anymore," she said.

Though LAFCOs have the authority to initiate investigations and break up services districts if the district's aren't serving their purpose, Beauchane said that power won't be used because of the expense of the process and the split views of the 1,500 or so members of the water district.

"We received a fairly solid push for dissolution and a fairly solid push against it from the property owners," she added.

Money is an issue, because local LAFCO budgets are funded half and half by the city and county governments. Del Norte County's budget is currently in the hole.

Because of the risk and the expense, Beauchane said the LAFCO board members decided not to act until the state mandated evaluations of all local service districts are conducted next year.

It could happen sooner, however, if Pacific Shores property owners file a formal application with LAFCO to dissolve the water district taxing them.

The expense would then be the onus of the applicants, Beauchane said.

Though several property owners have written letters to LAFCO suggesting the water district be dissolved, no formal application has been filed.