Redlands irrigation fees may rise

Kevin Jones, superintendent for Redlands Water and Power, is seen at the power plant on the Redlands. Extreme weather conditions in the summer and winter months have left the company in rough financial straits. The company will ask its shareholders to approve a rate increase.



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Kevin Jones, superintendent for Redlands Water and Power, is seen at the power plant on the Redlands. Extreme weather conditions in the summer and winter months have left the company in rough financial straits. The company will ask its shareholders to approve a rate increase.

Low summertime flows in the Gunnison River and wintertime ice floes in the river have combined to grind down Redlands Water and Power Co.‘s finances.

The squeeze has officials preparing to ask shareholders in the company to pay $20 a year more for their irrigation water, up to $145 from the current $125.

That’s a 16 percent increase, but it also comes on the heels of four consecutive years with no increases, officials said.

“We probably should have had moderate increases for the last five years,” Redlands board Chairman Chuck Mitisek said.

Instead of increasing rates, Redlands used much of its fund balance, leaving the nonprofit company with about $100,000 in cash reserves.

Redlands also has about $250,000 in emergency reserve, but it’s now time to rebuild cash reserves, Mitisek said.

Redlands Water and Power was founded to supply water from the Gunnison River to orchards on the Redlands, some 300 feet above the river.

To get Gunnison River water up to its shareholders, Redlands employs a series of pipes and pumps, as well as a hydropower generator on Power Road that powers the system. Redlands Water and Power also relies on the generator to generate cash in the winter by pumping electricity into the grid, resulting in payments by Xcel Energy Co. back to the company.

The generator, which was installed in 1933, is aging, but is still in operation. Ice can slow or stop it, resulting in reduced revenues, Redlands Superintendent Kevin Jones said.

Redlands Water and Power spent $27,000 more than budgeted last year to buy electricity from Xcel to operate its system while low water levels and ice took a share of electricity revenues, which were $83,000 below the amount the company took in 2010, company officials said.

To make up the difference, Redlands had to eat into its cash reserves.

Officials will ask shareholders to approve the increase, amounting to $3.33 per month per share, at a meeting on Feb. 11 at the Redlands Community Center, 2463 Broadway.

The change doesn’t affect domestic water to the Redlands, which is supplied by the Ute Water Conservancy District.

Even with the increase, the irrigation water supplied by Redlands Water and Power is a bargain, Jones said, noting the amount of water it supplies over a six-month irrigation season.

“We’re asking for 145 bucks for a million gallons of water,” Jones said.



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