Technical Advisory Bulletin for Tribal Title V Owners and Operators (COVID-19) March 27, 2020

March 27, 2020
Technical Advisory Bulletin

To: All Tribal Title V Owners and Operators:

This technical advisory bulletin is being issued to address compliance concerns or non-compliance that could result at Title V permitted facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state, local, and the Southern Ute Indian tribal government have been forced to take drastic actions to limit social contact including stay-at-home orders for non-critical employees and closures of certain businesses. The Tribe’s Air Quality Program (AQP) understands that owners and operators are facing many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is issuing this guidance to help operators take measures to document these challenges for compliance reporting purposes.

To document compliance concerns and issues that are directly resultant from challenges relating to the pandemic, the AQP recommends, at a minimum, that operators keep detailed logs, including the reason for non-compliance and maintain all relevant data to support claims (e.g., correspondence with operations personnel, stack test companies, contractors, etc.). Additionally, AQP recommends keeping in contact with the AQP regarding issues as they arise. For urgent matters and prompt deviation reporting during this time, reports can be submitted to: airquality@southernute-nsn.gov. All other logs and records can be submitted to the AQP at a later date.

If owners and operators are able to comply with their Title V permit requirements on time, we strongly encourage you to do so using the processes normally used. Where compliance is impacted by orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, the AQP expects owners and operators to exercise reasonable due diligence. Correspondingly, the AQP will exercise discretion in granting administrative and enforcement relief for various reporting requirements and deadlines of regulated entities as conditions warrant in response to COVID-19.

It is the AQP’s expectation that permittees will take actions minimizing the effects and duration of any noncompliance caused by COVID-19 and will use “best efforts” to return to compliance at the earliest opportunity
If you have any questions regarding compliance during this time, please contact Mr. Oakley Hayes, Air Quality Technical Manager, at (970) 563-2244 or me at (970) 563-2265.

Danny Powers
Air Quality Program Manager
The Southern Ute Air Quality Program

PRESS RELEASE: The Southern Ute Indian Tribe clarifies relationship with the Town of Ignacio and on-going water and wastewater rate discussion

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT

Christine Sage, Chairman – 970.563.0100

Patrick Vaughn, Southern Ute Growth Fund – 970.563.5000

Hayes Briskey, Southern Ute Utilities Division – 970.563.5500

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JUNE 24, 2019 – 3:30 P.M.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe clarifies relationship with the Town of Ignacio and on-going water and wastewater rate discussion

Southern Ute Indian Reservation – For decades, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe has maintained and valued its long-standing intergovernmental relationship with the Town of Ignacio. The Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council and the Town Board of Trustees, along with the Town Manager, meet frequently to discuss various issues of common interest.

The Tribe, through its Utilities Division administered by the Southern Ute Growth Fund, provides treated water, wastewater and natural gas service to the tribal campus, local tribal members residing near Ignacio and the Town of Ignacio. Two years ago, the Town of Ignacio expressed concern that the water and wastewater rates charged by the Tribe were higher than those of other water and wastewater providers in the area. Since that time, the Tribe and the Town have been discussing water and wastewater rates and jointly engaged an independent third-party contractor to conduct a rate study.

It is important to note four significant issues in this discussion:

  1. The Tribe has spent $40 million of its own money (no grant funding) on modern facilities that meet or exceed all applicable regulations for water and wastewater services. These costs are NOT included in our utility rate structure. Even now, the Tribe is in the process of building a new $3 million reservoir for the water system that will provide additional emergency storage and redundancy.  Again, the costs for the reservoir are not included in our utility rate structure. These and other tribal-funded infrastructure improvements have been important and generous contributions to the community.
  2. The Utilities Division water and wastewater funds are running at a deficit and rates need to adjust to break even. We do not operate the Utilities Division as a profit center.
  3. The Growth Fund does not charge the Utilities Division for overhead related to oversight, HR or accounting and therefore, that overhead is not allocated to our utility rate structure.
  4. The utility rates charged the Town are the same rates charged to the Tribe and the tribal member customers.

The Southern Ute Utilities Division is proposing an increase in water and wastewater rates as follows:

WATER:         Current Rate:               $32.80 base per 8,000 gallons + $4.10 per 1,000 gal thereafter

Proposed 2020 Rate:    $47.80 base per 6,000 gallons + $5.00 per 1,000 gal thereafter

Proposed 2021 Rate:    $62.80 base per 6,000 gallons + $6.00 per 1,000 gal thereafter

2022 and beyond:         CPI-U increase annually

By way of comparison, here are some of the rates per 6,000 gallons charged currently by other area utilities for ¾ inch water service:

LPAWD:  $63.80; Forest Lakes: $42.00; Edgemont Ranch: $70.00; Durango: $46.51;

Bayfield: $26.25; Pagosa Springs: $42.79

WASTEWATER:     Current Rate:     $72.09

Proposed 2020 Rate:    $87.09

Proposed 2021 Rate:    $102.09

2022 and beyond:         CPI-U increase annually

By way of comparison, here are some of the rates per 6,000 gallons charged currently by other area utilities:

Forest Lakes: $29.50; Edgemont Ranch: $95.00; Durango: $93.39 in town;

Durango $186.84 outside town; Bayfield: $49.74; Pagosa Springs: $49.88

During this rate analysis, the Town requested, and the Tribal Utilities concurred that wastewater rates should be based on actual winter water flows to obtain true usage.  Now, using our proposed rates and the winter flows, the rates we charge to the Town as a bulk customer will actually go down somewhat from the current bulk rate charged.

The Tribe prioritizes the health of its tribal members and tribal resources such as land and water. We have had no recordable discharge incidents from our wastewater plant since it was built.  Very few utility operators in the Four Corners region can make that claim.  Our water system has had to deal with the Missionary Ridge fire runoff and siltation for years following the fire.  Again, without any violation of standards.

The Tribe also cares about the health and safety of the broader Ignacio community. For example, in 2012, the Tribe (with the Town’s support) waived wastewater and natural gas tap fees as a donation to the Ignacio School District. This waiver significantly reduced the cost of construction of the water main and meter assembly that brings water and fire flow capacity to the school district’s new middle school and the West Mesa region of Ignacio. The new water main also could potentially supply water for any future development in the West Mesa region.

Many water and wastewater providers are now coming to grips with deferred maintenance and ever-increasing operating costs. In fact, in 2018, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs conducted a Colorado Municipal Water and Wastewater Rate Survey.  That survey states that “water and wastewater rates appear to double approximately every 15 years.”  Building, maintaining and operating these facilities properly costs money.  Southern Ute Utilities operators are State of Colorado certified, safeguard plant operations and strive to reduce environmental and health risks.  Our circumstance is magnified by operating a quality system spread over a small population. One cannot opportunistically and selectively choose other municipal rates to argue they are being overcharged. Each provider operates a unique system with unique issues. To meet all applicable regulations, the Tribe must incur certain costs in operating its system. Like all utilities providers, the Tribe recovers those costs from rate payers. Unlike some other utilities providers, however, the Tribe is not charging the Town and other rate payors for the capital costs of the Tribe’s system.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Southern Ute Growth Fund, and the Southern Ute Utilities Division will continue to strive to cultivate a constructive and collaborative relationship with the Town of Ignacio while providing the best water and wastewater services in the Four Corners region and Indian country.

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