By Mark Barnes
Once a year, the city’s Board of Corrections, a committee made up of the mayor and the city council, hears water rights related issues. On March 19, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. at Kuna City Hall this committee will meet to hear appeals from the public and business developers regarding annexation, de-annexation, and recommendations from other city officials as to changes within the Kuna Municipal Irrigation District, a governing entity that oversees water and irrigation rights within Kuna. This year’s meeting just might prove to be the most exciting in years.
Kuna pays the Boise Kuna Irrigation District and two other irrigation districts for water that the Kuna Municipal Irrigation District uses. By its own rules and irrigation law, they are supposed to pass those costs on to water rights holders within the district. Unfortunately, due to errors and handshake deals over the last two decades, not everybody is paying their fair share. This causes rates to increase on those that do pay.
Mike Borzik, a GIS mapper with city of Kuna since 2008 has been looking at city irrigation maps and analyzing the 5,289 properties within the Kuna Municipal Irrigation district to ferret out these errors. Recently, some residents were notified that they should have been paying an irrigation assessment for the last 20 years. While the city does not currently plan on back billing for its oversight, the city stresses the importance that these properties need to pay the assessment if their property has a water right. Most of these properties are located in south Kuna.
If property owners do not pay the irrigation assessment, by law the city can place a tax lien against the property. This week, 30 Kuna residents received or will be receiving notices that a tax lien will be placed on their property. In some cases, the lien is less than a dollar. Typically, a property has to be at least three years delinquent before a tax lien is placed.
In addition to fixing billing errors, there are multiple other problems in correcting the irrigation district and property’s access to water.
While some properties in the city have a water right, whether or not they have been paying their annual irrigation assessment, they might not have access to either gravity fed or pressurized irrigation water. In those cases the city gives some a discount on their city water bill (drinking, or potable, water) so that it does not cost residents so much to use potable water to water their landscapes. This gives some residents a very large discount on their water bill compared to other property owners. It cost the city much more to produce a gallon of drinkable water than pay for a gallon of irrigation water. This is why it encourages those with access to irrigation water to use it for their lawns and landscapes.
The issue gets even more complex. Some neighborhoods are set up with pressurized irrigation but not all properties are hooked up if the water lines are available. Some of these properties have been getting the city water discount and others have not. The city wishes to move forward in getting residents to hook up to pressurized irrigation if it is available and determine those properties that cannot hook up. The current costs to plumb a property for pressurized irrigation off a main line is close to $800 but there has been some discussion from city officials as to the possibility of offering a discount. If a property is determined by the city to have no access to irrigation water, there has been discussion to recommend them for de-annexation from the Kuna Municipal Irrigation District.
At a recent planning meeting, the mayor and other city employees discussed fixing these problems now so that as the city grows, and to anticipate low water years, that sufficient drinking water be available. Mayor Greg Nelson said that fixing these problems might take a few years, but the city needs to get started on it now. Recommendations to these fixes will be presented at the Board of Corrections meeting on March 19. Property owners with irrigation related issues are encouraged to attend.
Give us some feedback on your city water billing or irrigation situation at editor@KunaMelba.com.
Please continue to follow water and irrigation issues in upcoming issues of Kuna Melba News.