City Council Needs to own Changes in Vista Ridge Contract

City Council Needs to own Changes in Vista Ridge Contract
Ed. Note: We have been advised that the “Stop Vista Ridge” website is now up and running. The address is http://stopvistaridge.com/. SAWS rate payers have only until the end of March 2016 to mobilize the needed 10,000 signatures to meet the threshold requirement. Any SAWS customer living outside the city limits and not a former Bexar Met rate payer can sign a valid petition. Customers who fall into this category should closely monitor their mailboxes for postage paid petitions to arrive.

Below article republished from MySanAntonio.com, by Express-News Editorial Board, March 3, 2016. Image credit: SAWS


Updated 9:02 pm, Thursday, March 3, 2016

Abengoa Vista Ridge wants to sell 80 percent of its $82 million equity stake in the controversial and complicated Vista Ridge water pipeline.

Technically, San Antonio Water System does not have to take such a big contractual change back to the San Antonio City Council for approval. It’s right there in Section 4 of a city ordinance approving the Vista Ridge contract. City officials delegated changes, other than increasing the water amount delivered, to the SAWS board.

But technically, Abengoa was only supposed to be able to sell no more than 49 percent of its equity stake in the project, not 80 percent. That’s a significant difference.

There was an appealing balance with the 49 percent threshold. On one hand, it recognized Abengoa’s precarious financial situation, providing the cover of substantial flexibility. If Abengoa couldn’t foot the bill for its portion of engineering and construction on the project, then it could turn to other partners.

On the other hand, capping this additional investment at 49 percent ensured Abengoa was still primary on the project. That was important since this is whom the public has been dealing with all this time. Remember the spectacle of all those public negotiations?

But 80 percent makes Abengoa a minority stakeholder in what is, arguably, the most important water project in San Antonio’s modern history. One that — if completed — will stretch 142 miles from here to Burleson County, delivering up to 50,000 acre-feet a year. All told, it’s a $3.4 billion project.

That’s why a change this big has to go back to San Antonio City Council for approval. It would be a dereliction of duty for council to say the SAWS board has this one.

Yes, Mayor Ivy Taylor is on the board. Yes, you delegated contractual changes to the board. But hopefully no one intended to delegate such an enormous change.

It’s not that such a potential change is necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, it could be quite good. New investors would presumably put the project on more stable ground.

But the keystone to this deal was that Abengoa, not someone else, was going to take on the risk of building the pipeline and securing water rights. Ratepayers for SAWS would only pay for water that is delivered — and we would pay a premium for this water.

That’s a huge risk shift to Abengoa. Would this new investor really agree to take on all those risks? Or would some of that risk somehow be pushed back onto the ratepayers? Is 80 percent really enough to provide financial stability here, or maybe Abengoa should just be bought out?

These are the kinds of big questions that need to be asked by our elected representatives at City Hall, where the issue can receive far more public attention than at a SAWS board meeting.

Given the importance of Vista Ridge to this city’s future, we’re somewhat surprised the council is split on this.

Forget delegating. This is San Antonio’s water future. Council members should be demanding to have a say on such a significant contractual change.


 Republished from MySanAntonio.com. CLICK HERE to read the original.


 

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