Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case No. ISL-W-08-01, Final Order

November 7, 2008

Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712

Website: www.puc.idaho.gov

 

Rates approved for Island Park Water

 

State regulators granted a request by Island Park Water Company to increase rates from $125 per year to $280 per year, but are also expecting a number of improvements to the water system and to customer service.

 

Island Park Water Company asked for the increase last March, maintaining it was necessary to meet increased operating expenses, including the higher cost of electricity, lab fees for testing water and for labor and materials to repair and maintain pumps and water lines. Rates have not been adjusted since the company’s last rate case in 1992.

 

The regulated water utility serves about 334 customers in five subdivisions of Island Park. The service territory includes seven separate water systems on 13 wells.

 

Initially developed for summer use in the 1970s, the company’s service area is increasing in year-round occupancy and year-round recreational weekend use, putting increased strain on capacity. The systems are also compromised by the freezing of mainline water pipes, some of which are buried less that the minimal depth required for frost protection. Commission staff also reported that the water systems are poorly maintained, with many of the wells not equipped with flow meters to monitor use, shut-off valves to make it possible to show down part of the system without shutting off the entire system and no flushing hydrants.

 

Customers also complain about water quality, about not being notified when there are service interruptions and an inability to contact the company’s office in Idaho Falls because it did not have a dedicated phone line.

 

The commission expressed hope that new management will alleviate customer complaints. “We are encouraged by the reorganizational changes of the company and hope that the new management ushers in an era of better service and communication for the customers of Island Park,” the commission said.

 

There is little that can be done immediately to re-engineer the physical plant in the ground, which was installed many years before the company was regulated. However, the commission is requiring an engineering study to explore the costs of upgrading the individual water systems to better serve a year-round utility.

 

The commission also directed the company to do the following:

 

-- Provide a timeline for installation of flow meters at all well-heads.

-- Provide a timeline for installation of 2-inch flush valves at the end of its distribution lines.

 

-- Implement a schedule to regularly flush all main and distribution lines.

 

-- Develop a 5-year engineering plan and cost estimate to ensure all mainlines are buried below the frost line. The study should also include costs of installation of meter bases, individual customer meters and shut-off valves. (Currently, customers are not metered and are assessed a flat fee.)

 

-- Develop a formal interconnection policy for developers and individuals who want to connect to the system and require that those connecting notify the company and allow the company to inspect the connection. Commission staff found that new service connection and mainline extensions are often made without prior notification to the company.

 

-- Install signs with contact information and notice at well-heads regarding new connection requirements. The company has also installed alarm systems at some of the wells to address the problem of forced entry by some to well-head cisterns.

 

-- Require shut-off valves and meter bases for all new service connections.

 

-- Install shut-off valves and meter bases for existing customers during periods of system maintenance and excavations.

 

-- Install a dedicated phone line with answering and message service and a system for timely response to customer requests.

 

-- Develop a protocol for scheduled service interruptions and a plan for customer notification in the event of service interruptions.

 

-- Establish and maintain a record of complaints and a call log.

 

Interested parties may petition the commission for reconsideration by Nov. 26. Petitions for reconsideration must set forth specifically why the petitioner contends that the order is unreasonable, unlawful or erroneous. Petitions should include a statement of the nature and quantity of evidence the petitioner will offer if reconsideration is granted.

 

Petitions can be delivered to the commission at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise, mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID, 83720-0074, or faxed to 208-334-3762.

 

Documents related to this case are available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room” and then on “Water Cases” and scroll down to Case No. ISL-W-08-01.