March 10, 1999
LEGISLATION ESTABLISHING THE SOUTH CENTRAL REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITY
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked for a description of the special act that established the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (SCCRWA). You also asked (1) for a description of the authority's powers and (2) who regulates it.
The SCCRWA was created by SA 77-98. The act establishes a regional policy board appointed by local officials and a five-person authority appointed by the board to administer the SCCRWA. The act gives the SCCRWA broad powers, including the right to purchase and condemn property, operate a water system, and issue bonds. The SCCRWA is subject to regulation by the state departments of Public Health and Environmental Protection, but is not regulated by the Department of Public Utility Control.
The SCCRWA was created by SA 77-98 “An Act Concerning Financial Assistance for Water Companies for Construction of Treatment Plants and Creating the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.” It was created from the assets of the New Haven Water Company, which served the greater New Haven area. Among the factors leading to the creation of the authority was the announcement by the company in 1974 of its plans to sell 16,000 of its 25,000 acres of watershed land. In turn, the proposed sale was motivated by the financial requirements of complying with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. Another factor was a provision in a 1902 contract between the company and the city of New Haven, which gave the city an option to buy the company. The act creating the SCCRWA was vetoed, but the veto was overridden. The authority's creation is the subject of Who Wants to Buy a Water Company? (1996), which is available in the Legislative Library.
SPECIAL ACT 77-98
The act states that the purpose of creating SCCRWA is to assure the adequate provision of water at a reasonable cost in the region and to promote conservation and compatible recreational use of the land held by the authority. Under the act, the district to be served by the authority consisted of Bethany, Branford, Cheshire, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Killingworth, Madison, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Prospect, Wallingford, West Haven, and Woodbridge. Under the act, if the authority did not own land or serve customers in any of these municipalities after 1982, the municipality would be excluded from the authority. Shortly after the authority was created it sold the land it owned in Wallingford, removing it from the authority's service territory.
The act establishes a representative policy board for the authority, consisting of residents of the member municipalities appointed by their respective chief elected officials. (SA 78-24 added one member appointed by the governor.) Voting by the municipally appointed members of the board is weighted by the number of customers and amount of authority-owned land in the municipality. Under the act, the board must have standing committees on land use, finance, and consumer affairs. The act also specifies public notice requirements for hearings conducted by the regional policy board.
The representative policy board must establish an Office of Consumer Affairs to act as an advocate for consumers on such issues as rates, water quality, and supply.
The SCCRWA is governed by five individuals, appointed by the representative policy board, who constitute the authority. No one can be a member of both bodies. The authority must meet at least monthly, with three members constituting a quorum.
The act gives SCCRWA broad powers. These include the power to:
1. acquire real and personal property by purchase or condemnation;
2. construct and develop a water supply system;
3. sell water at retail and wholesale;
4. borrow money and issue revenue bonds;
5. acquire real property for conservation and recreational purposes, so long as the state Department of Public Health determines that these uses will not harm water quality; and
6. employ staff.
The act allows the authority to set rates and charges, subject to approval by the representative policy board, and specifies ratemaking principles. Unpaid rates and charges are a lien against the owner of the affected property.
The act required the authority to develop land use standards and disposition policies, subject to approval by the representative policy board. The authority must provide information to the board on the environmental and land use impacts of any proposed sale. The information must be provided to the state Department of Public Health and then Department of Planning and Energy Policy (currently part of the Office of Policy and Management), the regional planning agency, and the municipality. Sale of any real property for purposes other than utility service or recreational use requires a majority of the weighted vote of the representative policy board if the parcel is less than 20 acres, and a three-quarter vote for larger parcels. The board cannot approve a sale unless it complies with the authority's policies, is not likely to harm the environment, and is in the public interest. The authority must consider the impact of the proposed sale on the municipality where the land is located in making its determination. The act also gives the municipality and the state a right of first refusal to buy the land.
The act exempts the authority from property taxes. But it requires that SCCRWA make a payment in lieu of taxes equal to the amount that would be otherwise due on the property, other than on improvements made by the authority.
REGULATION OF THE AUTHORITY
As discussed above, the governance of the SCCRWA is in the hands of the authority and the representative policy board. The authority sets rates and charges, subject to the board's approval. The Department of Public Utility Control does not have jurisdiction over the authority or the board.
On the other hand, the act specifies that the SCCRWA is subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health (which regulates water quality and the adequacy of water supply) and the Department of Environmental Protection (which regulates water diversions, among other things).