Running in El Dorado Irrigation District Division 4 is Dr. Dale Coco, 67. Coco’s campaign website is coco4eid.com.
A retired physician who lives in Cameron Park, Coco has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Southern Methodist University and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He was chief of staff at Barton Memorial Hospital and served on multiple committees at Marshall Hospital. After 15 years in private practice he worked for Kaiser Permanente in Folsom. During his tenure at Kaiser, he said he was the project manager or was involved in eight major projects to cut costs, increase efficiency and maintain or increase quality.
Coco said he has prepared himself for the position of EID board member by spending the last two-and-a-half years studying water issues affecting the state, county and EID as well as spending time with the top water people in the county. “I have the credentials to deal with complex issues and come up with innovative solutions,” he added.
Coco said he is running for the EID board because he has lived in the county for 40 years and it’s been very good to him and his family.
“I’m retired, tan, rested and ready,” he said. “I want to give something back. And I’m concerned. I’m very concerned not just about EID, but about water in California and about outside special interests that can possibly come and take away our water rights. Water is the most important thing we have. My goal is to provide adequate high quality water at a reasonable price to El Dorado County residents so they can thrive and the county can thrive.”
Coco said current threats to county water rights include the Delta Stewardship Council and the proposed $8 billion water bond. “There are only three rivers in California that are not over-consigned or completely consigned,” he said, “and two of those are in this county. Our water rights only have 19,500 acre feet that are sacrosanct and are pre-1914.”
Concerned that county water could end up being sent south, he said as a retiree he’s able to attend water hearings, to testify, to lobby politicians in Sacramento, and collaborate with agencies like Association of California Water Agencies and Mountain Counties to protect the county’s water rights.
Coco maintains he’s the better candidate for the job, asserting that his work at Kaiser gave him the experience to deal with the kinds of problems facing EID. “I also understand why we have rate problems,” he added. “Rates went up because we were selling FCC’s (hookup changes). During the boom years, EID was taking in $20 million or more from FCCs. Then the bust hit and that almost went to zero. They lost a huge amount of income but their cost of operations remained the same, so they had to raise rates to make up the difference.”
“They also built facilities for an expected boom but it didn’t come so now we have Deer Creek that’s running at 30 percent of capacity and we acquired $30 million to $40 million in debt to build things that are sitting there. That’s why there’s so much excess capacity. I understand how it happened and I have several solutions for how to deal with it on my Website, including white papers on a rebate program for ratepayers, a solution for restaurants faced with high water and sewer bills, as well as the 184 in-line hydro project.
“I’m not here because I have political ambitions or some vendetta against EID,” said Coco, adding that EID Director Alan Day has endorsed him and he and Coco are already meeting to talk about solutions.
Listing the challenges facing EID, he included escalating rates, the failure to control debt, which is 25 percent of the cost of operations. Add in unfunded pensions and it makes up 30 percent of the cost of operations, he said. “Last we have to secure plentiful water for our county and protect it from outside interests. That is critical. We have to deliver quality water at a reasonable rate and make sure we have adequate water for our future.”
Getting into specifics, Coco listed what he would do as an EID director, saying the first thing would be to freeze rates for three or four years. “I’d also advocate for a rebate program for those who installed low flow and low energy appliances to save water and lower ratepayers’ bills.”
He said EID’s cost of operations could be reduced by putting the agency through a value engineering or total quality management (TQM) program, saying, “We need to retool the organization to make it more efficient and cost-effective.”
As far as debt reduction, Coco said he would take some of the $10 million profit EID made this year and put part of it into capital improvements and part into paying down the debt. He also advocates allocating a portion of all fees to pay down the debt and build a capital improvement fund.
Coco believes Project 184 should be retooled as well. Project 184 is a license that allows EID to operate a hydroelectric power generation system. “With TQM, we can turn the project into a money-maker, cut our energy costs, and pay down some of our debt.” he said.
One thing I did as a physician was listen, he added, saying he wanted to hear from ratepayers and others. He plans to set up a kitchen cabinet made up of people from different stakeholder groups. He also plans to have an interactive Website so people can communicate with him. “I want to hear from people what’s wrong. I want to listen as well as do.
“Please go to my website for details on all of this,” he said. “That’s where my white papers are posted. I’m all about substance not about talk. We know what’s wrong with EID. Let’s stop talking about problems and work together to find the solutions and correct the problems.”