San Diego water authority head retires after more than two decades

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The San Diego County Water Authority’s long-time general manager, Maureen Stapleton, informed the agency’s board this week that she will be retiring.

Sandy Kerl, who has been the authority’s deputy general manager since 2009, will serve as acting general manager, while the 24-member water wholesaler conducts a search.


Stapleton, who steps down after 23 years, was credited by board members with helping to diversify and improve the reliability of the agency’s water supplies.

“The positive impact of Maureen’s leadership on the water authority and management of this region’s water supply cannot be overstated,” Jim Madaffer, chair of the water authority's board, said in a statement.

During Stapleton’s tenure, the water authority battled nearly 10 years to get environmental approvals and the right financing package to bring its $1 billion Carlsbad desalination plant online in December 2015.

The desalination plant was financed through a 30-year water purchase agreement between plant developer and owner Poseidon Water and the water authority for the production of up to 48,000 acre-feet of water per year.

Under the agreement, Poseidon secured funding for plant construction, most of which came from the December 2012 sale of $734 million of bonds through the California Pollution Control Financing Authority, of which $203 million were tax-exempt government bonds issued on behalf of the water authority for a pipeline and $530 million were tax-exempt private activity bonds of Poseidon.

JPMorgan priced in January a $185 million refunding on the water authority’s bonds issued for that pipeline realizing $18 million in net present-value savings through June 2046, according to the board.

Another major milestone cited was Stapleton's efforts on the 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement, which came after eight years of negotiations involving a number of California water agencies, the seven Colorado River basin states and the federal government.

The crux of that agreement was a water conservation and transfer agreement between the water authority and the Imperial Irrigation District that allows San Diego to purchase water directly. Stapleton’s efforts helped to lessen the water authority’s dependence on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, according to past board members.

Stapleton attributed the water authority’s success to the vision of the board, commitment of staff and the management team, the 24 member agencies and San Diego’s civic leaders.

“I will greatly miss my Water Authority colleagues and esprit de corps we shared carrying out the Water Authority’s mission to provide our region with a safe and reliable water supply,” Stapleton said in a statement.

Stapleton served nine years at the City of San Diego, rising to assistant city manager, before being named general manager at the water agency in 1995. Before working for San Diego, she was assistant city manager for Claremont, California.

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