BRAWLEY – The Imperial Irrigation District board had a major sea change last November. The public replaced the solid 3-2 voting block of J.P.Menvielle, Stella Mendoza, and Anthony Sanchez vs Matt Dessert and Jim Hanks.
Granted, by November Sanchez had been gone for months with his resignation following a viral video of his hitting his step-son during a batting practice in his back yard.
The removal of Sanchez, by the video and eventual conviction, had rendered the board dead in the water with a 2-2 vote on most major issues. A spirited and hotly contested election was going to break the tie, and that it did.
The people asked for change. Menvielle and Mendoza lost to Bruce Kuhn and Steven Benson, respectfully. Sanchez’s seat was filled by Norma Gallindo.
The board now has voting blocs based on issues, not coalitions. Nevertheless, many times acting as one, the members have made changes, and they insist more are to come. Lawyers that represented the IID in court on water issues and other policies are gone, replaced by different firms with different tactical ideas for the QSA.
One of the many transformations, maybe not so much a transformation as recycling, are the consultants the board has hired to turn the ship towards their collective vision.
Arn Lahde is one of those consultants. Mr. Lahde is now a hired gun for companies that desire to streamline their managerial operations. He streamlines bureaucratic mazes allowing goods and services to efficiently move and arrive where they are intended to land in a timely, cost-effective manner.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Lahde worked in senior management for many Fortune 500 companies such as Westinghouse, Parsons, Bechtel, and at Disney Imagineering where he re-engineered their operations to design and construct large scale projects that would later be called the Disney Decade.
He came in on the ground floor as a strategic planner and created the business plan for Toons Animation India, which shot to the 3rd largest animation company in the world.
The work Mr. Lahde takes the most satisfaction with is the strategic plan he facilitated for the military during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He helped develop the supply chain management for all supplies, equipment, and parts for the Middle East campaign. Part of this included hot meals to the fighting men and women during Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Ten days after we signed the contract, soldiers overseas were getting hot meals,“ Mr. Lahde said. His work earned him a Medal of Recognition.
He has been hired by the IID before, several times in fact, and at least once declined the offer to serve when he realized the reporting policy had changed. Mr. Lahde told the board back then, “That reporting relationship would be a waste of my time and IID’s money.”
He was brought in during the 1990’s as special assistant to the general manager and later served as assistant general manager to Jesse Silva.
Silva said, “Arn has been a valuable asset to me personally and the organization as a whole. Among his accomplishment, he helped craft a strategic plan, refined the budget process, facilitated public access to the fiber-optic network and headed the implementation of the SAP computer software project.”
Mr. Lahde’s concern with the direction of the IID has never waned. He occasionally wrote Letters to the Editor in The Desert Review which included criticism, encouragement, and suggestions to the board, depending on their latest policy decisions during the 3-2 voting bloc.
Now he has a chance again to use his skills and knowledge to assist IID management to reshape IID into a functioning machine that can fend off outside interests to serve the people of the valley and keep control local.
Another consultant, Frank Barbera, has also had a stint with the IID previously. His time was longer and of a more permanent nature. He became employed with the electrical division in 1991 and retired in 2008.
Mr. Barbera is well known for his efforts promoting transmission reliability and facilitating access to affordable and reliable energy resources, including most recently renewable energy resources.
His work with the Control Area Networking and Discussion Organization (CANDO), the Public Power Initiative of the West (PPIW), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Western Electric Coordinating Council, the Western Governor’s Initiative and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) have been key to addressing the issue of diminishing transmission capacity in California and the western United States.
As chair at the PPIW, Mr. Barbera is credited with leading the effort to create wesTTrans.net, a web‐based regional transmission marketplace. WestTTrans.net was the first Super OASIS (Open Access Same Time Information System) to serve the Western United States.
The website enables transmission customers to acquire transmission capacity at one site from multiple providers. It assimilates the search for airline flight availability, routing, and cost from one location to another.
Among Mr. Barbera’s many other accomplishments are major and highly successful Substation
Automation projects, Telecommunications fiber and microwave communications projects as
well as management of several new Energy Control Center installations.
Mr. Barbera was also appointed by the governor’s office to be a representative on the Geothermal Task Force and the Transmission Task Force of the Western Governors Association’s Clean and Diversified Energy Advisory Committee (CDEAC).
Mr. Barbera worries the IID is susceptible to losing their Balancing Authority. The Balancing Authority (BA) enables the IID board to control the energy and transmission rates, buy the most affordable energy be it nuclear, electrical or renewable, and passing the savings on to the ratepayers, their customers. It also has allowed the IID to find available energy anywhere on the Western Grid, thus preventing brownouts that plague the rest of California that rely on the CAISO grid. His goal is to shore up the BA for the IID for the next generation.
Additionally, he feels the IID can be the utility of choice by the renewable developers within its service area by providing access to various markets in the Western Grid, including the CAISO. He also sees the IID, its ratepayers poised to reap incredible benefits, in the form of reliability and cost savings, from the wealth of renewable resource synergies that the IID and the Valley offer.
“The renewable energy sources here are the jewels of the Imperial Valley,” Frank Barbera said, “they will allow us to preserve high electrical reliability and ensure lower rates to the people. The Valley needs to be in control of their own power. The finances have been inefficiently used, the IID is plagued with high debt, they lost their high credit rating, this makes it difficult, but not impossible to jump into the energy race of the 21st century.”
Mr. Barbera has been presenting a PowerPoint on his vision for the Imperial Valley to various groups the last several years. There is now a board in place that shares Barbera’s vision and believes he has the brain power and drive to be the energy technician that can bring the IID front and center, securing her future, independence, and destiny.
Both Mr. Lahde and Mr. Barbera believe now is a unique opportunity for the IID.
“The gates are open at the race track of power, the other players are moving. Now is the time for the IID to not only run the race, but lead the pack,” Mr. Barbera said.