West Ada

Suez joins lawsuit in Eagle in an effort to protect purchase of water company

Water company Suez installed a temporary, above-ground water main at the Terra Nativa housing development in the Boise Foothills in 2016.
Water company Suez installed a temporary, above-ground water main at the Terra Nativa housing development in the Boise Foothills in 2016. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Suez Water, the Treasure Valley’s largest water company, asked Friday to join a lawsuit between the city of Eagle and Eagle Water Co. in hopes that the courts would throw out the lawsuit and allow Suez to move ahead with its purchase of Eagle Water.

If that purchase goes through, that would mean Eagle Water Co.’s approximately 4,000 customers would be absorbed into Suez’s service area of 240,000. They would also start see higher water bills.

The city wants to buy Eagle Water itself. Mayor Stan Ridgeway says it has a contractual option from 2008 to acquire the company’s water system and water rights.

In its motion to join the suit, Suez said that the city waited too long to sue Eagle Water Co., months after the process for Suez to purchase Eagle Water had started.

In an email to the Statesman, Suez spokeswoman Jane Kreller wrote, “We’ve been quietly investing in the community for decades, and are the second largest water provider in Eagle. We are patient enough to work through this on behalf of Eagle citizens to get them safe and reliable water service they deserve at the lowest cost.”

A group of Eagle Water customers has formed a nonprofit to voice their grievances with the sale of Eagle Water to Suez as well.

Jane Rohling, who helps lead the group, said current customers want to keep water rates low and make sure their water supply continues to come from Eagle Water’s aquifers, which the group says are purer and are disinfected differently than those maintained by Suez. They’d also rather be customers of the city than Suez, she said.

“It’s more important for the city to have local control,” she said. “If Suez buys Eagle Water Co., that could all be out of our hands.”

On Thursday, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission — whose stamp of approval is required to complete the deal — said it won’t make a decision until the city’s lawsuit is decided, according to a release from the commission. IPUC has asked Suez and Eagle Water to provide it with quarterly reports on the status of the suit, which was filed in state District Court in Boise.

Eagle Water has said that if the sale to Suez goes through, its customers would see rate increases of $6 per month in 2019 and $9 in 2020 and 2021, on average. During those years, commercial customers would see $40 increases per month, the Statesman previously reported.

Suez, which is based in France, is vying to buy Eagle Water Co. for $10 million.

Correction: A group of Eagle Water citizens has intervened in the Idaho Public Utilities Commission case on the sale of Eagle Water, not in the city of Eagle’s lawsuit against Eagle Water Co. An earlier version of this story erred on this point. Also, the story has been revised to make clear that Eagle Water has about 4,000 hookups serving about 12,000 people. Some readers may have inferred from an earlier version there there were 12,000 hookups.

Kate reports on West Ada and Canyon County for the Idaho Statesman. She previously wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Providence Business News. She has been published in The Atlantic and BuzzFeed News. Kate graduated from Brown University with a degree in urban studies.