Property owners in western Malibu, who for several years have had to truck in their own water, say they may not be able to afford to form a water district in the Winding Way and DeButts Terrace areas above Paradise Cove.
Efforts to form the district were dealt another blow last week when the county delayed a decision on whether to accept a low bid of $3.6 million to construct a water tank and trunk lines to serve the approximately 80 properties in the area.
The low bid was $300,000 more than the $3.3 million budgeted to form the district. The property owners will have to pay the entire amount, plus about $600,000 in additional expenses for right-of-way acquisition and slope and drainage improvements.
Peter Ireland, Malibu field deputy for Supervisor Deane Dana, said that the amount over budget and the additional expenses may require the county to conduct another public hearing on the project.
"What we were hoping for was a bid under budget," Ireland said. "When that did not happen, we were forced to refer the matter to the director of the county Public Works Department to advise the county on the next course of action."
Marilyn Cann, a member of the Winding Way-DeButts Terrace Homeowners Assn., said she doubts that a majority of the property owners in the 500-acre area could afford any additional costs to build the water system.
Although some of the property owners are celebrities, such as actor Stacy Keach, "many of the property owners are older people on fixed incomes," Cann said.
"The owner of an average lot . . . of 2 to 2 1/2 acres would have to pay $28,000 for construction of the water district improvements. My husband (who is in the real estate business) and I can afford any increase because we have no choice. Without water, the property is worthless."
Owners of large parcels would pay considerably more.
The area's water problems started in the early 1970s when salt water intrusion ruined private wells. Because there is no steady water supply to fight fires, property owners who failed to build homes on their land before 1981 have been denied building permits by the county Fire Department.
Efforts to form the water improvement district began 10 years ago but have run into a long list of delays, including opposition from the state Coastal Commission in 1976 because the county had not produced a general plan for Malibu outlining the expected growth in the area.
The county has announced several plans for completing construction of the district in 1982, 1984 and Nov. 1, 1985. The latest plan from the county was set to be completed in May, 1987.
Ireland said that Dana expected the Public Works Department to make its recommendations to the Board of Supervisors by the end of the year.