The directors received a notice from the State Water Resources Control Board regarding an application to withdraw “7.3 acre-feet of water by storage” from an unnamed spring that is a tributary of the South Fork of the Eel. The request to appropriate water by permit was filed by Martin Schepergerdes, a resident of Branscomb.
The board members were surprised at the amount of water requested, which after some figuring by board president Michael McKaskle and board member John Rogers amounted to about 2.5 million gallons.
”I thought the river was already over-allocated,” board member Art McClure said.
From the document in front of them, it wasn’t clear if that amount of water was going to be drawn once or repeatedly throughout the year. The water drawn is intended to be bottled and sold as drinking water.
All the board members were concerned about the impact of water withdrawal upstream of the Redway district. A subcommittee of Rogers and board member Dian Griffith were appointed to investigate the application further and to write a letter of protest, if the investigation finds that a protest is warranted. They have until July 17 to comment on the application.
The board also went over its financial reports, including an income report analyzing the impact of the new rate structure on the district’s income. The new structure has improved the district’s bottom line, but Rogers said that he was concerned about future losses in the income they get from septic system disposal at the waste treatment plant. They are getting some competition from the Ferndale Community Services District and expect to lose some of their septic business.
Operations manager Ken Dean was not at the meeting, but office manager Debra Evans reported on his behalf that the water system improvement project is essentially completed, except for some remaining paperwork to be done.
The district did get a complaint from a Rusk Lane resident whose vehicle was speckled with blue paint when the new water tank was painted. The complaint was forwarded to the district’s engineering firm, Water Works, and to the contractor Mercer-Fraser and it’s expected that insurance will satisfy the damage done to the vehicles.
Evans and Griffith toured the new water storage tank above Rusk Lane and reported that it is impressively large and makes the old tank look small by comparison. The added storage will benefit the residents by providing better fire suppression capability and longer water availability during low water episodes or pumping failures.
Directors also continued their review of district ordinances and discovered that when they adjusted their rate structure they did not take into account the cost of filling a swimming pool. Swimming pools are filled from fire hydrants through fire hoses at a cost of $38.50 for about 9,000 cubic feet of water. The actual cost of that water purchased any other way would be about $470. There was some discussion of whether that fee could be raised without going through a Prop 218 process and the conclusion was that a Prop 218 protest period would be necessary. It was also noted that connection fees were not raised in the rate restructuring. No decision was made on either item and the board will continued to study the situation
In other budget matters, there was a brief discussion of cutting costs to the district by requiring employees to pay a larger portion of their health insurance premiums. Evans presented two scenarios. Currently employees pay 17% of the cost. If that were raised to 20% it would cost the employee an extra $6. If it is raised to 25%, employees would pay an extra $45. The savings to the district would be about $2,500 a year. The directors took no action but will keep that in mind as a possible savings should they need to trim expenses to balance their budget.