Garberville Sanitary District's board of directors agreed to sell treated water to bulk water haulers if their customers are willing to complete an application and certify that the water is needed for emergency domestic use.
The GSD board met last Thursday night, Feb. 26, to discuss a short agenda that included approval of the emergency water application as well as a report on the new drinking water treatment plant project.
Following a complaint from a local property owner, the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights (DWR), placed a Cease and Desist order on GSD requiring them to stop selling water to water haulers who serve customers outside the district's “place of use” - that is, its current boundaries.
The only exception is for “emergency domestic use.” To establish this, customers need to certify how much water they need, how they will use it, and how long they will need to have emergency water delivered. They also must certify that they have no alternative water source and that they have a plan to remedy the lack of water on their property.
DWR standards limit use of the emergency water to drinking water, sanitation, and livestock use only. Use for gardens of any kind, including lawns and orchards, is not allowed.
Water use is also limited to 75 gallons per person per day or 2,250 gallons per person per month. Additionally, DWR has standards for the amount of water that can be used for livestock, ranging from 30 gallons per day per head for “milch cows” down to 0.25 gallons per day per rabbit or chicken. A milch cow is described as a cow kept to provide milk for the family (versus a commercial dairy cow).
The customer must swear that the information on the application is true under penalty of perjury.
At their January meeting the GSD board asked staff to draft an application that will meet DWR's requirements. In the meantime, the district has halted all sales to bulk water suppliers.
Now that the board has approved the form, GSD will accept applications from property owners outside the district's boundaries who want to receive bulk water. Business manager Tina Stillwell said she has already received four inquiries.
After the potential customer completes the application, district staff will review it to be certain that it meets the state's requirements, and then send the application to DWR for review. This means that people who are likely to need water delivered to their property during the dry season should apply well in advance of their need.
If DWR does not deny the application within 30 days, GSD will consider it approved. Customers may then contact the bulk water hauler of their choice, who makes an appointment with GSD to draw the water from a hydrant in Garberville.
To satisfy state requirements, water haulers will need to keep a separate record for each customer, and they also need to swear under penalty of perjury that they delivered a specific amount of water to each specific customer and the date of delivery.
GSD board president Dennis Bourassa expressed dismay at the complexity of the application. “I tried to put myself in the shoes of the customer... It's just one more bureaucratic hoop they have to jump through,” he said.
He asked if there was any way the application could be simplified, but Stillwell responded that this is what DWR requires and the district has no other choice if it wishes to continue providing water to water haulers and their customers.
”In reality they're digging wells,” said board member Bill Stewart. “.... It's out of our hands now.”
GSD will have to increase its charges for bulk water to cover the cost of the paperwork, Stillwell said, but the increase is yet to be determined.
Local water haulers were reluctant to talk with the Redwood Times, since they want to protect the confidentiality of their water sources and their customers.
One water hauler told us that her business intends to continue working with GSD. The company and its customers will fill out all the necessary forms and swear to their accuracy.
”Our customers legitimately need water,” she said. “They can't afford $20,000 to dig a well.”
”The whole town depends on everything that's going on around here, if you know what I mean,” the water hauler continued. “Some people who don't live here are trying to spoil it for everyone,” she said, referring to complaints that triggered DWR's actions.
The expense of digging a well can be cited as a reason for the lack of an alternative water source on the application, Stillwell said.
Phillipsville Community Services District is considering serving bulk water haulers, PCSD board chair Bonnie Mullaney told the Redwood Times in a brief phone interview.
PCSD spoke to state officials, who told them that because their water source is a spring on district property, they are not restricted to place of use like a district that draws its water from the river.
All water in rivers and streams belongs to the state, according to California law, while water from springs and wells that draw on groundwater belongs to the landowner, Mullaney explained.
This will be PCSD's first year using its new water treatment system. Before they offer water for sale outside the district they want to be sure they have plenty of water for Phillipsville customers with enough left over to serve the water haulers' needs.
Bulk water sales could be a good source of revenue, Mullaney said, so it may well be an option when the new system has proved its capacity.
Water Treatment Plant
If all goes well, GSD will be able to advertise for bids on the drinking water treatment plant project by the end of March, Stillwell reported on behalf of capital projects manager Jennie Short, who was absent.
The bid can be awarded 45 days later in early May, which means construction could begin by July 1. “If all goes well,” Bourassa reiterated.
The project initially went to bid last fall but the district's engineers had to go back to the drawing board after all bids submitted exceeded the available funding.
If construction begins this summer, the district still faces a Nov. 1 deadline to complete all “dirt work” before the rains begin.
The plan can only be connected to the river intake during low water, which means that “if all goes well,” it will be online approximately July 2014.
Alderpoint Road Tank
SHN, the district's consulting engineers, also completed a feasibility study on replacement of the old redwood Alderpoint Road storage tank, which is leaking at a rate of approximately six gallons per minute and has been deemed unrepairable.
The engineers' study determined that a 200,000-gallon metal tank could be safely installed on the current site.
LACO Engineering will prepare the needed environmental document, a mitigated negative declaration, which will be reviewed by the board at a public hearing during the regular May meeting.
It's possible that the California Department of Public Health, Drinking Water Division, which is providing a grant/loan package for the water treatment plant, will be able to fund at least part of the tank replacement, Stillwell said. Otherwise the cost must come from the district's own funds.
A member of the public asked about GSD's annexation plans. After many discussions with the county planning department, the Humboldt Local Agency Formation Commission, various stakeholders, and the public, GSD has determined to establish its boundaries coterminous (identical) to its licensed and permitted “place of use,” Bourassa replied.
But first LAFCo, which administers the boundaries of local government jurisdictions, must approve GSD's Municipal Service Review and Sphere of Influence.
An announcement recently received from LAFCo sets the public hearing on the MSR and SOI for the commission's next meeting, Wednesday, March 20, at 9 a.m. at the county courthouse in Eureka. LAFCo meetings are open to the public and time is made available for public comment.
GSD's next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26, at 5 p.m. at GSD's offices in Garberville.
For more information, go to GSD's website, www.garbervillesd.org, or call the office at 923-9566 during business hours Monday through Thursday.