Work is well underway on Garberville Sanitary District's new water treatment system, GSD's capital improvements manager Jennie Short reported to the board at its monthly meeting on Oct 21.
Earlier in the month, GSD received documents from the State Water Resources Control Board authorizing the district's right to divert water from the South Fork Eel River for beneficial use within its legal "place of use," now including all areas currently served by GSD.
The issuance of the amended permit and license for water withdrawal means that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) may now begin reimbursing GSD for the district's costs for the water treatment project.
GSD was awarded a $2.2 million grant by CDPH but has been paying its contractors with a bridge loan because of the delayed release of funds. The bridge loan can now be repaid and future invoices sent to CDPH for payment.
Short showed pictures of the construction area as she described it to the board and the 10 members of the public who attended the meeting.
Changes have been made to the raw water intake along the riverbank below Sprowel Creek Road and temporary water lines laid under the road in time to meet the Department of Fish and Wildlife's Nov. 1 deadline for work in the river, Short reported.
These lines will be removed when the new plant is ready to begin treating water. The temporary lines will be replaced with permanent lines bringing raw water to the new facility.
The site of the new plant, just north of the Southern Humboldt Community Park, has been excavated and stabilized with jute matting and seeding. The building area is ready for concrete pouring.
Huge pipes 20 feet long and 30 inches in diameter are being positioned in the site of the chlorine contact chamber to slow down movement of the water and allow adequate time for disinfection before the water is pumped to the storage tank for distribution to users.
GSD's second project, replacement of the badly leaking Alderpoint storage tank, is also moving forward, at least on paper. Short said the deed transferring the property to GSD is at the title company.
Funding for this project will come from district reserves. Short recommended that GSD wait until the water treatment project is completed before beginning the Alderpoint tank project, in case GSD has to dip into its reserves to pay for unexpected overruns.
Although the annexation project, which is meant to bring all areas currently being served within the district's boundaries, was not itself on the agenda, the board addressed several items related to annexation.
In other business, the board approved an agreement that would give the a new water service connection and meter in exchange for SHCP signing an agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric to run an electric line across SHCP property to the new treatment plant. The board also directed GSD staff to revise a letter in response to SHCP's request for an explanation of the GSD's decision to exclude the park from its annexation application and bring it back for review at a later meeting.
Board members also approved two requests, one from the Rivercrest subdivision and one from SHCP, to write letters of support to CDPH for pre-planning grant applications.
This is a new kind of grant CDPH is offering to help neighborhoods prepare for the annexation process, Short said. The Humboldt Rural Community Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit organization, is applying for the grants on behalf of Rivercrest and SHCP.
All GSD is being asked to do is to write a letter of support for the grant applications. The money will allow these entities to research and prepare necessary documents for an annexation application if they choose to do so.
But Short also recommended that the board consider limits to its ability to serve water before indicating willingness to annex more areas, such as Rivercrest, that have not previously been considered for annexation.
She displayed a graph showing actual water withdrawals by GSD from 1985 through 2012. The district's license and permit from State Water Resources allow GSD to draw no more than 80 million gallons a year from the river. "At 80 million gallons we have to turn off the pumps," she said.
Average withdrawal over the period shown was 70 million gallons per year. In 1999, for reasons unaccounted for, GSD actually withdrew the full 80 million gallons.
GSD began serving the Kimtu subdivision last year, and those 20 households drew an additional 2.6 million gallons in 2012, leaving only a little over seven million gallons in reserve for service to future development.
Already the district's annexation proposal includes properties that can be developed further and GSD is obligated to provide water for all legal development within its boundaries.
And that is assuming there is enough water in the river, Short continued. GSD is allowed to take no more than 10 percent of the river's flow, even if that turns out to be less than 80 million gallons. So far, even this year, they have been able to stay within this limit. But the margin is narrowing.
Asked why Kimtu households used so much water compared to their counterparts in town, Short and the board members agreed that Kimtu residents not only had larger lots but were not used to metered water, a system that charges customers by actual use instead of a fixed service fee.
Since GSD has no ordinances restricting its customers' use of water, only the cost acts as a limit.
Board member Linda Brodersen suggested that GSD begin a campaign to educate people about water conservation.
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the next GSD meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12.
For more information, see GSD's website, www.garbervillesd.org, or call the office during business hours at 923-9566.