Brewery on RCSD agenda; concern over proposed water usage for Reggae 2014

A proposed brewery was on the agenda when the board of the Redway Community Services District (RCSD) met on Wednesday, Feb. 19 for their regular meeting.

Joshua Monschke and Julie Peacock explained to the board that they are in the process of obtaining a Conditional Use Permit from the Humboldt County Planning Department to build a brewery and pub to be called the Gyppo Ale Mill near the Meadows business park. They need a letter from RCSD stating that they are in negotiations with the district in order to move forward with the county permitting process. They have been corresponding with district operations manager, Ken Dean, to determine the needs of the brewery and the district to proceed.

"We are dealing with something that we have not had to deal with at this point," Dean, said of the industrial wastewater discharge that would be generated by a brewing operation.

Dean presented the board with an industrial discharge permit he found in the district archives from 1995. He recommended the board form a committee to update the application and said that they would then have something to work with in determining the district's ability to provide services for the proposed Gyppo Ale Mill.

"I am pretty confident that we can come to an understanding with the size of the brewery they are going to have and be able to accept, under the parameters that we can set, their discharge and not affect our waste plant operations and not exceed our limitations on the discharge. Ours is all on the discharge side," Dean explained, "we need to regulate their discharge that is coming into our influence side to make sure the plant doesn't get upset and we violate our permit."

Dean has been working with Monschke and Peacock though there appear to be variables in amounts of production and the processing of biological solids in the wastewater generated by brewing that are unknown at this point in their planning process. Monschke and Peacock told the board that they will be working with a master brewer from the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon who knows more specific information on the relevant issues.

After some discussion, the board agreed to write a letter to Monschke and Peacock stating that they are negotiating for services.

Board members Linda Sutton and Art McClure were appointed to an industrial wastewater discharge committee to create a general industrial wastewater policy for the district.

Water conservation

A board member brought in the post-event report for Reggae on the River 2013. The post-event report is a requirement of the Humboldt County Conditional Use permit the Mateel Community Center of Redway must comply with, and was compiled by Greenway Partners of Arcata.

The board member said that in the report the Mateel Community Center is asking to pump 94,000 gallons of water prior to May 1 and an additional 700,000 gallons of water from May 1 to July 1 for Reggae on the River 2014. The report stated that the Mateel wants to keep the grass green in the two-acre bowl through the event to keep the dust down, keep attendees cool and have water available for fire suppression.

The report said the measured and estimated amount of water used in 2013 for the event totaled 279,000 gallons. The domestic uses totaled 97,500 gallons with the remaining 181,500 gallons being used for site management. "The 181,500 gallons were insufficient for proper management of the site," the report stated.

Conditions set in the Conditional Use Permit for the 2013 event stated that "... in subsequent years the applicant will be required to fill all 60,000 gallons [of water storage] between December and May to avoid potentially dewatering the South Fork Eel River during the summer months."

The post-event report said, "... the water is being pumped from the groundwater aquifer that is discharging into the gravel beds in which the river is flowing. The water is not surface water and is not being pumped directly from the river."

The RCSD board discussed the report and agreed that it was inappropriate to pump 700,000 gallons of water after April, especially during drought years. One of the board members stated it was ridiculous. In addition, members of the board expressed concern with the proposed increased size of the event in relation to water use, impacts on downstream neighbors, and cited state requests for water conservation. The board put this on the agenda for discussion at their next meeting.

Board chair Michael McKaskle asked the conservation committee to write a preliminary letter to the Planning Commission expressing their concerns about the proposed water use for the event and saying they will have a larger response after they have talked about it at the next meeting.

The rest of the conservation committee report generated a great deal of discussion about water conservation within the district. District office manager Debra Evans said they have handouts on the counter with water conservation suggestions.

Dean recommended making staff available one Friday a month for outreach to the public. They could meet with district customers and find solutions for household water conservation, check homes for leaks and take pressure readings, at customers' requests. Other suggestions for action included letters to the editor in newspapers and letters to customers with information about water conservation and water saving devices.

Other business

The ongoing topic of unreported multiple units in the district was discussed. A clear policy definition of a secondary unit and a policy for enforcement is needed, Dean noted. Dean proposed a policy of home surveys. He pointed out that part of the service agreement customers signed with RCSD allows district staff egress on customer's property. He said this should be a policy in the district and recommended it be undertaken every four or five years.

During the business manager's report, Debra Evans clarified that she is not leaving her job. Troy Harrington-Dean, who assists in the office and is the customer service manager, will be retiring in the future creating an office position opening that has not yet been fully defined.

Evans reported that the district is moving forward with general manager application process. She presented drafts of the newspaper ad, the window posting and the complete job description.

In discussing financials the board considered retiring one of the oldest improvement loans through consolidation or making extra payments if it can be done without penalty. Evans reported that she has begun depositing into the WSLF (water system loan fund) and SEF (system expansion fund) accounts the amount billed each month and not the amount received from the customers. This is not crimping cash flow, she reported. She recommended an account at North Valley Bank that is not drawing interest be closed and the money transferred to the primary checking account.

Dean requested the board to enact a policy regarding the length of time district records are retained.

Dean reported he has to come up with proof of his general educational development certificate from way back when he was in the army to qualify to take the grade 3 wastewater treatment operator's test to comply with licensing that became a new state requirement. He said it may take some time to obtain and he might not be able to take the test until the next time it is offered.

The next regular meeting of the RCSD board is scheduled for March 26 instead of the usual third Wednesday of the month due to the availability of board members. The meetings are at 7 p.m. at the district business office in the Meadows business park.