GSD to award mudslide fix contract this month

Garberville Sanitary District directors hear a positive financial report from board treasurer Bill Stewart (second from left) at their most recent meeting last Tuesday, May 27. From left: board chair Rio Anderson, Stewart, vice chair Linda Brodersen, and member Doug Bryan. One board seat remains vacant.

GARBERVILLE >> Construction of Garberville Sanitary District's new drinking water treatment plant is "going along well," GSD project inspector Dennis Ryan told the board of directors at their monthly meeting last Tuesday, May 27.

If all continues to go as planned, Ryan believes construction and testing of the system should be completed by mid-September, and the plant will be fully operational at that time.

The mudslide on the hill above the plant, which threatened the new backwash filter system and recently-constructed operations building, has been stabilized, Ryan reported. The next step is construction of a mechanically stabilized earth wall ("MSE wall"), which GSD general manager Ralph Emerson described as "essentially a basket filled with river rock," to prevent further slides.

Several contractors have bid on the MSE wall construction. The board requested a special meeting to review the bids and award the job; date and time will be posted soon.

Wahlund Construction, GSD's contractor for the treatment plant construction, completed all the emergency work as well as initial remediation work on the slide, for which they billed the district an additional $175,000. GSD staff is reviewing the costs and will negotiate a final price with Wahlund.

Additionally, SHN Engineering has requested $40,000 for designing plans to contain and stabilize the slide, which includes geotechnical analysis and surveying as well as the actual design.

GSD will apply for a zero percent, 30-year loan from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to cover these costs above the original $2.3 million grant/loan package funding the overall project.

"At this point we're trying to minimize the damage," Emerson said. He noted that if completion of the MSE wall and final grading is not done by the fall, the district runs the risk of early rainfall and further sliding.

He praised Ryan and the staff for their support. "It's pretty remarkable how they keep people moving forward, when a lot of people are trying to balk and stall," Emerson said.

Regarding replacement of the leaking Alderpoint Road water storage tank, Emerson reported that he, capital projects manager Jennie Short, and LACO consulting engineers are now looking at installing two 100,000-gallon tanks rather than one 200,000-gallon as originally planned.

With two tanks, one could be taken off line if needed for repairs and cleaning while the second tank continues to provide storage.

The two tanks would be the same height as the proposed single tank so the footprint of both tanks would be less than twice the footprint of a single tank. The site is being studied to make sure the tanks will fit.

Emerson will have an updated price and will report on possible changes to the environmental documents by the next board meeting.

GSD's application to expand district boundaries to include all the land within its state-approved "place of use" was presented to the Humboldt County Local Agency Formation Commission on May 21. [See related story in our May 20 issue, "GSD brings annexation request to LAFCo."]

"There's been a lot of discussion about this process, but it's in LAFCo's hands now," said Emerson. "No doubt a lot of things were done wrong in that process, but there's no way LAFCo is going to disconnect anyone [now receiving service without being annexed to the district] . It's better for people to get [water] from the system than to draw it out of the ground."

He encouraged the board members, as well as interested members of the public, to attend LAFCo's July 16 meeting, when the annexation application will be considered for approval.

While reporting on hooking up the new apartment buildings on Melville Road, Emerson stated that the current connection fees, which have remained the same for the past 20 years, are no longer adequate to meet the district's needs.

Connection fees for new development should be high enough to offset the cost of additional improvements and maintenance required by the new service, he explained. Otherwise the existing customers must carry the burden.

Currently GSD connection fees are $1,200 for water and $1,600 for sewer. Average connection fees for services districts statewide are between $5,000 and $15,000, Emerson said.

GSD operations manager Ron Copenhafer added that many water and sewer pipes are old, in poor condition, and need replacement. Sewage is collected in six-inch clay lines, and these lines are cracking and collapsing all over town, Copenhafer said.

The board agreed to discuss connection fees when they consider the new budget for fiscal year 2014-15 (beginning July 1, 2014). A budget subcommittee is currently working to come up with a proposed budget for discussion and possible approval at the June board meeting.

That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24, at 5 p.m. in the GSD office at the south end of Garberville. For more information, see GSD's website at, or call the office during business hours at 707-923-9566.