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GSD agrees to repave after sewer line installation

Local contractors chosen for project

Garberville Sanitary District’s recycled wastewater project is making good progress in spite of late winter rain and snow, GSD General Manager Mark Bryant reported to the GSD Board of Directors at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, March 23.

The new chlorine contact chamber and the last in a series of dewatering ponds have been completed, with work on the balance of the system to continue through the spring.

Another early phase of the project, installing new wastewater collection lines on Sunnybank Lane, brought complaints from residents upset about damage to the roadway.

After hearing comments from Sunnybank Lane homeowners Paul and Colleen Brannan and discussing several options, the board decided simply to repave the whole street when work on the collection and drinking water lines is complete.

In addition to putting in a new sewer main and laterals to each home, GSD will take the opportunity to also install new water mains and connections, followed by repaving.

Installation of new wastewater lines is included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant awarded to GSD, but the cost of the drinking water lines will come from GSD’s funds.

When work on Sunnybank Lane is completed, new lines will be installed on Riverview Lane and Sprowel Creek Road. The new lines are expected to significantly reduce infiltration and inflow of surface water, allowing the wastewater treatment system to operate more efficiently during the rainy season.

Dirt removed from trenches during the installation will be used to build up an area at the treatment plant where the operations building will be located.

Low bidders John Neill and Wilcox Enterprises were awarded contracts for this phase of the project, thus providing ARRA funds to local businesses. Bryant also pointed out that GSD has hired three other local persons, a surveyor, an engineer, and an engineering grad student, for the duration of the project.

On the drinking water side of its operation, GSD completed a rewritten version of its mitigated negative declaration, based on comments received from agencies and the public.

In addition to receiving a letter of commitment for a $3 million-plus loan from the California State Department of Public Health (CDPH), Drinking Water Division, to fund the rebuilding of Garberville’s water treatment plant, GSD has applied for a $400,000 planning grant from the same agency.

One tricky portion of the water project is the proposal to extend an eight-inch water main down Sprowel Creek Road to the Kimtu subdivision. The subdivision has been under a boil water order from CDPH for several years due to a combination of contamination and shortfall in its water supply.

CDPH is both the lead and responsible agency for the Kimtu project and will cover the costs of improvements.

On the morning of March 23, Bryant met with staff from CDPH, the Humboldt County Planning Department, and the Local Agency Formation Commission to discuss the cumulative impacts of extending service to Kimtu.

Both the county and LAFCo, which must approve all boundary changes, were concerned about the possibility that installing an eight-inch water line for two miles through a mostly undeveloped area might encourage unsustainable further development.

Additionally, in spite of the large amount of water that the State Department of Water Resources has allowed GSD, drought and competing uses have seriously reduced water availability. “The Eel River is extremely challenged,” Bryant noted.

The large main line is required not only to provide drinking water to the 20 residences in the subdivision but to ensure adequate flow in case of fire. Fire danger is extremely high in the Kimtu area because of the wildland/residential interface.

The district’s engineer calculated that if users other than the current Kimtu residents were connected to the proposed main line, the draw created during a fire would reduce the effectiveness of the water in the line. GSD therefore concludes that the line could not serve any further development in the area.

This information will be presented to the full LAFCo commission in the hopes that it will allow GSD to serve the Kimtu subdivision even though it is outside the district’s boundaries and sphere of influence.

The board took up the subject of whether it could offer reduced service rates for non-profit organizations. The Town Square directors and the veterans group that takes care of Jim DeMulling Park have requested relief from charges for water service they are not using.

During previous discussions, board members said they wanted to help out these and other non-profits with reduced or free rates if a legal method could be found.

After researching the problem and discussing it with attorneys, Bryant stated that any compensation or adjustment in rates, even to non-profits, is considered a gift of public funds and is illegal.

GSD’s fees are based on funding requirements, and the district would have to pay back some of the grant and loan funds it has or will be receiving from the state and federal governments if it offers special privileges to any ratepayers.

If a non-profit that is not using water service wished to discontinue that service, GSD could waive the disconnect fee, Bryant continued, because that is a one-time fee not tied into funding.

A request to disconnect at no charge would have to be brought to the board for approval based on qualifications. For reconnection the standard new hook-up charge, currently $1,200, would be required.

Bryant reported that early in March the district received a low-water alarm from the main water storage tank. Investigation revealed a serious leak in the six-inch main that brings water through Bear Canyon to the Meadows residential subdivision.

The apparent cause of the damage, according to the district’s engineer, were the earthquakes in January and February. GSD plans to re-route the line along Redwood Drive and Alderpoint Road to reduce the possibility of damage from future landslides.

District staff worked quickly to meet the March 11 application deadline for North Coast earthquake relief funds from CALEMA, the state’s equivalent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The next meeting of the GSD Board of Directors will be held on Tuesday, April 27, at 5 p.m. in the district’s office in Garberville.

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