YouTube Video of February 12 Soquel Creek Water District Water Resources and Infrastructure Management Standing Committee Meeting
Please Consider Attending Soquel Creek
Water District Board Meeting
February 3, 2019
Please copy Emma Olin firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the link to Water for Santa Cruz County website: https://waterforsantacruz.com/
You can learn more about the real possibility of a regional water management solution whose infrastructure already exists, and can begin replenishing the aquifer naturally without the need for high-energy and technology dependence and without significant negative environmental degradation that could include groundwater contamination. The costly rate increases the District is currently asking ratepayers to allow for the next five years is calculated on what revenue will be needed just to pay for the $200 Million Pure Water Soquel Project. (See November 6, 2018, District Board Agenda Packet for Raftelis rate re-structuring presentation).
Changes in County Code Significantly Reduced Power and
Scope of Duty for County Water Advisory Commission
September 19, 2018
The County Board of Supervisors today approved 29 changes to the County Code with approvals of Item 7, claiming the changes are just typos and minor corrections. However, the changes made to Code 2.58 regarding the County Water Advisory Commission were significant in that the Commission now has NO authority to make recommendations regarding the County Water Supply Annual Report that would include implementation or oversight.
This is how the Code relating to the powers and duties of the Commission read before the changes:
2.96.060 Powers and duties.
The Commission shall advise the Board of Supervisors on all matters relating to water policy, and shall specifically advise the board on the formulation, review, updating and implementation of the County’s water master plan. The Commission shall also recommend policies to the Board of Supervisors to ensure that the production of water and the development of additional water supplies are consistent with the growth management program and the General Plan of Santa Cruz County. In addition, the Commission shall recommend to the Board of Supervisors any policies necessary to protect the watersheds, groundwater, fish and game, and recreational resources of Santa Cruz County. The Commission shall also undertake other duties relating to water quality, as requested by the Board of Supervisors. [Ord. 3372 § 1, 1983; Ord. 2111, 1975; prior code § 3.19.020].
This paragraph was really whittled. This is not good. Who will provide oversight of the Annual County Water Plan?
Here is the link to the agenda (look at Item 7R).
John Ricker was in the front row of the audience, but said nothing when I commented on the item, (made during open comment, and an attempt during the Item 7 comment, Zach Friend refused to allow me to speak and turned off my microphone).
The County Water Advisory Commission meets October 3. Wednesday, at 4 p.m. in the 5th Floor Large Conference Room. Here is a link to their document regarding the Code changes:
Summary of Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting
September 18, 2018
I had an afternoon meeting that ran very late, so I did not arrive at the Soquel Creek Water District Board meeting until a bit after 7 p.m. The consultant from Raftelis was in the middle of the proposed rate increase re-structuring presentation (Item 6.2)
The Board was not in favor of accepting the Customer-Select models that the consultant recommended. They favor a two-tier rate system until the District installs Smart Meters that would, they feel, enable customers to have better control over water use. Basically, they just shelved all this expensive work.
During public comment, I asked for clarification that the rate increase structuring is occurring in order to fund PureWater Soquel Project. After a bit of hesitation, Leslie Strohm said yes, and Bruce Daniels added that the District is also considering stormwater capture and desal. I asked if the cost of buying water from DeepWater Desal is factored into the proposed rate increase. Ron Duncan then interjected that there would be no dialogue allowed during public comment.
I then reminded the Board that their own documentation states that the PureWater Soquel Project would raise annually operational costs by $2.5 Million in 2023–2024, and already in 2018–2019 Budget, the cost of groundwater management is over $5 Million. I reminded them that they still insist they have not chosen a supplemental supply project. “I will be so happy to see the District finally accepting the water from Santa Cruz this November” I stated. The Board did not respond.
I also asked for a definition of “Emergency Water Rates” and what criteria would be used to initiate those rates. Tom LaHue spoke up and said I could find the answer in the Community Water Plan. “Can’t you just explain it now?” I asked. He became irritated because I had used up my three minutes already, and again directed me to the Community Water Plan and staff.
The Board approved acceptance of the Raftelis Report and moved on to a discussion about their leak adjustment policy.
Monica came to speak with me then, so I left the meeting to go outside and talk. She is doing some great work out in Capitola neighborhoods and is talking about Gary’s candidacy and values. We need to get those trifold brochures to her!
Afterward, I asked Rachel Lather about participating in a candidate forum with the three other candidates. She is agreeable and prefers a Sunday afternoon. Bruce Jaffee had already left the room, and Carla Christensen was absent.
I will contact Bruce and Carla to ask about their availability and willingness to be in a forum.
Thanks so much,
Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting Notes
August 21, 2018
I was not able to attend the Soquel Creek Water District Special Board Meeting held last night (5–6 p.m.) that was about financial rate studies and cost of service options. It did get video recorded, and I will share the YouTube link when it is available.
Unfortunately, I was late arriving at the Regular Board meeting, and missed the two Public Hearings. I saw Jon Cole outside. He did not seem pleased with the result of the Rate Adjustment Hearing. The matter was discussed further during Closed Session, but nothing was reportable.
I testified during Public Comment that I and many others would appreciate the Board’s reconsideration of Ron Duncan’s denial to grant Public Comment extension for the PureWater Soquel Draft EIR. Melanie Schumacher said the Final EIR will have a public comment period, and Ron Duncan said the District had done extensive public notification regarding the availability of the document. He said that no regulatory agency had requested the time extension, and “they’re the ones who do the most thorough examination.” Carla Christensen said the denial action is “all within the purview of what Soquel Creek Water District has done in the past. Forty-five days is enough time if you focus on things that bother you the most.” The Board took no further action regarding Public Comment time.
The rest of the meeting included staff reports and business items regarding a Will Serve Letter, but more importantly was the action taken to approve the AMI Meter Project CEQA-exempt and to declare it a conservation project.
HydroMetrics got bought by a larger company named Montgomery and Associates. Some of the modeling work has been postponed.
Taj Dufour announced only one bid came in for the Granite Way Well project. The bid price was over $900,000 and much too high (his engineer’s estimate was $200,000). He recommended rejecting the bid, and returning to the Board in September with a re-packaged bid proposal that would separate the work into smaller projects. This would allow a well drilling company to install the pump and another contractor to install the electrical cabinets, etc.
Trenchless Technologies will begin working on the Service Area 3 and 4 intertie next month.
Black and Veatch consultants will be presenting the Bench Test Report to the Santa Cruz City Water Advisory Commission on August 27.
Christine Mead reported that the O’Neill Ranch Well modifications were done last week to install a carbon steel casing in the upper portion of the screen.
AMI METER PROJECT AND CEQA EXEMPTION
Shelley Flock described the District plan to begin converting meters from the AMR (radio-signaled drive-by system) with the AMI (SmartMeter transmitting devices) system. The AMR meters are failing prematurely, requiring regular meter reading personnel to have to take meter readings. These failing meters from Allegro are still under warranty, but the Board made the decision in April to replace them with the SmartMeter system and begin in the Aptos Village Project area.
Shelley said the AMI meters can qualify as a water conservation measure, saving an estimated 86AF in 10 years. Therefore, the $1 Million project can be paid for by WDO funds. She did point out that District customers are already some of the best conservation-minded in the state, and that water use has already been reduced just with voluntary conservation, so it may be difficult to measure a real water savings with the AMI meters.
Bruce Jaffee commented that the project will not cost the ratepayers anything because it is WDO developer money, and therefore a “benefit to customers”. He did ask a lot of questions about the measurability of the savings and how quickly the benefit to the aquifer any savings might be. He also asked about future transmitter and tower locations of the four base stations and 8 repeaters that will be necessary, noting that some may be within 1/4 mile of a school. He wondered about a pilot test area to determine if there might be problems with signal transmission.
Alyssa, the analyst, noted that it would take at least two years to really get accurate water saving data.
Ron Duncan stated that the AMR meters are guaranteed for 20 years, but are failing significantly.
Shelley said about 3,000 meters will be changed out in the first pilot test area, about 1/4 of the service connections (note: that seems like a low number to me).
Bruce Jaffee stated that he had no doubt the AMI meters will save water, but he wondered how much. He wanted more information before approving the project, and just could not approve the 86AF/year savings over 10 years.
Rachel Lather said the leak detection notices sent daily would be helpful, as opposed to notices sent at billing time.
Ron Duncan and staff said they would need Board approval before being able to develop the project implementation, which would give the Board more information. Ron said staff could probably reduce the AF savings and return to the Board.
Ultimately, the Board directed staff to develop parameters of the pilot project area and develop more information before returning to the Board. Bruce Jaffee said “This is going to take time to get any savings.”
A resident of Monterey County, Ms. Nina Beety, had come to testify regarding the problems associated with the AMI meters. They are plagued with the problem of erroneous billing. She disagreed that it could be classified as a conservation project because the ratepayers are already conserving at a maximum level, and Public Utility Commission reports show that SmartMeters do not result in a decrease in the utility use. She pointed out the problem of meter malfunction being an historic issue, and that there are many people adversely affected by the pulsing meter signals.
I brought up the District criteria that any WDO-funded project had to be a conservation project THAT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DONE OTHERWISE” and that the District already had budgeted the money to do the AMR meter project. (This was later confirmed by both Shelley and Leslie). I reminded the Board that they first brought up the possibility of switching the AMR meter project to a WDO-funded project at their July Special Board meeting when they were discussing how to fund the PureWater Soquel Project. I repeated that the AMR meter project did not satisfy the District’s own criteria for a WDO project.
There were a few other members of the public who spoke out against the AMI meters for the negative health impacts known to be associated with the technology.
After the meeting, I asked Mr. Bosso, legal counsel for the District, if he felt the AMI Project truly met the legal criteria for a WDO project? “Well, the Board does, and the Board sets the policy,” was his answer. Wow.
That’s about all I have to report.
Leslie Strohm (financial manager) pointed out that the AMI project was in the District Budget.
Water District Public Outreach Committee Meeting
August 14, 2018
Soquel Creek Water District Special Board Meeting
July 24, 2018
The Soquel Creek Water District Board met last night at the District Office for a Special Meeting to discuss with Brown and Caldwell consultants the PureWater Soquel Project delivery plan. District Finance Director Ms. Leslie Strohm also presented information about how the District would finance the Project and led a discussion about how it would affect customer rates.
Gary and I attended, and Bruce Tanner video recorded the meeting. It should be noted that Bruce arrived at exactly 6 p.m. and the meeting and consultant presentation had already begun, Bruce having apparently missed the Public Comment item on the agenda.(I have asked Bruce to submit a letter for Public Record that the meeting began before the noticed 6 p.m. start time.)
Gary arrived at about 6:15 and I got there about 6:20. There were no other members of the public there, but the room was FULL of District staff, Board members and Brown and Caldwell consultants (four, I think).
This was the FIFTH Special Meeting the Board has held (other dates were 5/1, 5/29, 6/19, 6/26).
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THE NEXT SPECIAL BOARD MEETING WILL BE ON AUGUST 21 AT 5 P.M. AND WILL PRECEDE THE REGULAR DISTRICT BOARD MEETING AT 6 P.M., BOTH IN THE CAPITOLA CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS. The Special Meetings are NOT video recorded there by Community Television, but I will make sure it is video recorded and put up on public YouTube.
Here are my notes from the point I entered:
The Brown & Caldwell consultant was discussing the different delivery models for how to put the PureWater Soquel Project out to bid, built and operational in the fastest way possible. All models for the two treatment facilities (tertiary and Advanced Water Treatment) included having the builder be the designer of the Project (Design/Build or DB).
1.) Fixed Price Model
This model would have the construction company/designer issue a fixed price for the Project. That would mean the District would have to clearly specify quality aspects or run the risk of the builder taking short-cuts to save money that could negatively affect quality of the system operation. It would require the District to specify the “rules” to include about how the system be built to ensure necessary quality operation and safety redundancy.
Tom LaHue commented that the technology is common. Brown and Caldwell replied yes, but the specifications can vary and by requiring ONLY a 20% Design of the system by the contractor, it leaves much to the District to define specific redundancy components. The idea of a 20% Design is to get the contractor chosen and on-board with the Project “shovel-ready” very quickly.
By putting the Project out for proposal to a number of contractors/designers, it becomes a design competition but does not offer collaboration process for the District. The tertiary and Advanced Water Treatment (AWT) plant would be treated as two procurements, i.e., two separate projects so that Santa Cruz can weigh in more on the tertiary plant project but not necessarily the AWT facility, which could be at the West Annex or Chanticleer location (apparently not yet determined).
This model process would take seven months and is costly for contractors to submit such a proposal. The market is hot right now, so contractors are favoring large projects; PureWater Soquel is a small to medium project, so may not attract much interest. The time-line goal would be to get a design by mid-2020, and that is when the District would know the fixed cost to build the treatment facilities. This was issued as a “slow start” by Brown and Caldwell.
The District would have to pay out of pocket for the planning and procurement process, with planning done by October, 2019, and choosing a contractor/design by July 2020.
2.) Progressive Price DB
This model could allow combining or separating the treatment facilities. Sometimes there are cost savings that occur during construction, so this model allows for the savings to either be re-invested in other District projects or split with the contractor.
Taj Dufour asked if the District got grant funding, would the procurement and planning costs for each facility have to be documented separately?
Brown and Caldwell(B/C) responded that everything is all documented and there must be a mutual agreement.
Bruce Daniels stated that the District would have to clearly define system quality up front.
B/C said yes, that is an uncertain challenge but the District can have an “off ramp” to change contractors but it might be late in the process. He said if that occurred, Brown and Caldwell or some other builder would finish the design and the construction of it would then probably go out for a hard bid. He recommended scrutinizing the contractor history and making sure that all expenditures are “open book” all along. If the District paid a lump sum, the books are closed and the project just gets built.
Bruce Jaffee asked if the cost of the project goes up with this method of using an off ramp?
B/C said it is a trade-off, but yes. The challenge is ensuring quality. This model tends to be less competitive and there is no option to incorporate brand new methods or equipment that may become available after the project design and construction is in process.
B/C said the District can package a Fixed Price DB with a less than 30% design level, use the design of their choice, and submit Requests for Proposals (RFP) to get it built. That method gets the District the Project cost earlier (1-2 months saved).
Melanie Schmacher asked if doing that would lead to more change-orders if the District decided there were something they did not like. B/C replied that having a longer collaboration period (0-60%) is too long and Santa Cruz will want to be involved early, during the 0-30% design period, so he recommended just getting to 30% and then move on.
B/C said defining the wastewater treatment plant portion could have more collaboration than would be needed for the Chanticleer or West Annex plan, and the sooner you know the Project cost, the better, but can include more contingencies. Builders may resist an early Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) at a 30% design but may be willing to give a fixed price bid with a less than 30% design.
Bruce Daniels asked about specifying time lines for the project?
B/C said the District can include a calendar date for the GMP to be given.
Carla Christensen asked if the consultant and District staff would advise on this process?
B/C replied yes, there is a strong need for Operations and Management help.
Bruce Daniels asked if they must express a preference for a model?
B/C said yes, and that he recommended the Progressive DB model with an early GMP at 30% design.
The Board then did a consensus check. .Bruce Jaffee felt it was “rocket science” and beyond his scope of expertise, Rachel Lather said she was comfortable with it “but I’ve never done it”, and Tom LaHue & Carla Christensen said “okay”.
3.) Design/Build/Operate Model
This model would have the builder own the operation of the treatment facilities, with a performance-based operation (PBO) model.
This is riskier because operators will want to insist on a certain design and build it. This is a rather new model on the market and was used at the Twin Oaks Valley project [here are a couple of links to info about that large project in San Marcos, but with 10% of the project being recycled water]
B/C presented that the designer/builder brings the operator along during the design phase. Soquel Creek Water District would reach a separate agreement with an operator. If the District chose not to hire that operator to run the completed facilities, they could have their own staff operate it but would have the advantage of the consultation during design with an operator who is familiar with AWT focus. This is NOT common but brings real operators who run these plants to the design table. There are three large national operations companies that would probably be interested in participating in a Design/Build/Operate (DBO) model but this model is not generally recommended because the District would not get many bidders due to the small size of the PureWater Project. He recommended putting it out to the market and see what happens. He also said the District could pay an operator, such as American Water, to consult on the design.
Santa Cruz may not want to hire an operator but might develop their own staff, which could be sent out to assist with the AWT plant. This assistance could be included in grant funding as Professional Services Contracts.
Soquel Creek Water District would procure this operation service as a “partner” and still be involved, but the District staff would have to essentially relinquish control.
Bruce Daniels commented that if no one bids on this, the District could go back to just a DB or PDB.
The Board then did a consensus check everyone was okay with this model, with Carla Christensen commenting on the need to have Operations and Management involved early, and Bruce Daniels and Rachel Lather liking the operator involvement early in the design process.
The next portion of the PureWater Soquel Project delivery model presentation was a discussion of the PIPELINE PORTION.
B/C said that the District know pipe well, so they could use their usual process but the question is HOW TO SPEED IT UP?
He recommended that, due to the congested roadways where the pipeline is proposed (he did not include the possible railroad right -of-way that is discussed in the draft EIR), the District should consider trenchless operations whenever possible. He said that the project is challenging with a 2022 deadline to get 11 miles of pipeline on narrow streets, stream crossings, and utility crossings done with a project that would involve a lengthy design process.
This portion of the Project will involve lots of field investigation, with geo-tech surveys. Again, THE QUESTION WAS HOW TO SPEED THIS UP?
Some areas won’t need 100% design but the contractor would be on a fee basis, and start where they can early, connecting the more difficult segments later with the goal of having water ready to commission the treatment plant. The District can off-ramp, bid out the difficult areas. He recommended using trenchless technology when possible due to traffic considerations. He recommended using a large contractor in order to get cheap pipe prices (the impending international tariffs are problematic).
This option poses no performance risk. The designer would decide on the pipe size specifics. The pricing risk is transferred to the contractor because the District would get an earlier Project price.
Taj Dufour asked if the price would be based on the level of knowledge at the time about the conditions?.B/C replied that the District would want to select a contractor that would be knowledgeable enough to know where the problem areas would be and do “pot holed” investigations.
The Board then did a consensus check: all members said “okay”
The next component of the Project is the Injection and Monitoring Wells.
B/C said the District should do this work. One well could be constructed first, with others to follow, just to speed things up due to procurements at some sites. Permitting is also complicated.
B/C recommended the next step is to talk with Santa Cruz and get the EIR certified.
Melanie Schumacher stated that the Prop 1 Grant funding Application is going out this Friday.
Bruce Daniels then asked for Public Comment.
I asked the following:
1.) With the Fixed Price model off ramp option, would it be difficult to find another contractor that would be willing to step in on a project already begun with uncertain quality and potential problems? (B/C said it could be, but it doesn’t happen often that a project takes an off ramp option.)
2.) Who are the three big national AWT operating contractors?
(District Staff would not allow B/C to answer, but suggested I do an internet search. Staff got upset when I asked B/C for suggested search terms, but B/C answered “water treatment contract operations”).
3.) How would trenchless technology mesh in areas of sensitive archaeological areas and railroad bed areas that are contaminated?
(District staff would not allow answers but suggested I put that question as a formal one in the Draft EIR public comment. I am not sure if the EIR even addresses trenchless technology, having not read that section yet.)
THAT WAS THE END OF AGENDA ITEM 3.1 AND THE BOARD TOOK A BREAK
Item 3.2 was a presentation by District Financial Manager, Ms. Leslie Strohm. She stated that the debt financing for PureWater Soquel has not been worked into the 2018-19 District Budget, and it is outside of the scope of the current Raftelis Rate Study. The Board must decide how to cover costs for this Project’s debt financing, and suggested it could come from Reserve Funds.
The problem is that the District will not know the cost until they select a qualified proposal and have a design.
Someone asked how much this might cost?
B/C would not publicly divulge a figure but said he would contact staff later.
Leslie Strohm asked the Board to consider devoting more money to the Project from Reserves while at the meeting.
Bruce Daniels commented that the District has reserved $1 Million for the AMI (Smart Meters) project and that the Board could declare that to be a water-saving project, thereby enabling Water Demand Offset (WDO) money to be used to fund it. That would free up $1 Million for PureWater debt financing.
Leslie replied that the District could take out loans later into the Project, as late as 2020, and get quicker turn-around by reimbursement for the debt.
Bruce Daniels pointed out that the Board had to also plan for getting no grant money. He asked how much the District can borrow early and keep within the debt ratio required to maintain?.Leslie Strohm said the debt ratio requirement is 1.7 with current debt burdens, but Ron Duncan corrected her it is 1.25.
Discussion then went to grant funding. Melanie Schumacher said the Prop. 1 application for the maximum $50 Million will be considered in August, final proposals considered in November and awards in early winter/ spring. The federal Title 16 Grant for $20 Million (that may take 10 years for reimbursement) will be considered in October or November. She stressed that these are competitive applications, and if the District does not receive an award, she would re-submit an application the following cycle, summer 2019.
Bruce Daniels pointed out that even if the District gets the grants, there is still at least $20 Million Project cost(assuming a $90 Million Project Cost) that the ratepayers have to fund.
B/C mentioned that the District could ask contractors for delayed payment options.
Leslie Strohm then showed some PowerPoint slides of possible Capital Improvement Projects currently scheduled. .I could not copy them down fast enough before they disappeared but the Board did discuss delaying certain projects involving pipeline replacements, wells and tanks. The main project discussed was whether to push out the new Quail Run storage tank in Aptos Village area. About the only decision made was to keep on track with tank inspections because it only costs about $3,000/year.
Leslie Strohm said the District could use the water capacity fees that new service connections pay, and that fund is currently about $3 Million.
Bruce Daniels suggested the Board consider bundling the Quail Run Tank and Cunnison Well projects with the PureWater Soquel Project funding request. The District has scheduled $6.3 Million in 2019-2020 for that project, and $700,000 in 2020-2021. (It has been insinuated by legal counsel for the Quail Run neighborhood that the purpose of the tank is to boost supply and fire protection for the Aptos Village Project subdivision.)
Bruce Jaffee asked about how this would affect monthly ratepayer bills?
Leslie Strohm said the discussion about RATE INCREASES will come before the Board at a September meeting.
Carla Christensen then asked about updating the Santa Cruz agreement. The discussion then went to the water purchase contract with Santa Cruz. Ron Duncan said he has been talking with Rosemary Menard, and that she has offered a range of prices. If there is lots of treatment needed for the water supplied, the price would change. It was pointed out that the contract expires December, 2020.
Bruce Daniels asked if Rosemary is still firm on the 300 AF/Y number?.Ron Duncan hesitated and replied “Uh, yeah.”.He said she has given prices of up to $1000/AF (that caused a gasp from staff). When Rachel Lather asked how the price was calculated, Ron Duncan said that the increases were justified the price by factoring in the improvements to the infrastructure.
Bruce Daniels then replied that the District could also play that game and add on major project costs to water sold to Santa Cruz. Ron Duncan replied that at some point, they have to be true to Prop 218.
The Board noted that the District can begin taking North Coast water this winter, and have the agreement to do so for two years until re-negotiating the price.
The Board then turned back for consensus check on the PureWater Soquel Project financing issues and allowing staff to determine which Capital Improvements would get delayed and how financing would develop for PureWater Project. Tom LaHue said yes, but with updates to the Board. Bruce Jaffee said he feels staff knows best what to do.
Rachel Lather and Tom LaHue both pointed out that there did not seem to be funding for storm water recharge projects on any of the District Project lists presented. .Staff replied that the District is looking for partners. The Seascape Golf Course, the area the District had selected for a storm water recharge project, is now for sale and it is uncertain whether the new owners would cooperate and whether the costs would be the same. Rachel Lather said she is interested in pursuing more storm water recharge projects because they tend to carry multiple public benefits such as flood control and pollution reduction in streams, so are good candidates for government grants. Ron Duncan said that Lydia (a grant consultant the District has hired for PureWater Soquel) is looking for grants of this nature.
Leslie Strohm said the Board will get staff recommendations at the next Special Board Meeting, August 21 at 5pm, preceding the regular Board meeting at 6pm in the Capitola City Council Chambers. (Again, only the Regular Meeting will be video recorded but I will either record it or ask Bruce Tanner to do so and put it on Public YouTube.)
The meeting was then adjourned at 8:30pm WITHOUT OPPORTUNITY FOR PUBLIC COMMENT.
MidCounty Groundwater Agency Meeting
July 19, 2018
Gary, thank you for giving the presentation last night. You did a great job. Jerry, thank you also for giving your presentation… I appreciated that you began with the fact that water transfers was the WSAC’s priority recommended project. That fit well with Rosemary Menard’s description of WSAC’s work and John Ricker’s history review.
Community TV recorded the presentations. Bruce Tanner, a friend of mine, was there and video recorded the MGA Board meeting that preceded the joint meeting. By the way, Tom LaHue is now the Chairman of the MGA Board.
I got to the meeting about mid-way into John Ricker’s overview. I have an extra printout copy of Rosemary’s “City of Santa Cruz Water Supply Augmentation Strategy” I will share at our next meeting. She began with the WSAC and that the problem is inadequate water storage. The 20-year water demand forecast for the City is flat to declining, due to new plumbing codes that require new construction use only water-saving fixtures, and that all properties sold must meet those water-saving codes but still, the projected peak-season supply gap in a multiple-year drought would be 1.2 billion gallons/year.
She then described briefly the broad nature of the nearly 100 alternative supply solutions that the WSAC examined. She listed the recommendations generally, with additional conservation efforts being first, then “Explore the feasibility of winter water harvest to create drought supply of 3 billion gallons to provide for two years of back to back drought.” and mentioned there had been conversations with neighboring water agencies. She also touched upon desal and recycled water.
The next section of her presentation was about implementing WSAC recommendations and began with In Lieu Transfers and Exchanges for passive recharge, wherein the ground water is ‘passively’ stored based on districts not pumping their wells. She had demands for each water agency: (noting that current demands are now lower than 2014 / 2015 levels).
SqCWD 2.3 mg/d
SVWD 1.3 mg/d
SLVWD 0.9 mg/d
Total 4.5 mg/d
She then discussed Active Recharge, storing stormwater flows in regional aquifers for future use during drought. The key working assumptions for evaluating winter water harvest/groundwater storage options is that there needs to be an 80% recovery rate of stored water for withdrawal later. Also “All available flows within existing water rights, in excess of fish flow requirements and Santa Cruz demands may be diverted for aquifer fill year-round.” She talked a bit about the fish issues and the Felton diversion dam. All water for in lieu and ASR must be treated to drinking water standards. It would, at current capacities, take three years to fill the Basin.
She then discussed that the real problem is multiple year drought, with a three-year drought causing big problems. She talked a bit about current climate change models predicting longer periods of drought, followed by a year of flashy storm runoff, and again, talked about storage issues. She said that due to predicted prolonged drought periods, in lieu alone is not a reliable solution to storage deficiencies.
She then discussed the current status of in-lieu, stating that the water exchange with Soquel will begin this winter, but due to fish requirements, must be kept at 300AF under the existing agreement BUT THAT CAN BE CHANGED WITH CEQA PROCESS and modeling updates.
She discussed the current status of Aquifer Storage and Recovery, that Phase I technical analyses showed no fatal flaws with any scenario examined. Existing Beltz Wells are being considered for pilot testing this winter for active injection.
Rosemary then summarized the status of two recycled water projects: internal treatment plant needs, a bulk water station and irrigation a La Barranca Park, but these are not expected to produce much of a water demand offset value.
The City is conducting a feasibility update on desal with a focus on costs, timeliness and changed conditions since 2013 (State now requires subsurface intakes, if feasible). This report will be coming up for review before the Water Advisory Commission NEXT MONTH. The City will not make a decision until 2020, but timeliness of implementation will likely be an issue to get done by 2025, due to new regulations.
Ron Duncan then gave a presentation for Soquel Creek Water District, giving out bottles of recycled drinking water to members in the audience who correctly answered his questions about local supply sources. He made the case for how much the area needs to have PureWater Soquel Project, stating “This is about risk mitigation.” He gave glowing reports of all the grant money awarded and to be awarded. He talked about the Community Water Plan, including Deep Water Desal and the high cost of that water. He mentioned that the District partnered with the RCD and Andy Fisher on a stormwater recharge project at Seascape Golf Course, but it only will mean 30-40 AF/Y but helps.
Rosemary Menard then gave a brief presentation on the “Process Funnel” for the Groundwater Sustainability Plan elements.
Then Tom LaHue asked how many members of the community wanted to make a presentation (except I could not hear him well enough to understand that is what he was asking). I had intended to give a brief presentation about Andy Fisher’s good work mapping the County and rating areas for recharge capabilities.
Gary went first…good job.
Jerry went after…lots of information, Jerry!
Then there was discussion with the Board and Advisory Committee.
Richard Casale asked about the risks to various projects from natural disaster and/or sabotage.
John Bargetto asked about the DeepWater Desal feasibility if 15 miles of pipe have to be pulled. He asked about the actual location of the PureWater Soquel facility… Ron Duncan did not know which of the three sites under consideration will be selected. John then asked about the concepts stated in Gary’s and Jerry’s presentations. Rosemary admitted (quite complimentarily) that the treatment plant is under-capacity to really implement lochquifer and upgrades will be difficult. She admitted, at least as much as I could hear, that Jerry’s and Gary’s ideas are good ones but it will take the City a few years to make treatment plant changes to accommodate the water transfers wholescale.
Jan Karwin talked about the PureWater Soquel EIR and that Alternative #2 was to have been done concurrently. She also mentioned that in the document, both the City and Soquel Creek Water District guarantee water availability into the future with the implementation of this project (she thought that was rather far-reaching for a project with so many unknowns).
I asked about why Laguna Creek has been eliminated from the North Coast stream pilot water transfer project this winter. Rosemary said it was because of the required fish flows and she had to guarantee there would be no more than the agreed-upon 300AF going to Soquel. I got rushed by Tom LaHue but got to ask two more questions:
1.) Will Soquel Creek allow a public vote on PureWater Soquel? Ron Duncan said “NO,” it will be a Board decision.
2.) How will the District verify the state-required 60-day holding times? Ron Duncan said there is a model for that and can be verified by adding a (bromine?) tracer at injection source and mapped using monitoring wells.
That was all I was allowed to ask before the meeting closed. All my fliers about the two EIR Study Sessions that I had left on the table outside in the foyer were gone. I asked Darcy about them…she had boxed them up and hauled them to her car during the meeting. She retrieved them for me when I asked. I also handed out the County recharge map that Andy Fisher developed to as many of the Advisory Committee members as I could.
Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting
July 17, 2018
I attended the Soquel Creek Water District Board meeting tonight. Heidi from Santa Cruz City Water Dept. was in the audience, as was Water Advisory Commissioner Walt Wadlow. The Board did not ask either of them to speak or answer questions, but did recognize Heidi.
There were several issues of interest to me, but the greatest one was regarding the Board action to accept the Water Chemistry Study by Black & Veatch. There was a good presentation by the consultant, with questions interjected by Board members, mostly about pH values.
I had been especially distressed by the final paragraph of the District staff recommendations that no water would be accepted until December 2019, and further upset that there was no discussion about this apparent delay by staff or the Board. During public comment, I asked about the December 2019 date. TAJ DUFOUR ASSURED ME THAT THE DATE WAS A TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR, AND THAT THE WATER TRANSFERS WILL BEGIN THIS DECEMBER 2018.
Hooray! The plan is to begin taking water THIS December. (However, the Board did not move to correct the mistake in the recommendations).
I went on to emphasize that the 250 AF/Y volume that Taj stated in his staff report on the matter (and according to the staff report, the current pilot agreement limits to 352 AF/Y) can be much greater, especially in wet years. Taj conceded that the intertie connection is capable of allowing 800 AF/Y. The 250 AF/Y figure is a computation of the Service Area 1 demand (2300 service connections). I also pointed out that in the City’s report, the recommendations and findings (page 231) did not discuss such rigorous monitoring (I was still kind of inflamed about the implications of a December 2019 acceptance date) but rather placed more emphasis on customer outreach and selected service connections for monitoring sites.
Taj also reported that Laguna Creek flows were not considered in the North Coast sources. I meant to ask why, but my time ran out before I could pose the question. I will write him and ask. Main Street Well should be back online soon, but the O’Neill Ranch Well return to service date is unknown.
Director Daniels suggested more monitoring of the pH in the area during water transfer. Taj agreed and said the State is also requiring monitoring for disinfection by-products because of the potentially higher disinfection rate for surface waters. Bruce Daniels also had questions about the City’s orthophosphate levels, and monitoring for those impacts. Christine Meade said phosphate is routinely monitored.
Director Jaffee also had questions about the pH variability of the North Coast streams and varying times of year and storm flow. He wondered about differences in taste of the surface water and also had questions about the City’s monitoring quality for any reverse directional flow from SqCWD sources.
Director Christensen asked if it would be worthwhile to initiate a pipe loop test to study the effects of mixed source water upon stagnant service connections. (Grrrrrr…) Director Daniels also had concerns about this in terms of vacation homes with sporadic occupancy. Christine Meade and the Black & Veatch consultant both said such a study was not necessary, due to internal system mixing, and would only slow the transfer down another year.
The Board approved initiating the pilot water transfer project this year.
I was also interested in their discussion of 3–5 Year Rate Study project with Raftalis Financial Consultants (item 6.3). The Board considered which scenario to have the consultant study rate increases to support:
3.) PureWater Soquel with Prop. 1 Grant ($50 Million) but not Title XVI Grant (because the consultant let them know that reimbursement grant may take 10 years for payment).
I thought it was interesting to listen to the Directors minimize the value of water transfers and stormwater recharge projects, essentially stating that if the District does not move forward with PureWater Soquel, they will be sticking their heads in the sand, with salt water pushing forward, and having to possibly instill a moratorium on new service connections which would thereby eliminate their important Water Demand Offset Revenue (!).
I also thought it was amazing to hear the accountant state that the District may have to postpone all Capital Improvement Projects in order to finance PureWater Soquel and keep rates down for customers. The Board asked what those projects might be (also amazing). The accountant (Leslie Strohm) named the Quail Run Storage Tank project ($6 million) and the Cunnison Well (she could not remember that dollar amount).
The Board directed Raftelis to develop a rate increase structure for the next five years to include PureWater Soquel with and without grants.
I spoke about the high cost of the Project, citing their feasibility report of November 2017 figure of $183+ Million, which included financing costs. That was when the estimated project cost was $60–$70 Million, but now that their consultant has alerted the Board to increased construction costs and the figure is now $90–$135 Million, the real Project cost would probably be over $200 million. Their customers just got a 17% rate increase and several fixed-income ratepayers are struggling to pay their water bills now. I reminded the Board of their mantra: Clean, Affordable water and salt water issues addressed in a timely manner. Their water will not be affordable with PureWater Soquel.
Item 6.4 was interesting: awarding the contract bid for Intertie Connection between Service Area # 3 and Service Area #4 in Seascape. There were three bids submitted, with California Trenchless, Inc being the low bidder, but failing to submit some critical information. The next lowest bidder was Don Chapin, who had a subcontractor that does not meet the District’s requirements. The issue that bothered me in this discussion was that neither the Board nor staff would discuss or consider the issue of potential soil contamination associated with the adjacent railroad bed soils and the fact that the project is located on an organic farm. Taj Dufour confirmed that the District has not done any soil testing for potential contamination at all. I know those types of soils are historically very contaminated, that having been borne out by work recently conducted in the Aptos Village area as well as the Westside area with the RTC trail projects on the railroad bed.
That’s about it. I also spoke on behalf of the District renewing the intertie connection with PureSource Water (my community water supplier) item 6.5. Bruce Daniels was the lone vote against the renewal because “this little ragtag water system operating on a shoe string is relying on us to provide redundancy for their reliability and that is not right.” He said he felt the State should consolidate PureSource with the District. Director Christensen also asked about that issue, but voted to extend the inter-tie agreement. PureSource uses the inter-tie only in emergencies and pays over$10/unit. When Soquel Creek Water District has emergencies and buys water from Central Water District, they pay $7/unit (748 gal) bulk water rate. Soquel Creek Water District charges customers nearly $59/1000 gal. for bulk water
I look forward to seeing you all Thursday night at the MidCounty Groundwater Agency Joint meeting.
• YouTube Video of February 12 Soquel Creek Water District Water Resources and Infrastructure Management Standing Committee Meeting
• Please Consider Attending Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting
• Changes in County Code Significantly Reduced Power and
Scope of Duty for County Water Advisory Commission
• Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting Notes
• Water District Public Outreach Committee Meeting
• MidCounty Groundwater Agency Meeting
• Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting