Soquel Creek Water District Board Meeting – July 17, 2018
Surface Water Transfers Agreement & Water Chemistry
Notes by Becky Steinbruner


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 inflammed 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:

1.) No PureWater Soquel Project, but water transfers and stormwater recharge projects
Not favored by the Board.
2.) PureWater Soquel with No Grants
The Board considered and approved along with…

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.