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.