Tied together: Water agencies look to grant to create integrated system
by Peter Burke
Sep 24, 2012 | 3210 views | 16 16 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This 100,000 gallon water tank off Quarry Road in Felton is part of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Local water officials hope a multimillion dollar grant will help merge six area water agencies to improve supply stability in case of a disaster.
This 100,000 gallon water tank off Quarry Road in Felton is part of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Local water officials hope a multimillion dollar grant will help merge six area water agencies to improve supply stability in case of a disaster.
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Six local water agencies — San Lorenzo Valley, Scotts Valley, Mount Hermon, Lompico, Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek — are seeking a multimillion-dollar grant to tie their water systems together in case of disaster.

The agencies partnered to apply last week for $9.99 million from the California Department of Public Health that would pay for more than half the project’s costs. The water districts would foot the remainder of the estimated $18.9 million bill.

Charlie McNiesh, the manager of Scotts Valley Water District, said the goal is to share resources and work together more closely. That should ensure, for example, that residents throughout the area have access to water in an emergency.

“It’s been a long process,” McNiesh said. “For decades, water districts (in California) tried to be independent, but they have realized that cooperation is necessary.”

 

Latest application ‘most promising’

The recent application is the third the districts have submitted for a Proposition 50 grant to create a regional intertie.

Proposition 50, the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act passed by California voters in 2002, made available $50 million for water security among $3.44 billion in bond money set aside for statewide water projects.

The districts, led by Scotts Valley, submitted less detailed applications in 2004 and 2007 but were not awarded funding. The districts also unsuccessfully applied for a separate U.S. Bureau of Reclamation grant several years ago.

In July, however, officials with the Department of Public Health asked the districts to resubmit their grant application. That’s reason for confidence, according to John Ricker, director of the Santa Cruz County Resources Division.

“This the most promising funding yet,” Ricker said. “In this case, the state kind of came to us.”

The grant application prepared by Kennedy/Jenks Consultants of Palo Alto includes a detailed technical report that includes pump sizes and specific mapping of the proposed connections between the districts. Completing the application cost about $100,000, McNiesh said.

San Lorenzo Valley Water District Manager Jim Mueller is also optimistic, but still cautious.

“Based on all of our conversations (with the Department of Public Health), there is a high probability of this getting funded — but there’s no guarantee,” Mueller said.

 

Interties could help in emergency

This part of Proposition 50 monies pays for “water security” projects that help ensure drinking water can be delivered by way of treatment, distribution and supply facilities in the event of a natural disaster or intentional contamination.

In such an emergency, water sources in one district could be cut off, leading to the need for potable drinking water delivered from another district.

Connections between independent water systems in Santa Cruz County would mean that water could be shared among all six districts, through water mains and pumps linking them together.

 “It could be any natural disaster,” Mueller said. “Mudslides, trees down, the 1989 earthquake, the ’82 or ’86 storms, forest fires — there are all kinds of things that could potentially happen.”

The grant money would also pay for early-warning technology in some areas.

 

Water network would connect region

Seven major interties would be constructed using grant money.

  • Scotts Valley with Santa Cruz: A 12-inch pipeline would be built from near the Scotts Valley Corners along La Madrona Drive to Sims Road, where it would meet Santa Cruz’s system at Brook Knoll Drive.
  • Scotts Valley with SLV South: An 8-inch pipeline would cross Lockwood Lane just north of Lockwood Way in Scotts Valley.
  • SLV North with SLV South: A 12-inch pipeline would travel down West Zayante Road to Graham Hill Road and then climb Graham Hill to above Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall.
  • SLV South with Mount Hermon: An 8-inch pipeline would parallel Summit Avenue north to the 12-inch pipeline north of Graham Hill Road.
  • SLV North with Lompico: An 8-inch pipeline would travel from Zayante Drive up Lake Boulevard. 
  • SLV North with Felton: An 8-inch pipeline would run along Highway 9 to connect the systems.
  • Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek: A 24-inch pipeline would connect to an 18-inch pipeline between DeLaveaga Park and Soquel Creek by way of Soquel Drive.

 

Districts to share costs

The districts estimate a total cost of $18.99 million to build the seven interties, $9.99 million of which they hope to receive from Proposition 50 funds.

To make up the difference, San Lorenzo Valley has agreed to contribute $4.175 million; Scotts Valley, $890,686; Santa Cruz, $1.28 million; and Soquel Creek, $2.65 million.

Each district’s contribution is proportional to the cost of the project in its jurisdiction. The larger San Lorenzo Valley district will help Mount Hermon and Lompico during the grant process and the project.

Mueller said San Lorenzo Valley would still have $4.5 million remaining in reserves after the project. The large reserve is a result of the sale of the Waterman Gap property —unused land the district owned — in the early 2000s.

The district’s directors are committed to the project, he said.

“I would say the board is enthusiastic,” Mueller said. “It’s a project they support, particularly when we get a large matching grant.”

 

Action expected quickly

McNiesh and Mueller both expect to receive a response from the Department of Public Health in several months.

In the meantime, the districts have begun environmental studies and work on technical design features of the interties.

“We are starting the survey and design work even before we hear from public health,” McNiesh said.

If the grant is awarded, the districts have six months to complete construction plans and technical reports and set up water-sharing and financial agreements with each other.

The districts would then have a three-year window to build the interties.

To comment, email editor Peter Burke at peter@pressbanner.com, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.

Comments
(16)
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Duane Davis
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October 04, 2012
The incumbents like to use the words "fire" and "drought" as a scare tactic.

The fact is that drought is relatively rare. Lompico has had to truck in water due to drought a total of two times in the past 35 years (1977 and 1992).

Also keep in mind, Lompico isn't going to have a drought alone. A drought will effect all the districts in the area. How much water do you think they're going to give (sell) us if they are hurting for water at the same time?

As for fire, the local water system is only used for structural fires. There has never been a shortage of water for this. Firefighters would not use fire hydrants to fight a wildfire or forest fire. Water would instead be pulled from Loch Lomond, Lexington or even the ocean.

I've had discussions with Zayante Fire personnel. They are not worried about a forest fire in Lompico. We have mostly California Coastal Redwoods which, due to their lack of pitch and high water content, are very fire resistant. We would be better off focusing on fire prevention and defensible space.

Lompico's problem isn't supply, it's capacity. We have more water available that we can store. We also have a tank that's leaking badly, partly due to a decision by the current board. What's needed is to start replacing tanks and increasing capacity, something the current board it trying to delay another 8 to 10 years.
Rate Payer
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October 04, 2012
But, Duane...you are speaking clearly and rationally. We aren't used to that.

You are right, we haven't had drought conditions in years. SLV Water District's pathetic attempts at scare tactics on Zayante were a joke. We have not had actual drought situations EVER.

Betsy Herbert the environmental cog at SLV Water District admits that drought scares are merely to "change behavior" and have no basis in reality.

I truly respect anyone who steps up for public office. But I just wish that those who stepped up were honest, intelligent people. Haven't seen that in a long, long time.
Bill Smallman
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September 27, 2012
These "Inter-ties" are seen as necessary by many as a good investment to divert water for fire or drought. The connections will be "normally closed" valve, which will be opened as necessary. In these situations, if occurred, the cost would be less because in the drought situation, water is trucked in a a very high cost. Fire, you all have seen the high cost of CDF for big fires which could be far lower by having improved water improvements. It is an improvement which is a worthwhile investment, and has nothing to do with sharing/taking water between water agencies, only in time of need.
Karen Karr
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September 28, 2012
Bill, I always appreciate your informative posts.

Questiona - 1. How does Lompico Water District factor into the Intertie equation?

2. Define "in time of need". Also, where can one look for the districts' definition of "in time of need".

Thank you.
Bill Smallman
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September 28, 2012
Karen,

Lompico, as you probably know, has 3 directors, including myself, up for election against 3 challengers who are against the current merger plans being developed. The inter-tie is a requirement by SLVWD for merger, and a major cost. So if this prop 50 money is used for the intertie, the merger cost would go down. Not merging, the inter-tie may not happen,(too expensive), but if prop 50 pays it will. Either way both sides benefit. I have installed an inter-tie between two large water agencies which has a two way meter. A time in need is, for example, when Lompico had to truck in water during a drought, this cost so much money that if all you had to do is turn on a valve from an intertie pipeline it would pay for itself vs about 3 weeks of trucking costs. Most systems, like Lompico are designed to have adequate water for fire, but to have an added backup would be extremely beneficial. On top of that, Lompico sometimes drafts too much water out of the creek threatening fish habitat, so this inter-tie may help with that as well. Soquel Water is interested in getting much more water for groundwater recharge, and that is a whole separate issue.
Karen Karr
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September 28, 2012
Thanks Bill. Would Soquel get water from Lompico or Felton (SLVWD) in the event of overdraft or saltwater intrustion? If de-sal is removed from the table?
Bill Smallman
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September 28, 2012
Karen,

I didn't answer your question fully about the definition of "time in need". I don't believe there is any legal definition for this. If there is an inter-tie between 2 separate governed water agencies, they would have to negotiate and design the inter-tie, and develop an "time of need" agreement as to when and how much water can be shared.
Bill Smallman
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September 28, 2012
Karen,

I'm actually working with the desal alternatives group. My alternative plan is based on using 100% of the Santa Cruz sewer plant water as reclaimed water- and pipe it south next to the rail road tracks and restore the surface with a bike path. On the San Lorenzo River, build pump stations which will pump high storm flows of water and pump this two reservoirs built in the sand quarries. Some of this water could be sent to Soquel, using the reclaimed water, the groundwater will get recharged. The amount of water we use would be unaffected, as this storm water normally flows into the ocean. The desal will be connected to the system, so the inter-ties are needed to send this water to Soquel. We would be connected to Santa Cruz through Scotts Valley, the water we have/use is not enough to fix the groundwater issue, so I don't believe water going this way would ever be considered an option.
Karen Karr
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September 28, 2012
So, that "time of need" definition has not yet been set?
Bill Smallman
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September 28, 2012
I don't believe it has, but I might be wrong. I think it will be up to the Water Districts to decide.
Havah Nesmehah
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September 27, 2012
Wondering, will there be any use of eminent domain to install this pipeline?

Did Felton residents know that their water would be shipped out of their little district?

Will SLVUSD bear any rate increase to accommodate the intertie?
Gail Jones
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September 27, 2012
To Betty Lightyear - Curious as to who you refer to as the Astroturf group?

Ezra Kline
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September 25, 2012
It is time for an SLV online news presence. One which will address these water, housing, pollution, nonprofit funding issues. Because such a thing does not yet exist.

Ezra.
Zara Bowen
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September 25, 2012
FLOW said our water would not be shipped out of the area. It will be.

FLOW said SLVWD wouldn't raise rates. They did, and now they will even more.

Intertie with Soquel and Santa Cruz which have deficits due to saltwater intrusion for overbuilding?

The wiser path would have been to hold those other ditricts to within their means.

I would like to hear the candidates' responses to these concerns.
Beth Hollenbeck CORE
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September 26, 2012
They mention over and over that this is only "in case of an emergency" where water is cut off from a district.

I think we all know that water is the new commodity, maybe second only to oil. Felton owns its water I thought? Can someone explain how Fall Creek and other water sources play into this? Could have good intentions, but will need to be watched closely over the years. Look to your water board reps on this, I'd say.
Betty Lightyear
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September 27, 2012
Felton does not own its own water. That opportunity was taken away when the County took over the water system via its astroturf group (Lompico, take note). Back then anybody who dared mention real Felton control of water was pushed out of the room. Or given a wrong address so as not to have a voice at the early planning meetings.

Look to our reps? For what? Guidance? Transparency? Factual data? Good luck with that.


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