Cool, Clear Water (Someday)
by Mark Scaramella, June 8, 2016
On Tuesday, May 24, 2016, Boonville grape grower Deborah Kahn, civil engineer David Coleman, Boonville Hotel co-owner Roger Scommegna, Boonville resident Xenia King, Community Services District Trustee (and Boonville resident) Kathleen McKenna, Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg, Sonny Pettijohn, Don Sanfrey, CSD Trustee/Board Chair Valerie Hanelt, Boonville resident Mark Scaramella, CSD General Manager Joy Andrews and Water Board consultant Karen McBride met at the Boonville Firehouse auxiliary meeting room to review the situation.
Civil engineer Dave Coleman of Santa Rosa-based Brelje & Race Consulting Engineers has prepared a draft "Plan of Study" which describes the technical planning process and required steps before undertaking any such project(s) aimed at — crudity not intended — getting the ca-ca out of Boonville's drinking water.
The State Water Board is considering financing the "Plan of Study" for both a functioning sewer and safe water for Boonville at up to $500,000 each. Apparently, the Plan of Study for a water system is more expensive than the Plan of Study for a sewer system because water system planning requires test wells which can be expensive to develop. Of course, there is some chance that existing private or public wells in the Valley could be used instead of new wells, thus reducing the planning cost.
At the moment, consideration is being given to a water district that could extend from the Anderson Valley Brewery, past the high school and on to Airport Estates. If the Plan of Study grant application is funded by the State Water Board, engineers will take upwards of two years preparing the technical plan, environmental documents, and associated cost estimates for the development of a water system, a sewer system, or both.
If that happens, options would be reviewed and a proposal would be prepared for the most cost-effective option to be presented to the property owners in the proposed service area. And they would get to vote for it up or down.
According to Community Services District Chairperson (and project point person) Valerie Hanelt, the ultimate cost of developing and installing one or both systems could be subsidized by various federal and state loans and grants because the median household income in Boonville is well below the state average, meaning our low income in the affected areas qualify us for such subsidies.
The "Boonville Planners" discussed various ways to inform the residents of Boonville about the preliminary planning efforts so far and the prospects of system development — far off as they seem to be at this point.
A draft of an application to the County's Local Area Formation COmmission (LAFCO) has been prepared which would activate the "latent powers" of the Community Services District for water and sewer, perhaps by the fall of this year, thus giving the CSD standing for the grant applications.
Meanwhile, preparations are being made to better inform the public of the activities so far. No one wanted to guess what the cost of the system(s) would be because it's too early. But the minutes of the meeting say, "A ballpark figure of monthly user rates including construction and operation would be $100 per month, but that can vary greatly."
For perhaps very rough comparison, the City of Point Arena recently voted to significantly raise its sewer rates from about $49 per month to roughly $64 per month because their sewage disposal system needs upgrades. Gualala’s residential sewer rate is about $59 per month. Ukiah Valley’s residential sewer bill as of 2014 was about $60 per month.
Residential water rates vary more widely.
Irish Beach on the Coast charges about $67 per month for a basic hook up and just over $5 per thousand gallons of use.
Fort Bragg and Ukiah charge by the pipe/meter size for hookups with the smallest (typically 1-inch) hook up costing about $32 per month (but going up every year) and $4-$8 per thousand gallons of use (but they charge by the hundred cubic feet, HCF).
Of course, if the available subsidies appear, the monthly cost would be less. The cost for sewer service would also depend on what kind of system was ultimately proposed.
Anderson Valley's application for planning grant funding was given a boost earlier this year when most of the small parcel residential wells in downtown Boonville tested positive for coliform and nitrates.
A preliminary project schedule for the planning portion of the project shows that if the planning grant applications are approved in the next few months, planning could be completed sometime near the end of 2017.
Skeptics would probably see these costly, confusing and very slow processes as quite a high bar to get over. But the Boonville Planners, optimists all, have already gotten farther along than the skeptics might have expected. After all, it wasn't that long ago that the tiny town of Laytonville developed their water system/district and so far things are working to our north without complaint.