The Community Services District and the Rancho Murieta Association are at odds about providing water to a new playing field, and they differ about the size of the field as well. CSD General Manager Joe Blake contends the field occupies four acres, and CSD water hook-up fees of close to $190,000 have been triggered for metering, water augmentation and water treatment capacity. RMA General Manager Greg Vorster maintains that RMA has permission from the CSD to use metered water from Stonehouse Park on a temporary basis to irrigate a field that occupies less than an acre of the 14-acre Escuela site.
"They’re going to give us payment and we can deal with the terms very quickly because there'll be no water for what they want to do, but more importantly, they need to honor their agreement," Blake said at the August CSD board meeting. "…The state requires … you cannot hydro-seed now during the drought until October. They went ahead on their own and hydro-seeded. So that’s one issue. The second is there was an agreement to put in a secondary metering system for the ball practice field, which RMA swears is one acre. It’s four acres, I walked it off. That’s the second issue.”
Asked to comment later in the week, Vorster said the field was hydro-seeded prior to the state drought declaration and there is no prohibition on hydro-seeding in CSD water use requirements.
“I explained to (Blake) that we’re using a hybrid Bermuda that can only germinate in hot weather,” Vorster said. He described the turf as a “more drought-tolerant grass than what we typically use.”
RMA board goals for the site last year included adding a paved perimeter path bordered by mitigation trees and a lacrosse field. “Since this is a temporary field, we were going to be allowed to use the water for the Stonehouse site and once we determined a permanent use for that site, then we would talk about paying for that meter," Vorster said. "And that’s what our discussion was and that’s what our agreement was.”
Is the new field on Escuela four acres or closer to one acre?
A letter dated June 5, 2013 to Vorster from former CSD General Manager Ed Crouse reads, "The District will allow the use of a temporary water service connection to the existing pressurized irrigation system at Stonehouse Park to serve the proposed new lacrosse field on the Escuela site. … Once a permanent use is created at the site, the District will require a separate water service connection and meter. … The Improvements Committee reviewed your request on June 4, 2013 and concurs with the above approach for water service."
The letter refers to the dimensions of the field as "approximately 200 feet x 300 feet." The field was scaled down after RMA went to the county, Vorster said. “We originally went to the county for a grading permit. They wanted us to spend probably about $18,000 on permit fees, and so we scaled it down to less than an acre, so no grading permit was required.”
Checking with a tape measure found the finished field measures roughly 180 by 110 feet, about a half acre.
At the CSD meeting, Blake said RMA had "already exceeded their EDU allocation." Vorster said water use for the Escuela field is accommodated within the 15 EDU allotment for Stonehouse Park.
When asked about RMA water use, Blake replied that "the RMA has exceeded their allotment for the community in terms of water that they received from the district. Individually, in one area or another they haven’t, but you have to look at the sum total of what they’re doing."
Vorster produced a spreadsheet of RMA's potable and raw water use from March 2013 through July 2014 in response. It shows a year-to-year overall reduction in water use of 28 percent.
RMA acquired the Escuela property in 2012 after RMA members rejected a plan to finance and build a community center and pool complex there. The purchase was made for $200,000 using funds the RMA reserved for its future contributions to the parks fund. The site was rezoned as common area by the county, and the Parks Committee designated it an extension of Stonehouse Park in the parks matrix.
One of the goals the RMA board has set for 2015 is to produce a master plan for the Escuela park site.