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At its January board meeting, the Community Services District approved a report that concludes the district has enough water to supply new development and announced the appointment of a security sergeant.

Water supply assessment goes to county

The water supply assessment prepared by the CSD will be used in the California Environmental Quality Act analysis for the Rancho Murieta North project, which proposes 827 new residential lots for the North.  The assessment will undergo peer review at the county, and eventually become an attachment to the environmental impact report now being prepared for the development project.

At a workshop held earlier this month, the CSD received comments questioning assumptions and data for the report.

In response, the final version that came before the board last week included “additional explanatory language to clarify some of the issues and concerns that were raised, clarifying how some of the calculations were done,” General Manager Darlene Gillum said. The conclusion was unchanged: the district’s water supply is sufficient to serve the proposed development under a normal year, single dry year and multiple-dry-year conditions during a 20-year projection.

During the discussion before the vote, Director Mark Pecotich asked how the CSD would revisit the assessment if the water supply changes during the 20-year period. Consultant Lisa Maddaus, of Maddaus Water Management Inc., who prepared the report, replied that updating and revisiting the water balance is within the scope of the district’s Integrated Water Master Plan, which was updated in 2010. Another update is being considered for 2017.

John Merchant, one of the people who has raised questions about water availability and groundwater use, asked if the assessment meant CSD was in effect guaranteeing water to 827 houses for 20 years.

CSD legal counsel Dick Shanahan replied,  “This doesn’t guarantee anything. And that’s real significant for the board to understand. It’s part of a CEQA document. A CEQA document ... gives information to the Board of Supervisors to help them make an intelligent, hopefully, decision on whether or not or how to approve a land use project. A CEQA document’s a snapshot in time based on the best available information at the time. This is the district’s best available information at the time, making a reasonable, good-faith forecast of your water supply availability, reaching a reasoned conclusion that yes, based on what we know and the forecasts and the modeling and the assumptions, we will have water available  ... but it doesn’t guarantee it.”

Shanahan said the board will “continue to have substantial authority and discretion to make changes if and when circumstances  change. There’s a lot of concerns in the water community about global warming and what that means. ... The ultimate allocation, the guarantee of water supply, is when you issue a connection permit and give a meter. That’s when you’re committed to that house and that lot. But up until then, you’ve got a lot of authority to make changes to your water allocation policy to reflect changed circumstances. And the fact that in 2016, years ago, you approved some document based on a model and forecast at the time, that’s not going to tie your hands ... Developers don’t like that, but there comes a point in time where your priority shifts to, Well, we’ve just got to take care of what we have today ... your starting priority is to making sure that the existing residents have adequate water supply, and then what’s left is allocated to new development. If there’s nothing left because of changed circumstances with climate change, then so be it.”

Director Mike Martel said he would feel uncomfortable charging developers for the water treatment plant and then not providing water service. The district had concluded negotiations and charged everyone their “fair share” to build a water plant, he said. “We got everybody’s money, and we’ve spent everybody’s money. ... Now I’m changing negotiations to not give you the benefit of the money that we’ve already collected from you.” Martel said his gut was telling him that CSD would incur liability if that happened.

Before making the motion to approve the report, Director Morrison Graf said, “We just need to answer the question to the county now ... based on our best opinion, our best analysis capability, do we have enough water for these homes that are being proposed? And the answer any way you look at it is yes. For the purpose of this report, the answer is yes.”

The five directors voted to approve the water supply assessment and sent it on to the county.

Security sergeant named

Scarzella and Remson

Mike Scarzella, Security's new sergeant, receives his badge from Chief Greg Remson.

General Manager Darlene Gillum announced the promotion of Patrol Officer Michael Scarzella to the position of security sergeant. She said Scarzella has been with the district about six years.

In his security report, Chief Greg Remson noted that Scarzella was one of four patrol officers who tested for the job, and he was selected as “the best all-around fit for the position.” The position had been vacant since Jim Bieg retired last year.

As the board looked on, Remson presented Scarzella with a badge at the board meeting.

Water plant nears online operation

Paul Siebensohn, director of field operations, reported that the new water treatment plant had received an on-site review by Division of Drinking Water personnel. “They commented on how well everything was running, water quality was exceptional. ... So everything was looking good from their perspective. They need to issue a letter to operate the facility, to give us permission to operate, so we’re basically waiting on that right now. ... We obviously need it as soon as we can to get the facility up and running. ... Once we get that approval letter we can potentially start the 30-day process test ...”

The letter arrived the day after the board meeting, General Manager Darlene Gillum said this week. She said the 30-day operating period will begin soon.

In brief

  • The water department has resumed the valve operating and maintenance program required by the Division of Drinking Water. It was put on hold during the drought. Since closing and opening valves has the potential to stir up debris, including rust, a flushing program is part of the process. Door tags with information about the procedure are placed in areas where the work is occurring, Siebensohn said.
  • Reservoirs were at 84 percent capacity in mid January.
  • Per capita daily water usage in December was 85 gallons.

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