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Ponds, Finding Ground Water, Consolidation—Highlights of the Redwood Valley County Water District Board Meeting

A waterway in Redwood Valley[Photo by afletch4141 via their Flickr account]

The RVCWD Board of Directors met on August 18, 2022 at 5:00 pm at the District Office, 151 Laws Avenue, Ukiah, with a Zoom option available. All of the current directors were present: Ken Todd, Tom Schoeneman, Bree Klotter and Adam Gaska, along with General Manager Jared Walker.

The Board of Directors addressed topics such as the consolidation of multiple water agencies in the Ukiah Valley, the search for groundwater in Redwood Valley, and the role of personal ponds for valley residents.

Discussion of Grand Jury Report, July 29, 2022

This was a continuation of an agenda item on the July 21 meeting that didn’t get full discussion as that meeting ran late. There was discussion of the detailed letter of support for consolidation from Mendocino LAFCO to the State Water Resources Control Board that was referenced on page 8 of the Grand Jury Report and the report referenced in Finding F-1 of the GJ Report. Recommendation R-3, that the District contact the Bureau of Reclamation to pursue refinance or forgiveness of the loan, will be addressed after the consolidation workshop planned for September 6. Recommendation R-4, that stakeholders be engaged is a challenge, as it is difficult to get the public to participate in District meetings. It was suggested that notices be placed on public bulletin boards. 

Ag water users should not be affected by the consolidation, as the newly formed consolidated agency will not provide ag water. Hopefully, after consolidation, the Redwood Valley County Water District, Calpella County Water District, Millview County Water District, and the City of Ukiah will be interconnected and there is a possibility of not needing water from the Russian River Flood Control District, which may then be available to ag water users. A public comment was made suggesting that the District seek legal counsel to assist in the consolidation process.

Consolidation with Other Water Districts

Jared Walker reported on his meetings with Sean White, City of Ukiah Director of Water and Sewer, and Michelle Frederick, with the State. They are in talks to consolidate the districts in the Upper Russian River Water Agency (URRWA) with the City of Ukiah. Walker and White will hold a workshop meeting on September 6 with two representatives from each district and Frederick from the State. The purpose of the workshop is to hammer out the details of which entity will be the lead agency in the consolidated group. There is some urgency to get the consolidation done while the State is offering money for this. Building out the infrastructure will take longer. Redwood Valley’s $7 million debt is a complicating factor. The debt is a federal debt with the Bureau of Reclamation; the State of California doesn’t have the power to forgive or refinance a federal debt. Once the parties involved determine the structure of the consolidation, there will be meetings open to the public to discuss.

Discussion with Mike Silvestrini Co-Founder of Energea (via Zoom) on Repowering the Redwood Valley Water Treatment Plant Solar Plant

Following up on Energea’s proposal at the July 21 Board meeting about replacement of the solar power equipment at the Redwood Valley Water Treatment Plant, Mike Silvestrini joined the meeting via Zoom to discuss contract details. The solar plant is considered a very small commercial project. Energea is a firm geared toward small plants that are too small to interest large commercial contractors. Mr. Silvestrini analyzed the District’s electric bills and determined that PG&E is charging a very high rate for electricity. He said PG&E’s rates are similar to rates charged on Caribbean islands that have to import oil to generate electricity. The lowest off-peak winter rate charged by PG&E is about 19 cents per kilowatt hour. The highest rate charged by PG&E is 33 cents per kilowatt hour. The cost for a 20-year contract with Energea is 12 cents per kilowatt hour. This includes the price of replacing the existing solar panels and inverter and ongoing maintenance of the system. 

This type of system is called “behind the meter.” When the sun is generating electricity, the plant runs on solar power. There is no battery storage. At night, it runs on PG&E power.

Because consolidation of water districts is being contemplated, the Board discussed whether a 20-year contract would be too long. Silvestrini said that a ten or fifteen-year contract would be possible, but the kilowatt-hour price would need to be adjusted upward, still being less expensive than PG&E. The Board questioned what would happen if Energea were to be sold or go out of business. Silvestrini said that he is the majority owner of the company, has no plans to sell, and invited the Board to examine the company’s SEC filings. 

The new contract could be ready in a couple of weeks, and the project could be completed in a couple of months. PG&E needs to approve the installation of the new inverter, which should not take long, as it is the same size as the existing inverter. The Board voted to approve the contract with Energea.

Ag Water Customer Survey

The Board approved sending a survey to Ag water customers, inquiring whether they had ponds and whether the ponds had water in them. Some users have their own sources to fill their ponds. The survey would also ask how much they would be willing to pay for Ag water if a source is located during these extended drought periods, and how much water they would want. Some users are trucking in water, which costs thousands per acre-foot. Elizabeth Salomone, General Manager, Russian River Flood Control District requested a copy of the letter.

Staff Report

Jared Walker reported that a backup booster pump has been acquired. This pump is the lifeline of pumping water to Redwood Valley, and now there is a backup.

LACO Contract to Attempt to Find Groundwater

Jared Walker reported that the contract with LACO to locate possible groundwater well sites in Redwood Valley, funded by grant money, has been sent to the Department of Water Resources. Survey assessments should be done in the next two to three weeks. LACO will reach out to property owners. Data from the helicopter survey should be analyzed in the near future.

Water Sharing in the Upper Russian River Watershed

Because of the FERC decision to reduce flows through Potter Valley, the water sharing arrangement discussed at the July 21 meeting has been suspended after about 6 weeks, as there is no water available to share. 

Water for Fire Control

Russian River Flood Control District gave a verbal “OK” to turn the Lake Mendocino pump on to fill the reservoir to serve as fire protection for Redwood Valley. Hopefully, this gets us through to October.

Election of Directors

There will be a vote for Directors on the November ballot, as the e were more applicants than open positions for Director positions. 

Next Meeting

September 16, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. The Board meets every third Thursday of the month

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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