Friday, December 9, 2022

Domestic Water Restrictions Drag On, the Potter Valley Project Problem, a Candidate’s Qualifications are Scrutinized—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 October 20, 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 and Office Manager Liz Patton. 

Presentation by Mike Silvestrini Co-Founder of Energea on Repowering the Redwood Valley Water Treatment Plant Solar Plant

Mike Silvestrini of Energea joined the meeting via Zoom to discuss the contract to replace the existing solar power equipment at the water treatment plant with new equipment. The existing equipment was purchased from a subsidiary of Macquarie in 2007. Energea has taken over smaller commercial projects from Macquarie. The price of electricity under the new contract will be twelve cents per kilowatt hour. Because this project is basically replacing parts of an existing system, a new county permit will not be necessary. Silvestrini asked for the opportunity to bid on any other solar power jobs with the co-managed water districts. Board member Bree Klotter noticed some typos, and the Board asked for one more month to review the contract, to make a final determination at the November meeting. 

Ag Water Customers

Jared Walker gave an update on Ag Water. About half of the 400 acre-feet of ag water that was purchased in September has been used. Most customers have had their ag water turned back on. There was a problem with low pressure for two days in the far reaches of the system. The valve and pump that were causing the problem have been replaced. The water level in Lake Mendocino is three times higher than it was at this point last year, helped by the rain that we received a few weeks ago. There was an increase in domestic water use but that was attributed to some of the ag customers using domestic water to clean grape bins and other equipment to prepare for harvest in the days before the ag water was turned back on. The increase in domestic use was from fewer than 10% of customers.

Domestic Water Customers

Will the RVCWD be able to lift the 55-gallon per person per day limit for domestic customers? Not unless water becomes available next year from Russian River Flood Control. It is too early to tell. Board member Ken Todd asked meeting attendee John Rearden, Trustee of the Russian River Flood Control District, whether RRFCD knew how much water its customers were actually using. Many of their customers have riparian rights, and only purchase water from the RRFCD when the riparian rights are curtailed. Many of their customers do not use all the water they have contracted for. RVCWD would like to buy that water. Todd suggested that RRFCD read the meters in the month after curtailment to see how much water their customers actually need from RRFCD. Board member Adam Gaska said that RVCWD would have to be annexed by RRFCD in order to have rights to purchase water from them. The existing customers of RRFCD are entitled to purchase unused water prior to it being offered to RVCWD. 

Consolidation with Other Water Districts

Jared Walker has continued his ad hoc meetings with Sean White, City of Ukiah Director of Water and Sewer, working to document the consolidation. Rearden asked if there was a working document available for review. Walker said that a working document might be available after the ad hoc meeting scheduled for October 25. The Ukiah City Council has not seen the proposed document. It is anticipated that the Water Executive Committee would be governed by two representatives from each of the four water districts (Redwood Valley, Millview, Calpella and Willow) and two from the City of Ukiah, for a total of ten committee members. There was discussion of whether the City of Ukiah would “take over” the project. The City will obviously have significant impact as they own the water, the equipment, and employ most of the personnel who will operate the consolidated equipment. RVCWD has the most to gain from consolidation. Billing of water customers will most likely go through the City of Ukiah. The Board discussed whether it would be beneficial to bring in a facilitator or consultant to ensure that the process is fair to all parties.

Walker described his meeting with Sean White, First District Supervisor Glenn McGourty and State Senator Mike McGuire. McGuire was pleased with the progress of the consolidation efforts so far. 

Small Community Drought Relief Grant Project

RVWCD has been exploring the California Department of Water Resources Small Community Drought Relief Project with the assistance of LACO, to determine feasibility of finding groundwater in Redwood Valley. It appears that the possibility of finding a site for a well in Redwood Valley is bleak. LACO is looking at the Masonite property for a well. 

Response to the Grand Jury Report

The Board discussed the response to the Grand Jury Report that was due on September 29. There were two forms of response included in the Board meeting packet. One was prepared by the RVCWD counsel. Board member Bree Klotter generated a version of the response that was closer to being complete. The Board agreed to review and finalize the response in time for the November meeting.

Audit

Liz Patton reported that the audit may be completed by next month. 

Inland Power and Water Commission

Board Member Tom Schoeneman and Rearden, who are both commissioners of the IWPC, encouraged the public to learn about the issues surrounding the Potter Valley Project. There are groups lobbying to decommission Scott Dam at Lake Pillsbury, which would have severe impacts on water for Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin and Lake Counties. There was discussion of holding possible public meetings at the Redwood Valley Grange Hall to familiarize the public with water issues.

Election of Board Members

There are three people running for two spots on the RVCWD board: Cassie Taaning, and incumbents Ken Todd and Bree Klotter. Todd said he would like to be re-elected to the position, as he has 49 years of agricultural experience. Things got a bit heated when Schoeneman accused Klotter of talking her neighbor with no experience into running for the position in order to get Todd off the Board. (Taaning’s name was not mentioned, but based on the ballot, she is the only person they could be talking about.) Klotter denied this, and said that someone else must have encouraged the candidate to run. 

Next Meeting

November 17, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. The Board meets every third Thursday of the month.

After the meeting, this reporter contacted Taaning for comment and she confirmed that Klotter did not encourage her to run, but that another grape grower did. Taaning is a sixth-generation Mendocino County resident, who has family members who grow grapes. Taaning currently works for Frey Vineyards. She previously worked for the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, administering riparian habitat restoration grants. She also worked for the County Public Health Department, the County Agriculture Department, and has served on the board of the Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council for one term. Redwood Valley water is always on her mind, and she is looking to get back into public service. She did not attend the October meeting because of a scheduling conflict with a class at Mendocino College.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a journalist for the everyman. Journalism has become a craft practiced largely by the urban elite. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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