Sunday, July 21, 2024

Drilling a Test Well at the Masonite Site, New Water Meters—Highlights from the Redwood Valley County Water District Board Meeting

The Russian River in Redwood Valley [Picture by Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley County Water District Board met on Thursday, May 18, 2023 with all members present. Topics discussed included update on the Masonite test well site, ag water price rise, consolidation of the water districts, Russian River Water Forum; fire hydrant flushing.

LACO Presentation on Masonite Property Test Well

Jordan Blough, Project Manager, and Christine Manhart, Principal Geologist, LACO spoke about the proposed test well to be drilled at the Masonite site, owned by the Millview County Water District. Manhart said it looks like there is a significant amount of water underground at depths of between 80 and 280 feet. The cost is estimated to be $225,000 for the pump tests, a $20,000 fee to LACO, and lab fees of $5,000.

There was a discussion about ownership of the well. Would Redwood Valley be able to own or lease this well on Millview property? Millview is already pumping from another well on the site. There is a proposed housing development in Millview’s district that might require water from Millview’s existing Well #6. The test well is being paid for with a State Department of Water Resources grant. 

John Reardan inquired whether Redwood Valley would acquire water rights to the new well if it’s owned by Millview.

Member Bree Klotter said that Redwood Valley is building a well on property it doesn’t own and there is no guarantee that Millview will not take the water.

General Manager Jared Walker replied that this is a test well, and no telling how much water it will actually produce. Redwood Valley has exclusive rights to the well. If the well produces 300 gallons per minute, that will be a good source for Redwood Valley. Blough said that it is worth discussing formal mechanisms in the future to protect the parties. There is a two-phase testing process that will take some time.

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Regarding the two-phase test, the well driller will provide a pump for the first test.  

The District needs to purchase a pump costing approximately $15,000 for the second test, and it is still to be determined whether any money can be recovered from that after the test is done.

Price of Ag Water Higher this Year

The price of ag water is based on the previous year’s expenses incurred by the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District. An invoice for FY 2021-2022 from RRFC shows the price of surplus water from RRFC to be $59.48 per acre-foot. The 400 acre/feet of ag water purchased from Rogina Water District at the end of last year cost $47 per acre-foot, under the Emergency Water Supply Agreement. Water pumped in March, May, and August 2022 was billed at the $59.48 rate. Water from September through December 2022 was billed at $47 per acre-foot. The total invoice from RRFC is $22,336.69. The board voted to approve the payment of the invoice.

Fire Hydrant Flushing – Will Stir Up Sediment

The Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department needs to schedule fire hydrant flushing. This will stir up manganese sediment. This is the first time the Fire Dept. has reached out to the Water District in advance of flushing. The flushing is required for insurance purposes. Board Member Adam Gaska asked fire personnel to let him know the schedule. He hopes to put out an announcement on social media to let people know ahead of time.

Water Supply Updates

RRFC has granted permission for Redwood Valley to divert water from Lake Mendocino this year. Frost protection season is over. The diverted water will be pumped to the treatment plant. 

Water Treatment Plant

The maintenance and pump installation has been done at the treatment plant. After testing, it is ready to start pumping domestic water to Redwood Valley. There is surplus water this year in Lake Mendocino. The District is hoping to have a special meeting in the near future, to approve lifting the 55-gallon per day limit.

Report on Consolidation

GM Walker said the latest ad hoc meeting with the consolidation group was productive. Member Tom Schoeneman said we need to know the true costs. GM Walker said they are gathering information on rates charged by each district. It is hoped that we can continue to capitalize on shared assets and staffing moving forward with consolidation.

Purchase of 100 Water Meters

GM Walker reported on a quote to purchase 100 water meters to replace failing older meters that must be read by employees in the field. The new meters can be read online. Money from the county is available to purchase the meters. The installation costs will be offset by not needing staff to drive around to read the meters. The Board voted to approve the purchase of the new meters.

Report on Russian River Water Forum Planning Committee Meeting in Ukiah on May 17, 2023

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(This explanation was not discussed at the meeting, but is included for those who are not familiar with the RRWF). The Russian River Water Forum is an organization formed by Sonoma Water to take over the effort that stalled during the Two Basin Solution talks. This concerns PG&E’s decision to surrender its license to operate the Potter Valley Project and to remove Scott Dam and Van Arsdale Dam. The Potter Valley Project is over 100 years old and was originally built as a source of hydroelectric power for Ukiah. PG&E is in the process of preparing a surrender plan for the PVP. The PVP diverts water from the Eel River to the Upper East Branch of the Russian River. This water is used by Potter Valley and also fills Lake Mendocino, which discharges water into the Russian River flowing south and into Sonoma County. The Eel River advocates have been pushing for the demolition of the dams since the 1990s. PG&E’s exit plans are an opportunity to restore health to the Eel River. The Eel River and ocean fisheries are in bad shape, with the salmon numbers very low. 

This water diversion has enabled agricultural and housing development along the Russian River. 700,000 people depend on the diverted water. 

The Eel River advocates at the meeting were vocal in their insistence that the Russian River users need to find a solution to conserve water. The Planning Group, comprised of over 30 separate parties, was formed to give every party an opportunity to state their needs and to search for solutions that everyone can live with. The goal is to form an entity that can negotiate with PG&E and find funding to possibly acquire and operate the diversion facilities. Funding is also sought for removal of an invasive species called the Pike Minnow, which eats salmon fry in the Eel River. PG&E is expected to pay for dam removal, and the costs will be passed on to ratepayers. 

The work of removing four dams and restoring riparian habitat along the Klamath River has provided a template for how to do this. It is expected that the removal of Scott Dam will take less time because of the experience gained on the Klamath dams. The Eel River advocates were more passionate and vocal about their positions. The Russian River interests are working to secure a continuation of the diversion even if the dams are removed so that the water supply will be protected. It was acknowledged by the Redwood Valley members who were at the meeting that negotiations will be needed to reach an agreement between the two sides.

Need for Public Outreach with Information about Water District Issues 

Most people seem to be unaware of the looming changes coming to the RVCWD. It was suggested to have an information table at community events, such as at the Grange or during the Black Bart Parade to engage with and provide information to the public.

The next meeting is scheduled for June 15, 2023 at 5:00 pm.

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

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