[env-trinity] Times-Standard: Local water wholesaler mulls trans-county pipeline

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Oct 1 08:06:58 PDT 2014


Local water wholesaler mulls trans-county pipeline
Board of directors: Sales would decrease local rates, pay for upgrades
By Will Houston
whouston at times-standard.com@Will_S_Houston on Twitter
POSTED:   10/01/2014 12:21:44 AM PDT

The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District is considering a pipeline to sell water in and out of the county — a plan proponents say would lower rates for existing customers and help finance the replacement of a 60-year-old water system.
During a special meeting on Tuesday, the district's board of directors continued discussion on a pipeline reconnaissance study it completed in August. The study looked at the feasibility of several scenarios for pipeline construction, but the board had three main options in mind at its meeting: an east-west pipeline, a north-south pipeline or both.
The board stated that the pipeline would transport 20 to 40 million gallons of water per day depending on the size of pipes used.
"We have begun a process touching base with potential users that we identified in Northern California," Division 4 Director J. Bruce Rupp said. "Our goal was to try to partner up with a municipal agency, water agency in the Northern California region."
As the cost would be more than the district could manage alone, the board is seeking to work with other water districts to construct it.
"We're not going to build a pipeline. We need to have a partner," board President and Division 5 Director Aldaron Laird said.
The district's wholesale water demand from Ruth Lake decreased by about 80 percent — about 60 million gallons of water per day — after the 2009 closure of the Samoa pulp mill, which followed the closure of another mill. Laird said this drop had an opposite effect on the seven municipal water suppliers to which the district sells water.
"The big thing is that when the mills closed down, 50 percent of paying for the cost of running this water district all of a sudden got added on to the municipals," he said. "Now the municipals pay 100 percent. So obviously they would like us to find some new customers so that their water rates can go down."

As to who these potential customers will be, the board decided at its meeting to consult with its advisory committee — made up of two-dozen local stakeholders — in the coming months on what direction the pipeline should run, as well as to share the results of the feasibility study. Once a plan is decided on, the board plans to speak with potential customers before the end of the year. Division 3 Director Barbara Hecathorn said the board should pursue suppliers in both the east and the south.
"Because so far we haven't received positive interest from anybody yet, but that may change," she said, adding that the continuation of the drought may increase the chance of obtaining customers.
Laird said the north-south pipeline would mainly be limited to Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties, while the east-west pipeline would be much broader.
"If we go to the east .... all of a sudden our customer is all of California," he said. "We'd tie into a system that's connected all the way to Las Vegas. If we go south, we have a discrete customer. If we tie into the system on the east, it doesn't matter where the water ends up once you plug in."
Other transport methods were mulled including transport of water by ship, but the costs for that — which ranged from $8,000 to $10,000 per acre foot —were "substantial," Rupp said.
Revenue generated from the pipeline would also go toward replacing the district's nearly 60-year-old domestic water system, which would cost $40 million to $60 million over a 20-year period.
"That's above and beyond what our water rates could cover," Laird said.
The project is racing against the clock, as the district's water rights permit is due to go back to the state for renewal in 2029. Though this may seem far off, Laird said the review and processing period can last from 10 to 15 years.
"If you work back from that, we need to have a water rights applications together in the next two to four years," he said. "If we can't find customers down in Sonoma or Marin in two to four years that are interested in pursuing this with us, then we wouldn't be able to apply for a water right to do that because we'd have nobody to sell it to. We need to, in a sense, eliminate different options as soon as we can so we can focus our energy on the options that look promising that we can pursue."
The board is also considering other options in its water rights application, including dedicating water to in-stream flows to benefit plant and wildlife in the Mad River estuary and upriver as well as local water demands, such as supplying water to the business park being set up by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation & Conservation District at the Samoa pulp mill.
Should these options fail, Laird said their application would only be limited to 10 million to 20 million gallons a day to supply the local municipalities.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.
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