Cambria starts work on emergency water supply project

County issued emergency permit May 15, drilling has begun on San Simeon Creek

ktanner@thetribunenews.comMay 22, 2014 

A crew works on drilling a monitoring well on San Simeon Creek Road on Thursday, May 22. The well is between an existing well field the district uses for the Cambria water supply and the site where an injection well will be drilled starting May 27.

PHOTO BY BOB GRESENS — Courtesy of Cambria Community Services District

Ground-breaking work started Tuesday, May 20, on an emergency water supply project; Cambria faces water and sewer rate increases that would have happened anyway due to long-deferred maintenance issues and a failure to cover costs of providing services; and directors meet today in what’s a busy week for Cambria Community Services District directors.

At today's meeting, directors will consider spending an additional $500,000 for the emergency water supply project. The district already has obligated $1.4 million toward the project currently estimated to cost between $7 million and $9 million. 

The project began construction Tuesday under an emergency permit from the county, which only allows the district to serve existing customers. 

Directors are expected to continue the discussion they began on Monday about raising water and sewage-treatment rates, in part to cover the cost of the emergency project. Staff also is hustling to complete and submit an application for a $3.75 million state grant under a program that’s part of California’s response to the historic drought.

The board will also discuss suspending all outstanding intent-to-serve letters for water service, consider authorizing an initial design report on improvements to the sewage-treatment plant, start the clock on the district’s annual weed-abatement program (fire hazard/fuel reduction) and continue hearing from the public before deciding about enhanced water conservation measures, restrictions on use of potable water and maximum water-use allotments.

That emergency water supply project (on San Simeon Creek Road property owned by the district) is roughly estimated to cost between $7 and $9 million, although Gresens said he hopes to refine that estimate “within a few days.”

At a special meeting Monday, May 19, directors were given an estimate that water rates would go up about $23 more a month on bills for single-family homes to cover costs relates to catching up with covering costs of providing service in general ($5), additional costs due to the water emergency ($15) and to make up for the reduced revenue due to reduced water consumption ($3).

Construction began Tuesday, May 20, on elements of a permanent water-supply project that’s intended to provide Cambria with a temporary emergency source during droughts, such as the current one that threatens to deplete the town’s supply from groundwater wells near two creeks.

County Planning issued the fast-tracked emergency permit May 15 so the Cambria Community Services District could begin building the plant at the same time district officials continue to pursue more traditional permits and environmental clearances. 

The county permit states that the plant would provide up to 250 acre-feet of water to only existing water connections in the district’s service area. The permit remains valid until the district’s Stage 3 water-shortage emergency has ended or the project has received a regular coastal development permit.

Initial construction is to install the well into which treated water can be injected, and a monitoring well that will track the water’s progress downstream. According to state regulations, the trip must take at least 60 days. 

The county’s permit includes 23 conditions, including the requirement that by June 13, the district must apply for a regular Coastal Development Permit that would authorize the emergency project.

The district is trying to move ahead with the rate increase due to amount of time needed to allow for Proposition 218 protests, which effectively allow ratepayers to veto any incrase in rates.

In order to secure any loans that might be needed to complete the project at low interest rates, the distrit would need to have gone through the 218 process before finalizing any such loans.

For details, go to www.cambriacsd.org.


 

Meeting today

Cambria Community Services District directors meet at 12:30 p.m. today, May 22, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.

Follow Kathe Tanner on Twitter at @CambriaReporter.

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