When Nipomo Community Services District board members voted for a moratorium on all new requests for water hookups last June, they meant it.
The board recently denied a request for new water service from proponents of a proposed park, directing the applicant to return in April after board members decide whether they’ll move forward with a scaled-down delivery project to bring additional water to the community.
The board also turned down a separate request to rescind its policy suspending the processing of any new applications for water service.
The requests came from the Olde Towne Nipomo Association, which is leading efforts to build the proposed Jim Miller Park, and from one of 20 property owners who hope to construct an assisted living facility and senior housing on 4 acres bordered by Mary Avenue, Juniper Street and Frontage Road.
The district board voted 3-1 in two separate votes Jan. 23 to deny the requests. Board President Jim Harrison dissented, saying later that he disagreed with the decision to halt new water service. Board member Bob Blair was absent.
“I don’t believe the people who voted for it did it because they wanted it to be punitive, but I believe there are people in the community who see it as punitive,” Harrison said.
The district stopped processing all new applications for water service in June after Nipomo area property owners voted against paying for construction of a water pipeline from Santa Maria. The supplemental water was necessary, district officials said, to reduce over-pumping of its only source of water, an underground aquifer.
Now, the district board is closing in on a vote to move ahead another pipeline project — a phased plan that doesn’t rely on a new tax. On Feb. 13, the board will consider putting the first phase of the project out to bid.
The first phase, now estimated to cost $14.1 million, would connect a pipeline to Santa Maria’s water system, install it across the Santa Maria River and connect to the community’s water system. Two other phases of the project are planned to increase the pipeline’s capacity.
In the meantime, the Supplemental Water Alternatives Evaluation Committee, formed after the pipeline vote to re-examine alternative ways to get additional water, is expected to present a final report on potential alternative projects, including the pipeline, Feb. 27.
If the committee finds an alternative “that’s quicker, faster and cheaper” than the pipeline, the board could cancel the bid for the pipeline work, said Nipomo district General Manager Michael LeBrun.
The committee is considering a range of alternatives, from desalination to tapping into the State Water Project. Last week, Oceano General Manager Tom Geaslen also approached the committee about possibly selling some water to Nipomo, though probably not on a permanent basis.
Oceano voters in November approved a measure that would require voter approval before the services district could permanently sell water to an entity outside its boundaries. The measure could be subject to a legal challenge, but most district leaders have also opposed previous proposals to sell water on a permanent basis.
LeBrun said details such as the amount of water and the cost and the method for delivering it have to be discussed. Geaslen said the idea is “us trying to be good neighbors.”
But if the committee stands behind the pipeline project as the best alternative, district officials hope to award a bid and start construction on the first phase of the pipeline in April.
Kathy Kubiak, president of Olde Towne Nipomo Association, said the district will reconsider the organization’s application for an intent-to-serve letter on April 10.
The association hopes to develop the 1.4-acre Jim O. Miller Memorial Park at West Tefft and Carrillo streets, named after one of the founders of the Nipomo Community Services District in the 1970s.
To move ahead, the group needs a letter from the district proving it has water and sewer service, Kubiak said.
The moratorium on new water applications must also be lifted before plans can move ahead on the assisted living facility, said Valerie Williams, one of 20 property owners who hope to build the facility and 36 one bedroom, low- to moderate-income units.
She plans to return to the board sooner than April to again ask it to stop the policy and process applications for new water service.
“The community needs this project,” she said.