Cambria services district directors agreed April 26 that they want a plan — soon — for how and if they can release a few water-service intent-to-serve letters each year without lifting the moratorium on those connections.
The water-emergency declaration the Cambria Community Services District put into effect in November 2001 required that a new water source be online before permits could be issued again. A rough plan to release from 10 to 15 connections a year could be ready for directors to consider within a month or two, but would ultimately need approval from regulatory agencies, such as the California Coastal Commission.
Allan MacKinnon, president of district’s Board of Directors, said in his presentation that the board that declared the water emergency in 2001 “did the right thing,” based on water-use projections at the time, but that the current directors have firm data from the past 10 years, data he said shows Cambrians use less water than expected.
So, he said, the district should be able to issue those few connections each year before an auxiliary water source is online or the project has even been confirmed.
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He listed some benefits of that plan:
A controlled release of 10 to 15 water connections a year would stimulate the town’s economy with construction jobs and the ripple effect such jobs can produce.
Fees for the connections, which are to be increased soon, “will fund infrastructure repairs and upgrades,” MacKinnon said, and reduce the potential for rate increases.
Revenues from the connections would put the district in a more favorable position to earn the lowest interest rates for any capital-project loans.
The limited release would allow some of the people on the two-decade-old water wait list to “fulfill their dreams” of building homes on their Cambria properties.
Any such release of intent-to-serves would “be based on analysis of current hard data” rather than picking numbers out of the air.
Director Muril Clift said the district is allowed to issue intent-to-serve letters to as many as eight previously assigned or “grandfathered” meters a year. “I don’t think we’ve released many of those,” he said, asking “what if we give priority?” to people with grandfathered\ meters, and then fill out the balance of eight with projects on the water-wait list.
Expanding the district’s conservation program would reduce current demand even further, MacKinnon said, and the conservation could provide the additional water to offset the new connections. He said that 10 added water connections would require less than 2 acre-feet a year. An acre foot equals 325,851 gallons.
One by one, the other directors said they agreed with MacKinnon’s concept. They then instructed CCSD General Manager Jerry Gruber to work with an ad hoc committee on alternative water sources and bring the board a plan on how to make the concept work, perhaps at the May or June meeting.
Directors also unanimously voted to reduce a “contingency” reserve of water to 20 percent from 50 percent approved by a previous board. While the previous contingency was labeled “quality of life,” the board followed staff’s recommendation that it be identified as being to cover such catastrophes as major earthquake or drought, chemical spill or tsunami inundation.
The contingency comes into play in: tiered water rates based on volume used in a billing period; during droughts when surcharges go into effect for high water use; and in determining how big a back-up source of water, such as a desalination plant, should be.
The board also agreed to hire for up to $15,000 geologist Tim Cleath of Cleath-Harris Geologists to do initial research toward finding where hard-rock drilling might produce a spot within district boundaries where an underground reservoir could be located. Further studies, if warranted, could cost many more tens of thousands of dollars.