Scoping Meeting for North Bay Reuse, Aug. 6, 10-11:30

Dear friends –

The North Bay Water Reuse Authority has gone ahead and just released their Notice of Preparation for the NBay Water Recycling Program, the subject of HR236 and S1472.  They are expediting public meetings next week to solicit comments on the scope of the project, and what should be covered in the Draft EIR. All scoping comments are due by Aug. 25th.

All of our negotiations to get a more meaningful and comprehensive list of Project Objectives were ultimately weakened significantly when SCWA’s and Napa Sanitary District’s representatives to the NBWRA decided in late May that the objectives we had negotiated since January were too detailed and restrictive for them to use in the NOP.  The NBWRA’s final Project Objectives list is below.

Marc Holmes (The Bay Institute) urged them and the EIR consultants (Environmental Science Associates, Petaluma) to give us the opportunity for a more detailed discussion of scoping comments, in a special meeting with them.  They have agreed to do that, to try to capture our thoughts, critiques, and more detailed objectives.

Our Scoping Meeting with them will be held next week, very likely in Petaluma.  The proposed date and time is:
Wednesday 8/6, 10 – 11.30 am, Petaluma (location to be determined) Please confirm your availability a.s.a.p. – email me at my address above, so I’ll know how large a room we need. (if you have a better location central to all of us, please let us know)

This is our next real opportunity to try to shape this project to protect our source waters of the Russian & Eel Rivers and S.R. Plain groundwaters. Please let me know asap of your availability.  In part they are using this meeting to gauge our fortitude and the breadth and depth of concern beyond my own presentations to them, so a good turnout with strong comments is very important.  This is our chance to tell them what should be included in the Draft EIR. (and get it on the record).

Absent your ability to attend this small group meeting, you will need to get your written comments to SCWA by Aug. 25.

FYI, the Senate bill S1472 (Feinstein) is currently on hold, pending the Bureau of Reclamation’s review of the engineering and financial feasibility, and their recommendation for this project’s eligibility on the Title XVI Water Recycling list of projects.  USBR has until 12/23/08 to make that recommendation, but could act earlier (as is being urged by SCWA and other supporters).

As we’ve noted in earlier comments on this project:
This Project would send some 22-30,000 acre feet of recycled water, originally taken from the Eel and Russian Rivers and Santa Rosa Plain groundwater by SCWA and used by its contractor cities, then treated and pumped through a massive pipeline project mostly to benefit grape growers who have overdrafted their local water supplies in southern Sonoma and Napa Valleys and Solano county.  We strongly believe that the highest priority for reuse of treated wastewater is to use it locally by cities to greatly reduce current and future urban demands for water from our North Coast rivers, not to create new vineyard customers. This Project dis-incentivizes local reuse by paying dischargers to pump it elsewhere. This SCWA-Bureau of Reclamation Project would use 5-11,000 new horsepower for pumps, but deliver only 1400-1459AF/Yr of recycled water to displace potable water demands in Novato and Sonoma. There is no proposal to offset or reduce the GHG generated by this pumping. The Project cost is estimated at $311-512M in capital costs, with $10-12M/yr operating costs. Support current and future urban reuse needs, instead of relying on new water supplies pumped from the rivers and wells. Displacing potable water now used for irrigating parks, playfields, medians, landscaping, etc, for industrial heating and cooling processes, for instance, as well as for ‘purple plumbing’ for toilets and urinals, should be the first priority for the recycled water.

As SCWA’s own literature states: “Less is More, any time of the year. Using less water means more water in Lake Mendocino, Lake Sonoma, and the Russian River. We rely on these sources for drinking water, wildlife habitat, and recreational activities.”

The NBay Water Reuse Authority is now also claiming that as wastewater treatment agencies, they have no control over trying to reduce water consumption by the water supplying agencies/contractors, so much of our concern about reducing impacts on source waters is beyond their control. “Not my problem…” Yet, the biggest fish in this pond is SCWA itself, which is the largest water purveyor on the North Coast.  We will need to puncture this defensive and myopic institutional view of water resources and restoration.

Thank you for your continued support and hard work to try to make this project a showcase for reuse, instead of a 1950’s style ‘pump and pipe’ project to serve new customers.

David Keller