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Regionalizing Sewer in West Sonoma County?

Hi everyone!

I want to call to your attention an article in today’s Press Democrat about
a “Strategic Plan” being led by Mike Reilly and Tim Smith.  Hearings will be
held around the County in September (see below for partial schedule).  The
basic idea is to examine County priorities in light of limited funding.
Things like social services and infrastructure improvements will need to be
prioritized because funds are inadequate to do it all. No one has been
talking about this and  I wonder if anyone has heard about this before now?
Apparently “The Results Group” was paid $43,000 to study the situation (with
County and other Agency staff) and develop a list of issues.  They are now
going to hold hearings to take public input.

I just found two reports on this among my papers that went before the Sups
on Aug. 7th.  There’s about 40 pages of material.  Lot’s of fancy words that
boil down to getting the public to accept intense future growth and a
probable ratcheting down of services, while building UP of
structures…literally.  For instance, centralize services in County
Facility, with buildings going much higher and redevelop or sell valuable
commercial properties (some of Vets Buildings for instance).  The
consultants repeat the need for citizen involvement, but no citizen
involvement seemed to go into these reports BEFORE they were written.  I get
concerned that the process will be manipulated so as to give the APPEARANCE
of citizen input.  Please attend the meetings next month and let your voice
be heard.

In skimming the reports, I see a lot of concern about interrelationships
between City, County, State, etc.  One very interesting quote, “There are
five “complex issues” where local municipalities want greater control: water
resources, transportation, land use policies, solid waste, and maximizing
resources.”

Meetings on the Strategic Plan will be held from 7 to 9 PM at the following:
Sept. 12, Villa Chanticleer in Healdsburg, Sept. 17, SR Vets Bldg, Sept.
20th Seb. Vets. Bldg. Sept. 25th Sonoma Community Center, Sept. 27th Pet.
Vets Hall

Please come  to express your concerns.  THE WEST COUNTY AND THIS WHOLE
COUNTY IS STILL A JEWEL.  PLEASE HELP US PRESERVE THIS INCREDIBLE
ENVIRONMENT.  IF WE COULD ONLY TRADE SOME OF THE ENGINEERS FOR HONEST
GEOLOGISTS AND BIOLOGISTS, WE’D BE MUCH BETTER OFF.  Please make your voice
heard on these issues.

Finally, the County is so concerned about infrastructure operation and
maintenance costs, but every time there is a Board meeting on water or
wastewater issues, SCWA brings at least 5 to 8 staff people to the meeting.
They sit there for at least an hour and sometimes more.  The SCWA offers
$60,000 to new employees just a year out of college.  We need to start
hitting on the way SCWA manages ITS funds!

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As a separate (but not REALLY separate) issue, it has also come to my
attention that the Regionalization of the Russian River County Sanitation
District (RRCSD) is not only slated to become the Centralized Treatment
Plant to serve Occidental and Camp Meeker (OCC/CM), but to possibly hook up
all parcels now using septic on the pipeline route between those
communities.  This could include thousands of parcels, including 750
identified on a boundary expansion map for RRCSD developed by SCWA in 1998.
This would make all undeveloped parcels in between and adjacent ripe for
development.  This could also mean hook up in Monte Rio and a greatly
expanded sewer district for that community.  This could also mean using the
proposed irrigation pipeline down River Rd. towards Forestville and Graton
for sewage collection in all those communities and thereby increasing
development opportunities.

It is interesting that there have been no definitive studies on whether
septic systems are really failing and to what extent. (The OCC/CM EIR relied
on a study done in 1989.  Yet just the other day, the Board of Sups had an
item that allowed for loosening up on house repairs in the CM area which is
in a Waiver Prohibition Area.)  There has been little interest of the County
to study alternative solutions to problem systems.  They just want to build
big expensive sewer pipelines that crack and allow intrusion of potable
water which then has to receive expensive treatment that only partially
eliminates pollutants.

I mention this, because it was mentioned by Regional Board staff in their
comments on the OCC/CM pipeline project for sewage treatment. They felt that
sewer would become more “affordable” if more people were forced to hook up
to it.  (Of course, it may become much more affordable for a few major users
in Occidental and much more UN-affordable to low to mid income people in
Camp Meeker and the rest of the west county.)

We are looking at a new world here folks, a world of raw sewage pipelines
traversing the whole west county.  It can open up unlimited new
opportunities for expansive growth in an environmentally fragile area that
is subject to landslides, floods, and a treatment plant that breaks down
regularly.  The RRCSD system has inadequate storage, disinfection,
irrigation areas and can barely serve current residents in the winter time,
when half the residences aren’t even inhabited.  They want to expand this to
serve a lot more people, but we believe it will be impossible to do in an
environmentally safe way.  THE CURE IS GOING TO BE FAR WORSE THAN THE
DISEASE.

The County has bifurcated the CEQA process to put four small projects that
are part of the one Regionalization Project that is part of one EIR.  The
two EIRs we have commented on so far are grossly inadequate. In the process
of studying these documents, we discovered that the pipeline currently used
to transport irrigation water to the Northwood golf course would be used to
transport OCC/CM raw sewage to the treatment plant.  This would eliminate
the possibility of using that pipe to extend badly needed summer irrigation
in the local area: AFFORDABLY!!

No, instead they want to build a big 32 mile pipeline that they say is for
irrigation, but I believe may be partly for collecting more raw sewage.
Half the pipeline is from the Treatment Plant to the Graton area down River
Rd. and the other goes from the Treatment Plant down Hwy. 116. Originally
they were only going to do one of the pipelines for irrigation.  Then all of
a sudden, they want to do two.  There is a very good chance that it’s really
a plan to sewer the whole area.

Brenda