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Customers Sought for Treated Wastewater

By BLEYS W. ROSE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Laguna Wastewater Plant

Laguna Wastewater Plant

Sonoma County Water Agency representatives are knocking on doors in the Guerneville and Forestville areas in search of landowners willing to have treated wastewater sprayed on their property.

The search is on, prompted by approval by county supervisors of an environmental impact report on a project that would funnel treated wastewater from the Guerneville sewage plant through more than 30 miles of pipeline.

Supervisors’ certification of the EIR means the Water Agency can start applying for state funding for the project, which as yet has neither a designated route nor cost estimate.

That the agency doesn’t have customers lined up or know where the pipeline will be laid doesn’t concern county officials.

“We have not defined what the project is, and the staff is continuing to define those properties,” said Supervisor Mike Reilly, who represents the west county. “I am confident that we will not need 36 miles of pipeline and that we will be a lot closer (to the treatment plant).”

The size and scope of the Russian River County Sanitation District Irrigation Reliability and Beneficial Reuse Project was criticized by some west county residents and environmental activists during public hearings earlier this year. They argued that the Water Agency’s plan is too large in comparison with the scale of the problem of disposing of treated wastewater from Russian River communities.

The agency’s environmental impact report came up with two routes for a pipeline, both of which attracted opposition.

One proposal sends 12 miles of pipe along River Road from the Guerneville treatment plant to northern Forestville. The other routes a 20-mile pipeline along Green Valley Road to southern Forestville.

The west county has a wastewater disposal problem because about 3,300 homes in river communities stretching from Monte Rio to Guerneville to Rio Nido need a place to dispose of treated effluent during summer months.

The North Coast Water Quality Control Board allows wastewater dumping in the Russian River during winter months, but prohibits release during summer months when river flow is lower and less forceful.

Currently, the Water Agency disperses the Guerneville plant’s treated wastewater on 70 acres of nearby properties. But that’s not enough space to handle all of it, so the agency is looking for about 90 acres elsewhere to irrigate, or about 1,200 to 1,600 acres of vineyards.

“Because of the nature of the geology, we are looking at municipal use; people that have a vegetable garden or forest land they want watered; people that have cattle to graze or wine grapes to grow,” Water Agency project manager Jeff Church said.

Church said the agency’s survey turned up 66 landowners interested in using recycled water.

Water Agency engineer Damien O’Bid said the agency is looking for landowners receptive to the potential for irrigating their property and has contacted real estate agents who may know of property for sale in the Guerneville area.

“The pipeline would be only built to accommodate the need,” O’Bid said. “Our preference is to build as close to the plant as possible.”

Church said the twin pipeline proposal seems ambitious because the agency has to “account for current and future needs.”

“Building as close to the plant will address immediate need, and later we would take up future need,” Church said.

Water Agency officials said the project will not require upgrades to Guerneville’s treatment plant.

You can reach Staff Writer Bleys W. Rose at 521-5431 or bleys.rose@pressdemocrat.com.

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