Well, it’s official! Santa Rosa’s Board of Public Utilities formally voted
today to select the enhanced Laguna discharge project instead of either the
Healdsburg discharge or Steelhead Beach. The City will also create nutrient
offset programs (under the watch of the Regional Board and subject to public
review) to meet their requirement of no net increase of nutrients to the
What this means is that most of Santa Rosa’s wastewater will go to the
Geysers, no discharge is expected in dry to normal years, and only in heavy
rain years will up to 5% of the total winter flow be discharged to the
Laguna. (For eight years now, I’ve been presenting data that showed the
project to be unnecessary. Instead they spent $12 to $15 million on studies
In his presentation to the BPU, City consultant Dave Smith said that zero
discharge was probable in most years. Up to a few months ago, he was
insisting that the City needed 26 million gallons a day (mgd) capacity, even
though current dry weather flows are at 15 mgd and have been in that range
for many, many years.
The Laguna project will cost the City about $6.5 million whereas Steelhead
Beach would have cost up to $265 million. Of course, when they started this
process eight years ago, Steelhead came in at $30 million. The prices seems
to go up as interest in the project goes down. Nevertheless, the current
economy helped turn this around.
At the meeting today, on behalf of Russian River Watershed Protection
Committee and Friends of Steelhead Beach, I submitted 5206 signatures into
the record, thanks to the dedicated work of community members, Steelhead
Beach lovers, RRWPC supporters, local business people, and many more who
helped collect signatures. We also submitted a letter asking that the
petition be entered into the record and that all people be contacted if the
City ever revisits that project.
I attach here the copy of that letter we submitted today. I also include
the Appeal we made to the City Council challenging the certification of the
EIR by the BPU. RRWPC withdrew the challenge after we reached agreement
with the City to revisit the changes to the Final EIR should the project
ever come back for consideration again.
It’s been a long road, but we are thrilled with the direction the City has
taken. We thank all of you who helped with this effort. Next year, we will
be dedicating ourselves to the “low flow” and “incidental runoff” issues
which are already heating up (I’ll tell more in a future email.).
Have a wonderful holiday season and let’s count our blessings. Feel free to
pass this around and/or contact me with questions.