By Cordel Stillman, Deputy Chief Engineer, Sonoma County Water Agency
On January 7, about 40 people gathered at the Union Hotel for a meeting to discuss the beginning of the design process and environmental analysis for the proposed Occidental County Sanitation District (District) Recycled Water Project (Project). The meeting to discuss the Notice of Preparation was the first step in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process. Attendees asked more than two dozen questions. This was no surprise. For the past 18 months, ratepayers and people living in the outlying areas have regularly attended community meetings on the issue, asking hard questions and proposing a variety of ideas to help minimize rate increases while beneficially using the recycled water.
In a nutshell, here is the problem: The District’s current treatment plant on LuDan Road is an old, inadequate system that needs upgrading. The plant currently treats water to a secondary level. In addition, the District is under a cease-and-desist order to end the discharge of recycled water into Graham's Pond by January 1, 2018 . The pond, which drains into Dutch Bill Creek, is currently used to store recycled water.
To solve the problem, the District is proposing to do the following:
In order to meet the January 2018 deadline, the project is on a tight timeline. Comments on the Notice of Preparation (which was released in December) were due by January 22. The next step is the preparation of an environmental document. At the same time, the District is hiring a design consultant to further develop the project, including determining the best location for treatment and a specific pipeline route. By 2017, we hope to have a complete design and for construction to be underway.
Please email Ann.DuBay@scwa.ca.gov if you are interested in being added to the District’s email list. In the meantime, check our webpage, www.sonomacountywater.org/OCSD for environmental documents, project facts, and timeline and information about recycled water.