Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why we need Measure I now

By Joe Krovoza

No Davis issue has aroused as much passion and debate in recent years as the Measure I campaign. As is certainly the case for every citizen, the future of our community water supply is of intense interest to my fellow council members and me.

Weighing heavily on all of us has been balancing our community’s need for a better source of water with the project costs and our fiduciary responsibility as civic leaders. Each council member is guided by the belief that we have to do what we know is best for current residents and for future generations. In doing so, we have all looked for the optimal long-term solution to bring reliable and clean water to our community.

Through all of this, unshakeable truths remain: There is no lower-cost, true solution; there is no way to protect our groundwater without an assist from the Sacramento River; and our environmental values dictate that we accept our responsibility to discharge clean water into our waterways and wetlands.

Recognizing the enormous wealth of critical thinkers in our city, your council quite properly tapped this potential by forming our Water Advisory Committee. In retrospect, it was the best and most important decision our council has made. Our Water Advisory Committee brought project proponents and opponents to one table. We received the best ideas from both sides, and they frequently found important middle ground.

The WAC was the most independent, most transparent process we could have designed. This was, is and should forever be, the Davis Way. Committee members, all highly respected and of good faith, spent hundreds of hours poring over thousands of pages of documents, listening to hour upon hour of expert testimony. They performed an exceptional service for us.

Our citizens’ WAC unanimously agreed Davis must add surface water. Then, the WAC looked at all options and overwhelmingly voted to support the project with Woodland. The committee downsized the project to achieve $26 million in capital cost savings, and looked carefully at the fairness of all possible rate options. Through the WAC process and other forums, project opponents did help guide us to better solutions. For this, the council and I are deeply appreciative.

Given the WAC’s work, there can’t be any misunderstanding: this project is needed, and now.

For those who will bring their ballots to the library on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday before 8 p.m., or to the polling place at the Veterans’ Memorial Center on Tuesday, I want to emphasize a few final points.

The cities will own and control the project. Period. We aren’t giving up ownership or control. We will contract for the plant’s operation — with full ability to cancel the contract if there are problems. Costs will be lower and ratepayers will have greater certainty. We make contracts like this for many city services like parks maintenance, garbage and recycling. Be assured, privatization concerns based on experiences in other communities will be protected against in our contracts.

Recent events have reinforced my view that continued long-term and exclusive reliance on either our intermediate or deep aquifer is irresponsible.

In recent years, our 14 intermediate aquifer wells have continued to suffer degradation due to increased contamination. Since 2003, the city has had to take five wells offline because of excessive levels of nitrates, selenium and total chromium. Our remaining intermediate aquifer wells have seen consistently increasing nitrate levels for the past 10 years.

The California Department of Public Health has signaled its intent to establish a new maximum contamination level for hexavalent chromium (known as “chromium-6” and of Erin Brockovich fame). The exact proposed level will not be known until July, but indications are that the proposed MCL for chromium-6 will affect more than half of our intermediate aquifer wells.

Our Public Works Department estimates that the cost of a chromium-6 treatment system is $4 million or more — for each well! This is multiples above the cost of a well. The city must seek alternatives to operating these wells at such a high cost.

Some have suggested we can rely solely on our deep aquifer. That, too, would come at great cost and uncertainty. While the deep aquifer does not have the same problem with contamination due to nitrates, selenium and chromium-6, our deep aquifer suffers with excessive levels of manganese. Several years ago, one of Davis’ deep wells required a $2.6 million manganese removal system. This week, one more deep well joined this category, and now three wells total are likely to need manganese treatment plants.

Davis must not spend money on a system that doesn’t promise us a long-term fix.

A yes vote on Measure I brings us surface water for the majority of our water needs, employing only deep aquifer wells for backup and peak summer needs. This is why our citizens’ Water Advisory Committee overwhelmingly recommended the proposed cost-saving partnership with Woodland. This is why every local elected official who represents Davis has endorsed Measure I.

I urge my fellow Davis residents to join the entire City Council and vote yes on Measure I.

— Joe Krovoza is the mayor of Davis.

Special to The Enterprise


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