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City Council rejects regional wastewater treatment project with Woodland

Members of the Davis City Council join Dave Morris, interim manager of techDAVIS, second from left, in welcoming Rob White, holding microphone, as the city of Davis' new chief innovation officer at a reception Tuesday evening at City Hall. From left are Council members Lucas Frerichs, Rochelle Swanson, Joe Krovoza and Brett Lee. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | March 27, 2013 |

The City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday to dismiss any possibility of partnering with Woodland on a regional wastewater treatment project, formalizing Davis’ commitment to the local plan that will bring the city into compliance with state regulatory requirements by 2017.

Mayor Joe Krovoza dissented on the vote; Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk was out of town and did not participate in the meeting.

Late last year, Davis public works staff brought a proposal to the council that detailed a regional wastewater treatment project that would have had Davis flush its wastewater up to Woodland’s existing plant.

Staff believed that the regional project could have saved the city somewhere around $30 million over the next 30 years compared to the local project that the city has been pursuing to comply with tougher wastewater discharge standards set by the state.

Principal Civil Engineer Michael Lindquist clarified Tuesday that while that local project will cost an estimated $95 million, in net present-value dollars, he expects the city to spend about $284 million over the course of the next few decades on the local plant.

Still, the potential in savings achieved through regionalization could have totaled 5 to 12 percent over the local project’s costs, which staff estimated would save ratepayers about $3 per month on average at the outset.

In fact, in a letter addressed to Davis City Manager Steve Pinkerton that was included in the staff report, Woodland City Manager Paul Navazio says that the savings could climb to about $47 million over the next 30 years, or 25 percent of the overall project’s costs.

But to the council, and to staff, the issue came down to more than dollars and cents.

“There are a number of issues for me that rise to the surface,” Councilman Lucas Frerichs said about the regional plan. ” … I’m not interested in … getting out of the business of wastewater. I (also) think that the wetlands is an issue. If we build a $10 million pipeline up to Woodland, we would need to build a $10 million pipeline back in order to keep the investment we have created.”

Frerichs also said that water re-use — and the fact that Davis would lose its ability to one day utilize re-used water if it sent its wastewater to Woodland — was a defining issue for him. That sentiment was echoed Tuesday by Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson.

“I think we’ve spoken so clearly that re-use in our community is a high value, which is why I said before and I say now I lean to the local option,” Swanson said.

To illustrate the pros and cons of both the local and regional plans to help the council make its decision, staff listed nine of the most important factors to consider when deciding between the two projects.

Out of the nine categories, the local project earned the nod in six, including certainty of regulatory requirement compliance, governance — or which jurisdiction would control the project — facility reliability, preservation of wetlands and location.

The regional project was more advantageous in terms of cost, or net present-value cost, future regulatory required capital improvements and water re-use. Frerichs, however, said that re-use actually favored the local project, as Davis would not be able to utilize water re-use under the regional plan.

In the end, the council could not look past the overall benefits of the Davis-only project.

Before the vote to throw out regionalization, Councilman Brett Lee asked staff why it had not approached UC Davis to share wastewater treatment services.

“Given the close proximity, it seems like a simple phone call might not be a bad idea just to see where they are because the cost savings could potentially quite large,” Lee said. “You’d have basically the same idea of economies of scale but without the large distance of transporting the wastewater and also the pipeline costs.”

Lindquist was not sure, however, if partnering with the university would realize in any substantial savings over the regional project with Woodland.

The council still approved an amendment to its motion to reject the regional project to reach out to campus officials to see if there might be any interest in partnering on a project.

If no changes are made to the plan, the local project will continue to move forward on schedule. Construction is slated to begin next year.

For more information on the city’s wastewater treatment plant and the scheduled upgrades, visit http://daviswwtp.org.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

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Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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