City government

Davis surface water project options multiplying

By From page A1 | July 03, 2012

The West Sacramento surface water supply project alternative, the one that prompted the Water Advisory Committee to delay its recommendations to the City Council, isn’t just one option, but three.

On Thursday, Carollo Engineers — the engineering firm the city hired to perform the analyses — began its presentation of those three options. The WAC is comparing them against the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency project that would siphon water from the Sacramento River, treat it and pipe it to Davis and Woodland.

The Woodland-Davis project is estimated to cost $299 million combined, for both cities.

The first of the three options associated with the West Sacramento alternative would be a larger regional project that would supply water from the city of West Sacramento’s existing intake facility (called the Bryte Bend Water Treatment Plant) on the Sacramento River — south of where the Woodland-Davis project would draw its water — to Davis, Woodland and UC Davis.

The large regional option, however, doesn’t seem likely. Before the meeting began, Woodland City Manager Paul Navazio sent a memo to Davis City Manager Steve Pinkerton to say that Woodland is not interested in pursuing any West Sacramento alternatives. Navazio is Davis’ former interim city manager and finance director.

“Based on the analysis we have seen and reviewed, Woodland is not interested in expending resources in further reviewing a West Sacramento option for provision of municipal water to the city of Woodland,” Navazio wrote.

“We do not believe that there are advantages for the city to pursue a West Sacramento alternative, given the cost, risks and questions that still remain.

“Put simply, while the city of Woodland respects the city of Davis’ considerations of alternatives to the current Woodland-Davis Surface Water Project, the city of Woodland is committed to proceeding with the current ‘preferred’ project, whether Davis remains as a project partner, or not.”

Should Woodland hold fast on its position, Davis would have only the two other West Sacramento alternatives to consider.

The next option would have Davis alone buy into West Sacramento’s intake facility and subsequently help pay for the construction needed to accommodate future water demand for the two cities.

The final option also would be a “Davis only” project called the reduced capacity project alternative, where Davis would buy into the West Sacramento intake facility, like the second option, but delay the build-out phase for a period of time that would allow the city to defer the up-front capital costs associated with a larger facility.

Dianna Jensen, principal civil engineer for the city of Davis, laid out costs for the first two West Sacramento alternatives Thursday, in addition to the estimated costs of the Woodland-Davis project.

However, because Carollo Engineers hadn’t finished its analysis of the final West Sacramento option, the WAC wasn’t able to compare all of the projects Thursday.

Up to project delivery, not including operation and maintenance costs of the facilities, the estimated price tag of each option for the city of Davis breaks down as follows:

* Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency (current project proposal): $139.9 million;

* West Sacramento Option 1 (regional facility shared by Davis, Woodland and UC Davis): $110.6 million;

* West Sacramento Option 2 (Davis only plus build-out to accommodate future demand): $140.6 million; and

* West Sacramento Option 3 (Davis only “reduced,” or delay of build-out): to be determined.

At its next meeting on Thursday, July 12, the Water Advisory Committee will hear the costs associated with the last option so it can compare the alternative to the others.

As Pinkerton pointed out at Thursday’s meeting, the entire matter of what project the city of Davis should pursue boils down to a comparison of the rate structures that would result from each option.

Eventually, the WAC, and in turn the City Council, will have to make a determination of what rate structure — based on the cost, type and timing of the project chosen — most fairly suits the city of Davis and its residents and businesses. The committee and the council also must consider water ownership rights and differences in water quality.

However, none of it will matter if Davis voters decide not to approve the project the water committee selects.

The deadline for putting a measure on the November ballot that would ask Davis residents whether they approve the project the WAC has settled upon is fast approaching.

At its meeting next Tuesday, the City Council will hear the recommendation made by the WAC two weeks ago to place a binding measure on the November ballot that would tie the city to whatever outcome a public vote produces.

However, because the meeting agenda also includes the swearing-in ceremony for the three men elected last month — incumbent Dan Wolk and newcomers Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee — the item may be heard at a special meeting the following week, Tuesday, July 17.

Regardless of when council members do consider the water matter, they not only must decide whether to place a binding or advisory measure on the ballot, they also must finalize the language that will describe the project on which residents are voting.

But because the Water Advisory Committee won’t have its final recommendation and accompanying rate structure to the City Council by the time the Yolo County Elections Office requires ballot language (Aug. 10), the city must get creative on how it crafts the language.

The WAC recommended at its meeting on June 14 that the council place the details of the project and the proposed rate structure on the Proposition 218 notices that will go out to all residents and business owners in September.

Renters, who normally wouldn’t receive Prop. 218 notices, would receive special notices from the city detailing the project details and the corresponding rate structure.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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