The Water Advisory Committee voted 8-2 Thursday to have city staff begin drafting a recommendation to the City Council to adopt the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency project as the preferred option to bring surface water into Davis.
But the committee hasn’t given up on the West Sacramento alternative project just yet.
While city staff drafts the Woodland-Davis project recommendation for the council’s approval, the WAC has in the meantime also asked the city to make an offer to buy its water from West Sacramento.
If the offer is accepted, it could guarantee clean drinking water in Davis for at least the next 30 years, likely at a cheaper price than the Woodland project could offer.
Committee member Alf Brandt, who made the motion last week to move forward only with the Woodland-Davis project, said he still strongly feels that the Joint Powers Authority option is the way to go, but is willing to see how West Sacramento responds to the offer.
“I still believe Woodland, but I’m willing to go along with this, for city staff to make a proposal to West Sacramento (that says) that this is what we’d be willing to pay,” Brandt said. “I have my doubts about this, but I think let’s try it. Let’s see what happens.”
The West Sacramento alternative — which the city first considered in the early 2000s — would require the city of Davis to buy into the city of West Sacramento’s existing intake facility on the Sacramento River and become a wholesale water customer. Davis then would have to pay to build a pipeline to transport that water across the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and into the city.
The WAC’s offer to West Sacramento asks for 12 million gallons of water per day for a period of 30 years — with a 30-year-renewal option — and would allow the city to make upgrades to the West Sacramento facility as it so desires. The water committee also proposed a $6 million limit on the connection fee that Davis would have to pay to use the intake facility.
That stipulation would bring down the city’s cost estimate of the West Sacramento project from $142 million to at least $136 million.
Dianna Jensen, the city’s principal civil engineer, has estimated the cost of the Woodland-Davis project at about $163 million.
However, the water committee’s motion regarding the Woodland-Davis project includes two qualifiers that could reduce the cost of that project as well.
The Woodland-Davis option, now a scaled-back version of the original JPA project that the city approved in 2009, would also siphon water from the Sacramento River, treat it and pipe it into Davis and Woodland. Davis would have access to 12 million gallons of water per day, while Woodland would get 18.
The two qualifiers proposed by the WAC ask the city of Woodland to first, share the cost of delivering the water equitably from the treatment plant to each city boundary and second, to adjust the cost sharing of the project to reflect the percentage of water each city plans to receive.
It is not yet known how much sharing those costs with Woodland would save the city of Davis. City staff also doesn’t know if Woodland is willing to share those costs.
Dennis Diemer, general manager of the WDCWA, said at the meeting Thursday that the city of Davis has until mid-October to make a decision on the Woodland-Davis project. So the WAC has asked that the city of West Sacramento respond to the proposal within 60 days of the Davis City Council approving the recommendation.
The decision to keep both options on the table also likely will cost the city at least $500,000, as the city must pay to fill its share of the WDCWA water treatment site, in order to keep the Woodland-Davis project on schedule.
Regardless of which project the committee picks, however, it seems the WAC believes it must be unified in its decision in order to convey a stronger message to the public about their confidence in their choice, especially because the City Council has pledged to put whatever option the water committee recommends to a vote in the spring.
“It is really important in my view that the Water Advisory Committee maintains credibility within the community, in terms of what we ultimately recommend,” Loge said. “I think (that means) having some level of consensus within the committee, that the committee is ready to vote, independent of how you vote. And I feel like there are some people who are not quite ready to vote.”
“I do not believe at this point, in those costs,” Siegler said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me that we can build a treatment plant, we can have an intake facility and we can basically pump the water versus just paying West Sac and a pipeline and at the end of the day the costs are almost the same?
“I don’t think we’ve had those discussions, I don’t think anybody in the city has looked at those costs in a skeptical manner, which I think needs to be done carefully, before we go forward with any project.”
Note: Adler and Thomson were the dissenting votes.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash.