Latest Water Plans Point To Export Solution – August 24, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – More than a year in the making, an advisory plan for using the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District’s water surplus includes an option that was torpedoed when it was proposed a few years ago – shipping water out of the county, to another municipality.

A report by a 15-member Water Resource Planning Advisory Committee was presented to the District’s Board of Directors at its Aug. 12 meeting. A product of numerous public meetings, it divides proposals for use of the District’s 60 million gallon per day industrial water surplus into two categories: those that would happen within the District’s boundaries and those outside of them.

In the latter category, the idea of selling the surplus water to another municipality was deemed as one that should be “pursued immediately.” Advisory Committee Member Michelle Fuller, the tribal environmental director for the Blue Lake Rancheria, read from the report and said an outside sale would protect the District’s water rights, generate revenue for infrastructure and provide “ratepayer relief.”

Potential risks include litigation or legislation that could force the District to supply water beyond the terms of any contract that it enters, Fuller reported. “It could put the District in a vulnerable position if the customer’s legal and political capacity is greater than the District’s and they want to take control of the water rights,” she said.

Transport of the water would happen via pipelines, barges or water bags. “This option could also feed urban growth and unsustainability at the receiving end,” Fuller continued. She noted that “working with an agency closer to home might be more politically viable.”

The concept of selling water was floated a few years ago, when a company proposed barging it to southern and central California in what was described as giant “water bags.” The idea was roundly opposed and the proposal sank like a rock.

But now the District is highlighting the laws that govern water use – and non-use. The state has a “use or lose it” clause and if the District doesn’t find ways to use its surplus within its 20-year state permit, control of the water could be lost.

In an interview after the meeting, Carol Rische, the District’s general manager, said the difference in public response to the water sale idea is the result of increased education and better communication.

“We really reached out to stakeholder groups, including some of the environmental groups that really came out opposed to this, and the public,” she said.

Loss of revenues, “huge cost shifts” to municipal customers, increased water rates and the shuttering of the Evergreen pulp mill might have made the District’s dilemma “more real or understandable to the public,” Rische continued.

“And we didn’t do a good job last time of educating people that if we don’t use that water, we will lose it,” she said.

Rische also credited the Committee for its outreach work.

Something else was different this time around – people weren’t responding to a proposal for a specific water sale plan. “I think that did help,” Rische said. “(Board) President Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap did mention sometimes that it would be better to talk about this issue and address it when there’s not a proposal on the table and you have to react to something and groups are mobilizing in opposition.”

Other preferred options listed in the Committee report are attracting companies that would use the water, expanding district boundaries and using the water to enhance Mad River wildlife habitat.

Developing aquaculture uses, creating a recreational lake in Blue Lake and developing “micro-hydropower” are among the proposals that are recommended to be “passively pursued.”

The only proposal that split committee members is one that calls for development of a pipeline along the North Coast Railroad Authority corridor to Lake Mendocino, a reservoir for Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Some committee members opposed the idea and others thought it should be immediately pursued.

The Board voted to accept the report and it will be discussed in detail at a study session this fall.

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4 Responses to “Latest Water Plans Point To Export Solution – August 24, 2010”

  1. Cesare Caligari

    Exporting water is probably an idea that is now timely. Something creative is certainly needed. The concept of encouraging people to use more water by doubling+ the cost is really what when I was a boy, we called “stupid”.

    But better than just barging water out, we should bottle it under a brand name like “Emerald Triangle Pure” or some such. Create jobs here, keep water consumption up and provide good water to people outside the area.

    If the voters start the legalization process for Humboldt’s leading cash crop in November, what’s left of the local economy will sink out of sight.

    Perhaps one of the local breweries could start exporting Humboldt Designer Water as a sideline and it could grow from there. The same magic waters that grow Emerald Triangle vegitation must have something special in it that is good for the body.

  2. Stella Steelhead

    How about shipping your “excess” water right from Mad River upstream and uphill to Upper Klamath Lake instead of to Lake Mendocino?? Makes about as much economic sense.

  3. Johanna Lynch Cazadero CA

    Absolutely disgusting idea.
    The water is never “wasted.” It needs to flow back into the ocean to replenish and clean the water for the fish. Duh!
    Stop overpopulating and abusing the resources.
    Are you people stupid up there in Arcata?
    Bottled water is evil. The plastic bottles are choking our waterways and polluting rivers and the ocean.
    Plastic bottles can bever be broken down and last for hudreds of years. Baby fish eat chips of broken plastic bottles and die.
    I thought Arcata people were hip and educated.
    I was wrong

  4. Johanna,

    This wasn’t an Arcata-only process. Stakeholders from throughout the HBMWD’s service area were extensively consulted.

    Further, it is possible to be non-stupid, hip and educated and hold a view different from yours.


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