PETER JENSEN, Napa Valley Register, 10/24/12
Napa County is pushing forward on constructing a 4.5-mile pipeline to deliver recycled water into the Coombsville area, although a number of questions will have to be answered before the project breaks ground.
For years, many in this groundwater-reliant area have been watching their water tables drop lower as some neighbors drilled ever-deeper wells.
On Tuesday, the Napa County Board of Supervisors ratified the pipeline as the county’s preferred solution to this problem. They unanimously approved three resolutions that would allow residents and businesses to form a community facilities district to pay for their share of the pipeline’s costs.
After the supervisors voted, supporters of the pipeline project applauded.
The pipeline would help stem groundwater use in the area, which is annually deficient by 1,000 to 2,000 acre-feet, said Gerri Gorney, a resident and member of Groundwater Under Local Protection, which has backed the pipeline project. Failing to build the pipeline would lead to further depletion, she argued.
“Years later, when it’s all gone, what are people going to say? ‘You should have acted,’” Gorney said. “We have to have a reliable source of water. That is not going to happen unless we have recycled water.”
Kathy Felch, a resident who’s opposed to the project, asked the supervisors to reject it. She said the area’s water problems are man-made, and have been compounded by the development that’s occurred in the Coombsville area over the years. She argued that those paying for the pipeline could still pump groundwater.
“You are burning millions of dollars on something that has no guarantee of fixing the problem,” Felch said. “Stop the spending now. Stop the bleeding now.”
Vineyards and the Napa Valley Country Club will use about two-thirds of the pipeline’s water, which would come from the Napa Sanitation District, with residents using the rest.
Potential customers will vote next month on forming an assessment district to borrow money needed to pay for the pipeline, which is estimated to cost between $12.3 million and $16.3 million. Ballots would be counted on Dec. 14.
The district would pay off the cost of the project over 20 years through annual property tax assessments.
The difference in costs depends on whether the county wants to build a pipeline large enough to deliver 2,000 acre-feet of water, costing $16.3 million, or 1,000 acre-feet, which has an estimate of $12.3 million. The county has a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to defray these costs.
The county has designed the pipeline to deliver 2,000 acre-feet, but doesn’t have enough potential customers to pay the price tag. It does have enough customers to build the 1,000 acre-feet pipeline.
These circumstances could change, however, as the county is still eligible for more federal funding. It has applied for another $2 million in federal grants. More customers could also sign up to be a part of the project.
Supervisor Keith Caldwell said the project might also get funding from the state government through Proposition 84, which voters passed in 2006 to improve water quality and supplies in California.
If the assessment is approved by property owners, construction on the pipeline would likely begin next spring.
The county also has to make a decision on where to locate the pipeline’s pump station. The pipeline, which originates at Napa Sanitation District’s treatment plant on the Napa River, currently extends from Napa State Hospital along East Imola Avenue to Skyline Park. The county had planned to locate the pump station in the park.
The county was in negotiations with the state government to purchase Skyline, but Caldwell said Tuesday that those have yet to bear fruit due to a disagreement on the price of the park.
Caldwell said the pump station could be placed on the state hospital’s grounds or on a piece of private property farther east.