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By Charles Ehrlich
I was a member of the City of Davis Natural Resources Commission a few years ago and had the opportunity to be involved in some of the discussions regarding the surface water and wastewater treatment plant projects. I also read most of the environmental impact report for the surface water project. Here's what I know to be true.
The wastewater treatment plant was not part of the discussion about the surface water project until very late. During my tenure on the NRC, I noticed that these two massive projects were going to be hitting the City coffers at about the same time. I asked City staff about this and how did they think the City was going to pay for both projects at the same time. I also asked why weren't the two projects being treated together such that the improved surface water entering the City of Davis sewer system could reduce the construction costs of the wastewater project.
But there's a problem...there is not enough water in the river during the summer to meet all of the City's needs. This means the wells will have to be used to offset peak water usage. That means that the wastewater treatment plant will have to be designed to remove the salts present in the ground water during the summer.
So, I agree that not pursuing the surface water project would mean that the wastewater project cost would go up, but if the two projects weren't linked from the beginning, and since there isn't enough water in the river when we need it the most, how is the argument that not doing the surface water project really going to reduce the costs of the wastewater treatment plant project? It doesn't really add up.
I think the right question to be asking is why do we need a surface water project at all. The answer, my friend, is flowing in the river.
There is one "unmitigatible consequence" of the surface water project as stated in the environmental impact report, and that is growth. As in more residential new construction.
There is not a shred of evidence that shows groundwater supplies are drying up. Ask them to show you the studies! They don't exist. We don't know how they get recharged and they are being dug deeper, but no one is suggesting that they're going to dry up in a few years. If so, why would we be relying upon them for our summer time needs?
I think that the wastewater treatment plant tertiary treatment upgrade is inevitable, but perhaps delayed by the surface water project. So, what does your vote on Measure I mean? If you want to promote rapid growth in the City, then vote for the Surface water project. If you want the City to grow more slowly, then vote against the surface water project.
-- Charles Ehrlich