Davis water project moves ahead; opponents vow fight

Published: Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

Now comes the work. A day after Davis voters passed Measure I enabling the city to pull water from the Sacramento River, leaders will have to move quickly.

There are project timelines to meet and contractor agreements to hammer out, with an eye toward starting construction as soon as this year.

Before any of that, Davis leaders will have to sell city residents on higher water rates to pay for Davis' share of the roughly $245 million Surface Water Project with its partner, Woodland. And the proposed hikes already are being challenged by the plan's opponents.

Davis ratepayers could face rate increases as high as 42 percent in 2013-14, according to public finance adviser Bartle Wells Associates. Under state law, the city must avoid a formal protest by more than 50 percent of ratepayers by a March 19 public meeting.

"There's great work to be done, making sure that the rate structure is rolled out in a way that's understood by everyone," Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza said Tuesday night. "The next step is for Davis and Woodland to ensure the most competitive bidding situation to bring costs down even more."

The project is designed to supply 18 million gallons a day of treated river water to Woodland and 12 million gallons a day to Davis starting in 2016.

Nearly half of the project's cost – $110 million – will build a water treatment plant on Woodland's southern outskirts, according to the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency, the joint powers authority leading the project.

Another $13 million is estimated for an intake facility on the Sacramento River about five miles east of Woodland.

Some $60 million is dedicated to pipelines to carry raw and treated river water, while another $63.6 million goes to local facilities, land purchases, permitting and other costs.

The pipelines will take treated water about eight miles from the Woodland-area treatment plant to Davis, while a shorter 1.2-mile pipe takes treated water to Woodland.

Agency officials say they are seeking state and federal funds to further lower project costs. But Krovoza will likely have some work to do in his own backyard.

The measure carried 55 percent of the vote, a victory for project supporters, but a full 45 percent rejected the ballot measure.

Generating 45 percent of the vote has encouraged the measure's opponents who have a lawsuit on the proposed water rates and say the issue isn't over.

The group Yolo Ratepayers for Affordable Public Utility Services has filed suit in Yolo Superior Court alleging that Davis is overcharging its ratepayers for water and is not paying for its own water use.

"We will run a very vigorous campaign challenging the rates," said Nancy Price, who worked on the No on I campaign.

"They clearly don't have a mandate," Sue Greenwald, a former longtime Davis councilwoman and water project opponent, said Tuesday night.

"There's still room (for the City Council) to reconsider," Greenwald said, calling on city leaders to consider a regional water partnership that involves West Sacramento and UC Davis. "There's no emergency. Our deep water aquifer is very high-quality water – there's no significant contamination. It's clean, it's safe, it's healthy. There's plenty of time to look for a more rational surface water project." SACRAMENTO RIVER

Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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