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Friday, December 5, 2008

Santa Rosa Settles on Laguna Wastewater Discharge

It took many years to get to this place, but the City of Santa Rosa has decided that the best way to dispose of their highly treated wastewater is also the least harmful to the environment as well as the least expensive. The pipeline to the Geysers takes care of the vast majority of wastewater disposal - 100% during dry years to 90% during wet years - and when needed, the rest can be discharged into the Laguna de Santa Rosa from Delta Pond. This is a tremendous environmental victory for everyone who opposed the alternatives.

Report from Brenda Adelman of the Russian River Watershed Protection Committee.

Well, it's official! Santa Rosa's Board of Public Utilities formally voted today to select the enhanced Laguna discharge project instead of either the Healdsburg discharge or Steelhead Beach. The City will also create nutrient offset programs (under the watch of the Regional Board and subject to public review) to meet their requirement of no net increase of nutrients to the

What this means is that most of Santa Rosa's wastewater will go to the Geysers, no discharge is expected in dry to normal years, and only in heavy rain years will up to 5% of the total winter flow be discharged to the Laguna. (For eight years now, I've been presenting data that showed the project to be unnecessary. Instead they spent $12 to $15 million on studies and documents.)

In his presentation to the BPU, City consultant Dave Smith said that zero discharge was probable in most years. Up to a few months ago, he was insisting that the City needed 26 million gallons a day (mgd) capacity, even though current dry weather flows are at 15 mgd and have been in that range for many, many years.

The Laguna project will cost the City about $6.5 million whereas Steelhead Beach would have cost up to $265 million. Of course, when they started this process eight years ago, Steelhead came in at $30 million. The prices seems to go up as interest in the project goes down. Nevertheless, the current economy helped turn this around.

At the meeting today, on behalf of Russian River Watershed Protection Committee and Friends of Steelhead Beach, I submitted 5206 signatures into the record, thanks to the dedicated work of community members, Steelhead Beach lovers, RRWPC supporters, local business people, and many more who helped collect signatures. We also submitted a letter asking that the
petition be entered into the record and that all people be contacted if the City ever revisits that project.

It's been a long road, but we are thrilled with the direction the City has taken. We thank all of you who helped with this effort. Next year, we will be dedicating ourselves to the "low flow" and "incidental runoff" issues which are already heating up.

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