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CMWD pursues options to bring in more water: Public asked to weigh in July 27

 City of Ventura SWP Intertie

Map courtesy city of Ventura

A proposed pipeline to bring state water from Camarillo to Saticoy would lessen the city of Ventura’s demand on Lake Casitas.

 

Public asked to weigh in

WHEN: Tuesday, July 27, at 5 p.m.

WHERE: Online, live and recorded

The Casitas Municipal Water District Board of Directors will hold a public workshop July 27 on two proposed projects to bring State Water Project water to western Ventura County. The workshop can be viewed live and recorded on the CMWD website. Meeting agendas and instructions for joining via teleconference also are posted at: https://www.casitaswater.org.

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter

Facing extreme drought, Casitas Municipal Water District continues to move forward with a project to bring in State Water Project water, while weighing its options on a separate “in lieu” project.

Preliminary design and the environmental documentation have been completed on a proposed Ventura-Santa Barbara counties intertie, a collaboration with Carpinteria Valley Water District and Central Coast Water Authority, according to CMWD General Manager Michael Flood.

Full design is underway and is expected to be completed early next year, Flood said.

The project would require the construction of approximately 6,000 feet of 16-inch pipeline and two pump stations, to convey water from Carpinteria Valley facilities to Casitas facilities.

Assuming that the CMWD board makes the final decision to move forward with it, the $15.5 million project should be completed by the summer of 2023.

Casitas has applied to the state of California for funding through a program currently available that would be part grant, part low-interest loan.

A majority of the loan, for approximately $12.5 million, would be 0% interest with the balance 1.5%.

The grant would be roughly $3 million, Flood said.

CMWD estimates the yield from the project to be 2,000 acre-feet per year, over a period of four months.

To the south, Casitas, along with the city of Ventura, United Water Conservation District and Calleguas Municipal Water District, reached an understanding in 2017 to do a feasibility study and preliminary design on a long-contemplated pipeline to connect the Calleguas system in Camarillo with Ventura’s system in Saticoy.

The pipeline, like the northern connection, would provide up to 2,000 acre-feet of SWP water in any given year.

The connection would utilize a 30-inch diameter pipeline and run 7 miles, but, unlike the Ventura-Santa Barbara counties project, the pipeline would not connect directly to the Casitas system. “So the concept there is it would provide water to the city of Ventura in lieu of them taking water from the lake,” Flood said.

The project appeared feasible, so the four partners started working on an agreement to address design, construction and operation of the project.

In 2018, preliminary design on the project was completed at a cost of $115,000 to Casitas.

As for construction, Ventura would build a section of the pipeline and Calleguas a section, with Ventura’s project costing approximately $30 million for full design and construction.

The way the draft contract is structured, CMWD would pay for one-third of the total cost, or roughly $10 million.

As the next step in deciding what the District’s role in the project will be moving forward, the Casitas Board of Directors is reviewing that draft contract and is planning a public workshop on both projects on Tuesday, July 27 at 5 p.m., Flood said.

Meanwhile, the city of Ventura has already started on the full design portion, awarding a $3.55 million design contract in May of 2020 to Stantec Engineering. “They awarded that without the Casitas board giving the nod to spending money on the design,” Flood said, “with the expectation that Casitas would participate in that. But it isn’t a done deal yet.”

CMWD’s portion of the final design cost would be about $1.1 million.

The District needs to determine how it’s going to fund that, Flood said, since the contract would commit Casitas not only to design, but also construction. “That might be a little bit much to swallow right now. Maybe participating in design would be a first step. We do have funds to pay for the design effort, which would come from conservation penalties,” he said.

As for construction, Flood said, “It’s a significant cost, and we’d have to figure out and discuss what the board’s desires would be on how to finance that.”

Flood said despite the uncertainty about funding, the project is a good one. “It provides State Water Project water to one of the District’s largest customers,” he said.

On June 17, Flood received a letter from Ventura Water general manager Susan Rungren requesting that “Casitas’ previous commitment to this project be honored” and that the District “will continue to plan and budget for this project in the future.”

“I understand that the city has structured their budget around that project in a way that would have Casitas participating, and so they’re nervous about it. But that’s the chance they took, moving forward with that without a signed contract,” said Flood.

A public records request to the city of Ventura by the Ojai Valley News showed no contract signed by Casitas exists for the final design, construction and operation of the project.

Though not providing “wet water,” the southern connection is still important, according to Flood. “The biggest comparison is one is direct water, which is the north connection to bring in wet water to our system, and the other is in lieu, which is important and has a similar effect,” he said. “But it will take an agreement to make sure we can operate that in a way that’s beneficial to the District’s customers.”

To view CMWD board meetings streamed live and recorded, visit https://www.casitaswater.org.

 

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