A meeting of the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District Thursday evening is expected to draw a crowd from residents unhappy about possible development that a proposed sewer expansion could enable.
Earlier this month Rincon sought public comment on a sewer master plan, and it certainly seems like it will get it on Thursday night — although not so much from the ratepayers who actually live in the district, which includes parts of Escondido.
The meeting will be held September 22, 6–8 p.m. at the Rincon Water district offices, 1920 North Iris Lane, Escondido.
A local email call to arms was sent out earlier this week from a group called FEVRD (Friends of Eden Valley for Responsible Development) under the headline: “ EV Bugle – Developers Never Rest!” accusing the water district of an “outrageous land grab,” adding, “Rincon Water (in Escondido) is attempting to undermine our community plan and facilitate developers’ proposals to put in 800+ houses in Harmony Grove by pushing for miles of sewage lines ranging from Escondido to Eden Valley to Harmony Grove. Their NOP has been published and they are requesting comments from the community no later than October 10th. We need everyone in Eden Valley, Harmony Grove and Elfin Forest to write in letters opposing this.”
Greg Thomas, general manager of Rincon told The Times-Advocate that he and his board were somewhat nonplussed by the reaction of FEVRD. “The directors are very disheartened by this disingenuous Ealert that it makes it sound like the district is trying to acquire new territory,” said Thomas. “It’s no land grab. This is land that has been in the district boundaries. It is an activation of latent power allowed to us by state law (the Municipal Powers Act).”
When the water board in 2014 approved of its strategic plan it studied getting into the sewer business and expanding resources within the existing district.
Currently the agency slated to provide sewer service for the area is the County Sanitation District. “They (the County) felt it would be a lot more efficient to have Rincon do the recycled water and sewer for the area since we already serve it,” said Thomas.
“We were providing the water and recycled water for Harmony Grove and we will have to bring in recycled water for summer demand in and out. We’re serving that whole area water.”
Earlier in September the district published an announcement seeking public comment on a master plan EIR (environmental impact report) for sewer service. October 10, 5 p.m. is the deadline for submitting comments on the EIR. You may direct comments to the district office by U.S. mail, by email (PEIR@rinconwater.org), or submit a completed comment form at Thursday’s meeting,
The project, which has been part of the district’s master plan for several years, proposes that the district expand its services to become a sewer agency, acquire the existing Harmony Grove Village Water Reclamation Facility and increase its capacity, and eliminate the need to construct two additional water treatment facilities planned for future development in the area.
This territory has long been part of the water district’s service area, but it had never provided sewer service for it.
Thomas commented that the district is in good financial shape and doesn’t need to “grab” land to make up shortfalls.
“First of all, my directors have an established and very well managed district with very good fiscal policy and a balanced budget. We don’t need the sewer budget, we will need to forward fund it and have established an enterprise fund for sewer,” he told The Times-Advocate.
Some of the attacks have come from the Elfin Forest Town Council.
Rincon has kept the Elfin Forest Town Council apprised of the project, says Thomas. “We’ve extended communication well in advance. We are keeping people informed. We want to be as open and as transparent as possible,” he said.
Once public comment is taken they will publish a draft EIR. The district will take comments on that until early November and then have another comment period ending in mid-December.
“Once we get the EIR finalized the board will review it or not approve I,” said Thomas.
The board will look at three options: 1) three separate water treatment plants 2) Two plants 1) a package treatment plant that will expand the existing capacity from 200,000 gallons per day to 400,000.
Thomas said they lean towards one plant due to economy of scale. A single plant is more efficient and has fewer things to go wrong, will cut long term customer costs in half, and improve water quality for the basin.
“The more plants you have the more problems you are going to have, so you want a big of a package plant as possible,” he said.
Thomas concluded, “If Rincon doesn’t provide this service, the County is going to do it.”
You can find out more about the viewpoint of FEVRD by visiting their website: www.FriendsOfEden-Valley.com/