Ratepayers approve Carneros pipeline

Recycled water project could end up costing $4,200 per acre
2013-03-20T21:00:00Z 2013-03-31T19:51:40Z Ratepayers approve Carneros pipelinePETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
March 20, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

Despite the opposition of some residents, property owners in the Carneros area approved a $100-per-acre annual assessment Tuesday night that will pay for the design and expansion of a potential 9-mile-long recycled water pipeline to the region.

Proponents of the project in the Los Carneros Water District say when it’s eventually constructed it will deliver 1,250 acre-feet of recycled water — with the possibility of more — to 3,800 acres in the area every year. They say it will reduce stress on groundwater supplies because some of the largest water users, vineyards, would begin using recycled water.

At a meeting of the water district’s board of directors Tuesday night, owners representing more than 76 percent of the acreage in the assessment voted to approve it.

Board President John Stewart said this is the closest the district, originally formed in the 1970s to develop recycled water sources in Carneros, has come to getting a pipeline built. A study determined the area needs 1,300 acre-feet annually.

“This is certainly one of the closest efforts we’ve had in bringing that to fruition,” Stewart told the approximately 40 people in attendance.

The successful vote will provide the project $380,000 in the next fiscal year, and $1.14 million over the three-year lifespan of the assessment. That will pay to design the pipeline and to increase its size from 8 inches in diameter to 24 inches.

A St. Regis resort project, approved by the city of Napa for Carneros several years ago, has plans to extend the smaller pipeline from the Napa Sanitation District’s plant, under the Napa River and out to the Stanly Ranch property.

The Los Carneros Water District will spend about $500,000 to expand the pipeline’s diameter. Stewart said the district has been told the developers behind St. Regis are planning to start boring under the river this summer.

The total cost of the pipeline is estimated to be $16 million, and the next request for an assessment would occur in 2015, Stewart said.

“Likely we would come back in 2015 and ask, ‘Do you want to fund the project?’ ” Stewart said. “The third assessment is about getting the infrastructure in the ground.”

Proponents of the project say sharing the costs saves the district about $1 million, as the district was planning to pursue its own pipeline from the sanitation district’s plant.

But some residents objected to being included in the assessment and having to pay for the costs of the pipeline even if they won’t use the recycled water. Tuesday’s vote will make the project ready to be started by laborers and sets the stage for a more expensive assessment in the future, which could cost $4,200 an acre total.

Property owner Brad Branagan said he owns 30 acres within the assessment district, which would amount to an estimated $120,000 total cost to him if the next assessment passed. He questioned why he should pay for it if he has a perfectly good well.

“I’m being pushed into it,” Branagan said. “I’m being volunteered into it without my consent.”

Stewart compared the pipeline to other public infrastructure such as roads, sewers and utility lines that benefit owners’ property values, even if they don’t use them. Stewart said the district would pursue a 20-year loan from the state government. Under that financing plan, owners would pay an extra $210 per acre per year in property taxes throughout those 20 years.

The boundaries of the assessment district were drawn following a previous assessment in 2009 that paid for a feasibility study. The district used a questionnaire in 2010 to gauge people’s interest and refined the boundaries based on that.

Cuttings Wharf Road resident John Bonick said some owners weren’t aware they were signing up for a long-term financial obligation when they responded positively to the questionnaire.

“I sort of feel like I test drove a Maserati and now I’ve got to buy one,” Bonick said.

Board member Erica Ahmann said the project is for the future benefit of Carneros residents and farmers.

“It’s for and by the residents of Carneros,” Ahmann said. “That’s why we’re assessing ourselves out here.”

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(9) Comments

  1. conservativemom
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    conservativemom - March 21, 2013 9:55 am
    The voting percentages are exaggerated. Landowners representing 76% of the ACREAGE appoved this additional assessment NOT 76% of the LANDOWNERS (which it should have been). The more acreage you own the more your vote is weighted, I own 5 acreas in the Carneros area with a total vote count of (5). The 'rural residential' landowners are surrounded by vineyards which outnumber our votes considerably. I have no problem with recycled water coming out to our area for those who need and want it. I do have a poblem with having to finance something I don't need or want. At the meeting John Stewart did a great job at presenting the information and listening to everyones comments, I cannot say that for one of the Board Members. I apologize I don't remember is name, but he was defensive and outright rude to some of the attendees. I believe a few of the Board Members are exempt from this assessment due to minimal land ownership or having an 'exemption', this just doesn't seem right to me.
  2. napken
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    napken - March 21, 2013 10:12 am
    I feel sorry for those who got fooled into thinking this was "good for everybody" when it only serves a few big vineyards that do not have enough pond water to serve THEIR needs. Everybody pays to benifit a few. Also gotta love how the "assessment" starts out at $100 an acre- betcha those "estimates" are just a tad low. If past governmental estimates are any indication, expect those numbers to (at the very least) triple or quadruple. Hey I have an idea, everybody pitch in and buy ME a Lamborghini to park in MY driveway so it raises your property values...anyone ??? Should I hold my breath while the donations pure in ???????
  3. Solipsistic
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    Solipsistic - March 21, 2013 2:11 pm
    I'll preface this by saying I don't live in Carneros, so I don't have a financial interest in this pipeline project. However, it does seem wrong to force everyone - even those who are opposed and will receive no benefit - to help fund this. I suppose there is technically a benefit in the form of higher property values, but it won't make up for the cost they'll be forced to pay. I'd be livid if I were in the shoes of any of the opposed landowners...
  4. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - March 21, 2013 10:06 pm
    Was his name Bill Dodd? Here's a link to his website http://www.billdodd.com/

    If this is the BOS who was rude, please comment. We will remember him during the re-election.

    Some people want to bow to big wealth while treating everyone else like a peasant. This whole thing of representing those with the largest amount of acreage reminds me of Feudalism on so many levels, it's sickening.

    I don't live in Carneros but I am totally supportive of the small property owner who does not want to buy into this.
  5. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - March 21, 2013 10:12 pm
    Actuallyl I think I'm wrong about that comment. The County BOS's were not involved. The reference was about the water district board not the BOS!! Plus I just finished reading a Napa Pipe comment from a BOS in another article! Sorry. My mistake!
  6. Native74
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    Native74 - March 22, 2013 11:36 am
    Just to set the record straight... When the District was originally formed in 1978, only 2 of the 5 board members owned vineyards, the rest were orchard and cattle/hay farmers. In addition, the large acreage land owners were in fact not planted in vineyards, but were still hay, cattle and dairy. For many different reasons the reclaimed water originally requested did not get conveyed across the river in the 80's or the 90's despite the need in Carneros. The property owners and uses have significantly changed, but the concern and need for water remains the same. We've been fortunate enough not to have issues with our wells, but many of our neighbors have had to drill new or deeper throughout the years as more water is needed for vineyards. I feel for the smaller land owners who want to opt out and want to say it's still not a done deal yet. Lastly, the intention of the District was (and still is) to help not hurt our neighbors.
  7. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - March 22, 2013 4:08 pm
    How many of the board members are big Carneros vineyard owners today? Seems like it could be a conflct of interest.
  8. Native74
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    Native74 - March 23, 2013 8:51 am
    Two members have family owned vineyards. It's matter of public record after all.
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    TAXPAYER - March 23, 2013 9:15 am
    When asked if we could opt out, the answer was no. Later we found out that close to a third of the acreage was obted out (1000 acres @ $4,200/acre). So now over 4 Million cost will be born by the remaining. Like it or not!
    Freedom at it's finest.
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