After 15 years of planning and fundraising, crews are preparing to break ground on a pipeline that will deliver 700 acre feet of recycled water annually from Napa Sanitation District to the groundwater-deficient area that drains Milliken, Sarco and Tulocay creeks east of the city Napa.
With that major milestone looming, elected officials from the city of Napa and Napa County were in a mood to celebrate Tuesday afternoon at the Napa Valley Country Club, the eventual destination of the 5-mile pipeline and a major source of funding for the $13.3 million project.
A series of kudos were directed Tuesday at a citizens group that pushed for the pipeline in 1999, Napa County Supervisor Keith Caldwell, who helped give the project momentum after being elected in 2008, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which provided grants that cover 25 percent of the cost.
Caldwell said he misjudged the time needed to get the project under construction, believing it could be done in his first four-year term; he’s now half the way through his second term.
“We could not have done this without the continued support of the property owners, the residents of the Coombsville area,” Caldwell said.
The city of Napa will indirectly supply much of the water for the project because the city’s wastewater is treated at the Sanitation District until it is clean enough for irrigation uses — but not drinking. Mayor Jill Techel said the city did not see any issue with it being sent to a groundwater deficient basin in the unincorporated area.
A second recycled water pipeline to the Carneros area is also in the planning process, using recycled water from the Sanitation District’s treatment plant.
Techel, who serves as chairwoman of the district’s board of directors, said both Coombsville and Carneros needed recycled water.
“We looked at where was the biggest need, where we could really make a difference,” Techel said. “We are partners, and we’ll deliver the water.”
Once finished, the pipeline will link the Napa Sanitation District plant to vineyard irrigators, property owners and the country club in the MST area. The current project will only build a section stretching from Imola Avenue out to Hagen Road.
A South Bay firm, Sanco Pipelines, will begin construction within a month or two, and is currently getting the encroachment permits needed for the work. Property owners who will use the water will pay for the project through annual property tax assessments based on the amount they’ll use.
Vineyard projects and the country club will carry the largest share of the cost, but water will also be used by property owners needing to irrigate lawns or landscapes. The project has a 20-year loan from the state government to start building now.
The pipeline will have a capacity of 2,000 acre-feet (one acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons) annually once the Sanitation District expands its treatment capacity, and more people sign up to use in the MST area. The district is currently doubling its capacity from 2,000 to 4,000 acre-feet of recycled water, Techel said.
Caldwell said major credit was due to the federal government’s funding in helping the project move forward and defraying the cost for users. The money was successfully obtained through lobbying efforts from the North Bay Water Reuse Authority, which Napa County is a member of along with Sonoma and Marin counties.
Caldwell also thanked Phil Miller, a deputy director in the county Public Works Department, and Howard Siegel, a retired county official who worked on the project as a consultant, with spearheading much of the planning efforts and qualifying the project for grant funding.
Supervisor Bill Dodd said this project has given Napa County a leg up on other counties in California that are just starting to plan to use recycled water, which can provide a renewable, reliable source of irrigation water in an extreme drought.
“There’s a lot of counties, a lot of communities reeling now,” Dodd said. “Others are scrambling to start planning. We’ve been planning, and planning and planning. In the end it was the property owners. It really took them to step up to the plate.”