Rancho Water’s committee hears updates on grants, project outreach

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The Rancho California Water District’s Planning and Administration Committee met via teleconference Thursday, Oct. 15, to hear updates on myriad issues pertaining to the district, including grant applications, community outreach for upcoming projects and legislative issues. Valley News/Courtesy photo

During a meeting of Rancho California Water District’s Planning and Administration Committee Thursday, Oct. 15, the committee heard updates on grants and water efficiency efforts, outreach and educational efforts, as well an update on state legislative and federal lobbying activities from staff.

Justin Haessly, water use efficiency and grants manager, gave his update during the teleconference meeting Thursday morning, showing a list of grants the district is pursuing.

“We’ve submitted a couple of grant applications to CAL OES (California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services), we’ve gotten through the first step there they’ve recommended for funding a couple of our projects and sent them on to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for review. We’ve got the Vail Dam project, of course, with a $50 million ask. A $1 million ask for the emergency power generation project includes the purchase of a few generators for our pump stations. At this point, we’re kind of in this black hole of the FEMA review, and we’ve been told by CAL OES that we should expect to not hear anything from FEMA for a while.

“We’ve been working on trying to get $16 million for the Vail Dam project through reclamation and we’ve completed two of the three reviews. We completed the engineering review and the policy review. And the last and final review is the environmental review. And we’re working through that right now.”

The last one Haessly shared on was a water conservation field services program.

“That comes through reclamation every year,” he said. “What we’re going to ask for through this program is $100,000 to enhance our customer leak alert program. That’s something that we’re just getting ready to pilot.”

Haessly also spoke on water use efficiency efforts.

“I mentioned that we put out a survey online that asked customers about how they feel about the idea of leak alerts,” he said. “Would they like to receive those? And if so, what type of leak alert would they prefer to receive? And for that survey, there was a huge amount of responses. We had over 5,000 customers respond to the survey. That’s the most we’ve ever received for any survey we’ve ever put out there. And their response was overwhelmingly positive. 99% of the people who responded to the survey said, ‘yeah, I’d like to know when I have a leak, and I’d like you to contact me about that.’ As far as the types of alerts that they preferred to receive, it was electronic. No. 1 on their list was text and email. Then a phone call and last on the list was letter.”

Haessly said the district has a landing page in place for the alert project, and it’s located at http://ranchowater.com/leaks.

“I really like what you’ve done and you’ve thought ahead and you’ve implemented some nice little tools,” Carol Lee Brady, committee chairperson, said. “I think that is easy for the layperson to understand. From what I can tell, it’s going to be a great asset.”

Grace Cardenas played a video in association with the district’s outreach and educational efforts that will be broadcast on social media channels and in district toolkits for businesses and the community.

The video gave an update on the start of construction on the Temecula Parkway pipeline replacement project.

“The project will replace nearly 8,000 feet of recycled water pipeline running under Temecula Parkway between Bedford Court and Rancho Pueblo Road, which translates to just over 1.5 miles of purple pipeline,” the narrator in the video said. “This pipeline has an essential role. It delivers recycled water for irrigation and landscaping to the communities, beloved parks, large and small businesses along Temecula Parkway, golf courses and schools.

“The pipeline will be replaced on Temecula Parkway in four phases. Moving from west to east construction will take place on Temecula Parkway in the westbound lanes. The eastbound lanes will stay open during construction. Westbound Temecula Parkway will be reduced down to one lane while access to neighborhoods and businesses will be maintained at all times. Traffic delays are expected on Temecula Parkway. Alternate routes are available in all phases, with the exception of phase one.”

The video said construction will start November and is expected to be completed in May 2021.

The video continues by saying that the pipeline has become corroded over the past 20 plus years and needs to be replaced with an upgraded stronger material to avoid potential for future pipeline breaks.

“We’d rather deal with the impact of construction now rather than frequent unplanned inconveniences, that will only continue as the pipeline gets older,” the narrator said. “The more we use recycled water for things like irrigation and landscaping, the more water is available to district customers for drinking, cooking, laundry baths or showers, the Temecula Parkway pipeline replacement project offset enough water to provide drinking water for 16,000 people per year, which is about 10% of Rancho service area.”

“We’re doing a lot to keep businesses informed,” Cardenas said. “We have this place on our website where you can sign up for construction updates.

“We also have been working with Pechanga and Temecula Valley Hospital and the schools and churches, really closely to make sure that they are comfortable with what’s going to happen and that they can communicate with their staff as well.”

Cardenas updated the committee on the Overland and Margarita roads project that will begin Nov. 8.

“(Those) will take place at night, Sunday through Thursday,” she said. “We expect a brief period of water shut-offs, but that’s not until months down the road. What we plan here is to do more targeted outreach to the apartment buildings. We’re going to put out electronic message boards, pretty soon before the project starts, just to let people know that it’s night work, that this is coming.”

Sylvia Ornelas, public information specialist, also gave the directors an update on an internship and volunteer program the district is looking at developing.

“We’re in the beginning stages of evaluating the possibility of creating an internship or volunteer program with students in our region,” Cardenas said. “While all the details have not been decided, we’re really working toward strengthening our relationships with both Murrieta and Temecula school districts and Mt. San Jacinto Community College. By strengthening those relationships, especially with the college, the goal is to help improve our candidate pool for openings and discussing ways that we can kind of help each other for our relationships just to make it stronger going forward.”

Ornelas also touched on the district’s interest in creating pathways in local high school CTE programs in relationship with the district.

“We’re really working toward making those connections and establishing partnerships with our schools in our region,” she said. “So that way, when and if a CTE pathway makes sense, we’re going to be ready to steer the ship.”

Meggan Valencia, governmental affairs manager for the district, also gave a presentation.

“There are a couple of really good bills that were signed that we were supporting pretty much from the beginning,” she said. “SB 1386, that bill had to do with fire hydrants and the fees that we charge for maintaining the fire hydrants and when we’re installing them. And while that’s always been allowed through Prop. 218, there’s been some lawsuits in quite a few different water districts about those fees. This legislation passed, just basically saying that yes, the agencies are allowed to charge for this. It just solidified what was already in Prop. 218 and will stop some of those lawsuits, which we definitely could have had, had this not gone through since there were so many others already being targeted.

“One other piece of legislation was AB 2560, and that has to do with the state board when they’re revising the different notification response levels for when they’re making changes to the different standards. Really this came from the PFOS issue where there wasn’t time for agencies to really respond and give input. Now there is a mandatory response period so that agencies can weigh in,” Valencia said.

The committee meeting adjourned without any action items on the agenda, and the board of directors closed the meeting to begin a closed session special meeting for a conference with labor negotiators and a public employee appointment.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.