In the News

Soquel Creek Water District hires desal consultant to review other options

By J.M. Brown, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 11/20/13

SOQUEL -- The Soquel Creek Water District on Tuesday approved directing funds away from a stalled desalination proposal to hire a key consultant for the project who now wants to help with alternatives.

The district's board OK'd a technical advisers contract with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants at a cost not to exceed $25,000 to review and prepare concepts and designs for a host of other supply options. The district, which has a 15-year relationship with the firm, is not required to put the work out for competitive bid because the amount is $25,000 or less.

General Manager Kim Adamson said "they seemed to be the logical choice" in part because a specific San Francisco-based Kennedy/Jenks consultant who has been working with the district understands recycled water -- a key component to future water supply planning -- and possible state regulatory changes.

"As we come to the end of the process, we will hopefully identify some other options we want to look at further and we will have a need in having someone assist us in looking at those options," Adamson told the board.

Board member Rick Meyer said, "I wouldn't want to see a delay in getting help for this. We have an urgent need to get this analysis."

No one from the public spoke against the contract during the meeting.

Santa Cruz Water Department records show Kennedy/Jenks has been paid $1.6 million since 2008 for technical services related to desal, a cost shared with the district. That includes $236,500 since June 2012, during which time the firm was hired to assist with an environmental impact report that regulators in large measure have deemed problematic.

The district, which approved a three-year rate increase in February, has set aside nearly $950,000 for desalination during the 2013-14 fiscal year. The new Kennedy/Jenks contract will be paid from those funds.

The City Council will review a "reset" plan Nov. 26 to engage the public in a larger study of alternatives to boost its drought-prone water supply, a move in the works since it became clear this summer that opposition to desal was on the rise.

Meanwhile, the district, which faces an immediate threat of saltwater intrusion in its groundwater pumping wells due to overdrawn aquifers, quickly began exploring other options.

In October, the district heard from proponents of a large desal facility based in Moss Landing, and in November looked at water transfers and storage alternatives with other agencies. In January, the district will explore mandatory rationing, and in February will review recycled water.

Tuesday, the board also approved spending up to $48,950 for HyrdoMetrics to conduct an annual study of the Soquel-Aptos groundwater basin. The Oakland-based consulting firm has completed six other reports on the health of the basin, the cost of which is split with Central Water District.

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown at Twitter.com/jmbrownreports

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