Thursday, 02 February 2023

Cal Water Lucerne tank project moves forward

LUCERNE – The Lake County Planning Commission has given the go ahead for California Water Service to move forward on a project to add a new water tank to its Lucerne system.

On Oct. 18 the Planning Commission held a public hearing and accepted a use permit and a mitigated negative declaration on Cal Water's proposed 300,000-gallon water storage tank, according to Melissa Floyd, the special products consultant working on the project for the Community Development Department.

The project, located at 5717 Fennel Drive, 4942 and 4963 Utopia Trail in Lucerne, also includes moving 1,200 cubic yards of fill, according to planning documents.

Floyd said the new tank will be next to the company’s existing 200,000-gallon tank on Utopia Trail, located on a hillside above Lucerne.

Floyd said the county is requiring Cal Water to get a use permit for the water tank.

The county also felt the tank needed oversight due to the significant grading that will be done, said Floyd. “There was not going to be anyone else looking at it.”

The use permit and the removal of the fill dirt triggers the California Environmental Quality Act, said Floyd, under which the county is the lead agency for the tank project.

Floyd said with the building plan they have, there is nothing to indicate there will be stability issues. Plans include contouring and possibly adding a retaining wall.

The next step in the process for the company is construction, said Floyd.

“They’re hoping they can do it this winter,” said Floyd, which would make it subject to winter grade provisions under the grading ordinance.

Tony Carrasco – Cal Water's Oroville district manager who has been overseeing Lucerne, which has been without a district manager since Bill Koehler left earlier this year – confirmed that the company wants to break ground on the tank this month.

However, breaking ground will be dependent on satisfying the increased requirements that come with winter grading, said Floyd.

Those include very strict erosion control and protecting the site from rain.

“They need to be able to button up the site at the end of any work day,” she said.

Ultimately, said Floyd, Community Development Director Rick Coel must give the go-ahead for winter grading work.

The water tank is separate from Cal Water’s plant update, said Floyd.

“Because it’s a semi-public utility the county does not have jurisdiction to permit the plant itself,” she said. “We only have jurisdiction for the water tank.”

Carrasco said the company currently has 624,000 gallons of storage. The new tank will allow the company to produce “a little more” water, Carrasco added.

“It’s going to serve for several different purposes,” said Carrasco, including meeting peak demand during summer months, having enough water for fire prevention and allowing a moratorium on hookups to Lucerne's system to be lifted.

Ultimately, Carrasco said the additional storage will allow the company to add more customers to its Lucerne base of 1,200 hookups.

Carrasco said Cal Water hopes to have the tank completed by the early summer of 2008, in conjunction with the completion of the new treatment plant.

The company also is working on pipe replacement, said Carrasco. Cal Water currently is looking at areas with histories of leaks and major veins in the system – Country Club, Highway 20 and Foothill – and replacing between 500 and 750 feet of main pipe annually.

“That's going to be an ongoing capital improvement into the future,” said Carrasco.

The design of the treatment plant is 100-percent complete and has been awarded to a contractor, said Carrasco. Construction on the plant also is scheduled to begin this month.

The plant is contingent on approval by the state Department of Health Services, which so far has not returned calls from Lake County News seeking the status of Cal Water's plant application.

The new plant will include an ultraviolet system and microfiltration, which will be placed within the footprint of the existing building on Highway 20, said Carrasco. The plant design utilizes former storage areas for buildout, in order to cut down on costs.

Carrasco said the cost to build the new tank is still being estimated; the plant will cost $2.8 million to construct, an amount that doesn’t include engineering or new equipment.

Earlier this year the company scaled back its plans for the new plant, saving a reported $1 million, as Lake County News previously reported.

The new plant will allow the water system to keep up with community demands as well as those of visitors.

Carrasco said they’re planning to have the same capacity for the new plant; the difference is, the new plant shouldn’t have water quality issues, he said.

“The plant controls will adjust to the water quality,” said Carrasco, and changing conditions won’t result in boil order conditions.

Over the last several years Cal Water's Lucerne system has had many boil water notices, the most recent, lasting for four days, was issued in late September.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Carrasco, who added that the completed plant will be a “great thing for the community.”

Dealing with community moratorium

Both Floyd and Carrasco said that Lucerne currently is under a water hookup moratorium imposed by the state Department of Health Services.

Additional hookup requests have to be authorized through the Department of Health Services, Carrasco said, which looks at the requests on a case-by-case basis.

Floyd said that, generally, Community Development doesn’t issue building permits for  homes unless the builder can prove they have a water source.

“It’s taken pretty seriously at the Community Development Department level,” said Floyd.

The decision to lift the moratorium, Floyd added, must come from the state.

Lake County News has not received return calls from state officials in the Department of Health Services on the status of the hookup moratorium and when it might be lifted.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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