Wednesday, 08 February 2023

Spring Valley residents, officials discuss fire, water, emergencies

SPRING VALLEY – Fire protection, water, emergency preparedness and community identity proved to be the top issues at a Saturday town hall meeting held for the Spring Valley community.


About 50 people gathered for the afternoon meeting, hosted by District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, at the Spring Valley Community Center on Wolf Creek Road.


It was the fourth town hall meeting that Rushing has organized so far this year for the communities she represents throughout District 3.


During Saturday's meeting, the valley's residents made it very clear to officials that they view themselves as a unique and separate community, and not part of Clearlake Oaks.


Rushing was once again joined at the town hall meeting by county officials including county Administrative Officer Kelly Cox and Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely, who gave updates on county projects. Also on hand was Northshore Fire Protection District Chief Jim Robbins.


Much like some other Northshore communities, Spring Valley is concerned about water.


Mark Dellinger, who heads up the county's Special Districts – which includes Spring Valley's Community Service Area 2 water district – couldn't attend Saturday's meeting.


However, Karen Hanson, Special Districts' administrative manager, attended and was available to answer questions about water bills and the district's budget.


Hanson said she has already compiled Special Districts' preliminary budget for the coming year. Included it in, she said, will be a way to track the money spent on special projects, such as improving the water system.


Special Districts is currently exploring several funding sources – from state to federal loans and grants – in order to improve Spring Valley's treatment plant, she said. Along with that, she said, Dellinger is looking at different treatment plant options.


In addition, Hanson reported that Special Districts has so far installed 182 new water meters in Spring Valley, with 117 more to go. She said a test of the old water meters showed inaccuracy levels of as much as 27 percent, with the meters actually underreporting usage.


Hanson reported that since 1997 the district's unbilled water costs due to those inaccuracies amounted to $350,205.


Fire and emergency preparedness were major discussion topics, with Monte Winters, the District 3 volunteer coordinator for the local Office of Emergency Services, discussing how to be prepared for emergencies in the valley.


That theme was echoed by Rushing and Robbins. In particular, concerns for fire were noted several times, with Roberts saying that fire is the valley's No. 1 expected disaster.


Preparation in dealing with fire should always be a No. 1 issue in Lake County as a whole, said Robbins.


Area residents were concerned about use of the fire rings at the Spring Valley campground during the dry summer season. Robbins explained that while burn bans are managed by the county, campfire permits are managed by a state agency, and the two aren't connected.


During his five years leading the Northshore Fire District, Robbins said he hasn't seen actual problems with actual campfires at the campground, although there have been separate issues with teens and bonfires.


When Rushing asked whether the community wanted to have the campground shut down for the summer to prevent fire issues, there was little support. The room also was split on banning campfires altogether.


In other fire-related news, Robbins said that Northshore Fire recently completed a weed abatement ordinance requiring that weeds be kept down to no more than 4 inches in height on vacant parcels and land during the summer.


The district is starting a database to track owners of vacant lots, Robbins said. If the owners don't keep down the weeds, Robbins said the district will have the weeds mowed and the owners will be billed.


Robbins also addressed the issue of how to evacuate the valley's 300 families in case of an emergency.


Citing the example of a large fire in the valley a few years ago, Robbins said New Long Valley Road -- the main path into the valley – would likely only be shut down for a few hours in such an instance. However, he said, creating an evacuation plan is still critical to the valley's residents.


Old Long Valley Road may offer another route out of the valley, said Robbins, an issue that he said needs to be further explored.


"I feel a little unsafe with you really having only one way out of here," said Robbins.


Rushing said she had Public Works Director Gerald Shaul conduct an assessment regarding access routes out of Spring Valley, as well as likely emergencies.


The two most likely emergencies, said Rushing, are fire and landslides. She said Shaul also said the bridges in the valley need to be evaluated, because some of them may not be able to hold fire trucks responding to emergencies.


A fire-related emergency, said Rushing, "may well be the most important issue in this valley, and it can happen at any time."


During an open forum for questions, residents asked Rushing about a variety of issues, including use of Lake Transit and ways to deal with ATVs.


Rushing said Lake Transit hasn't yet found a cost-effective way to offer public transportation to valley residents. She said she would pass along a suggestion from the meeting that Lake Transit provide service to the valley a few days a week so that residents can make shopping trips to nearby towns.


At Rushing's request, Spring Valley resident Helen Mitchell gave an update on a community plan to set up a Neighborhood Watch-type group called Rapid Responders to address security issues at the campground.


Mitchell said she also is working with Sheriff Rod Mitchell to deal with ATV riders who are destructive at the campground, and would like to set up a special permit process for ATV riders who obey rules.


Another town hall meeting is planned for Blue Lakes, but Rushing said no date has yet been set.


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


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