Saturday, 04 December 2021

New Lucerne water plant construction slated to begin this month

 

With the new plant, however, will come new rate increases. According to Lucerne Community Water Organization (LCWO), after the plant is completed, ratepayers will see a new charge on their bill to repay a no-interest state loan for the plant.


The new plant will be built in the location of the current customer service office at 6125 E. Highway 20, said Clay Suskin, who is the temporary chief treatment plant operator. He works at the CWS plant in Bakersfield.


Suskin said that the first part of the construction plan involves temporarily moving the customer service office from its current location to 6304 E. Hwy. 20. The construction site will be closed to the public.

That move, said Suskin, is scheduled to take place by Jan. 15. That will allow room for the contractors to come in and take the building down, he said.


They will then begin piping and electrical configuration before building the plant itself, he added.

Suskin said he doesn't know the new plant's size in square footage, but said its flow capacity will double, going from half a million gallons a day to one million, and will allow for more hookups in the future. He expects the plant will employ the same number of staff, currently at about 4.


It also will offer “a higher quality of water to our current customers,” he said, using new technologies to treat the water more effectively.


Construction will probably last six to 10 months, Suskin said.


Suskin said the new plant will be designed by Black & Veach, a Kansas-based firm with a division dedicated to designing water plants.


Much of Lucerne's water problem involves an aging piping system that during the last year has had numerous breaks. Suskin said system improvements are an ongoing process, with the plant staff replacing 40 feet of water main at a time when the pipes break.


Those kinds of “capital improvements” are budgeted for, he said.


Suskin expects that a project manager, either from Cal Water or from the engineering firm, will be brought in to oversee the project. It's a prudent thing to do, he said, because it makes good economic sense.


Last summer, after a lengthy rate-setting case, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a final decision granting Cal Water a 121-percent rate increase, with discounts which lowered it to a 64-percent increase for average users - those who use about 750 gallons a month. Cal Water had originally requested a 273-percent increase.

 

During settlement hearings, Steve Elias of Lakeport acted as pro bono attorney for LCWO, which intervened on behalf of the community to request relief for low-income ratepayers and rebates for conservation measures such as low-flow toilets. CWS now provides a free conservation package which includes leak-detection tablets and low-flow shower heads.


Former plant manager Bill Koehler, who left in December to become water master at Mendocino County's Redwood Valley District, said in early December that the the company was about to survey the community to determine how many people needed low-flow toilets.


For more information on water issues in Lucerne, visit www.lcwo.org.


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

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