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County looking at wastewater options

Survey, workshop being held for residents’ input
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Facing the threat of heavy fines for not complying with tightened state water-quality regulations, Placer County is exploring two expensive options for North Auburn. One option — a pipeline to Lincoln’s wastewater treatment plant — has long been the county’s goal. But project supporters — including current U.S. Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville — have been unable to attract the needed federal and state funding to move it forward to construction. Estimated cost is $141 million for the pipeline. The county is now considering the option of raising residential rates to pay for the pipeline from the current $67.84 a month to $90 in 2009, $150 in 2010 and $191 in 2023. The second option would be to upgrade North Auburn’s Sewer Maintenance District treatment plant on Joeger Road. The county Facility Services Department estimates moving forward with that option would cost $87 million and increase the monthly sewer fee to $90 in 2009, $118 in 2010 and $159 by 2023. With large increases on the table, some North Auburn residents will soon be hearing Supervisor Jim Holmes introducing a phone survey that will help his board make a decision next year on one or the other. Similar decisions are being made by other municipal and county governments around Northern California, including Colfax, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Placerville and Auburn. Seeking a dialogue with the district’s current customer base of 7,818 connected property owners, the county has also scheduled an informational workshop Nov. 17 and is holding an online survey. Facility Services Director Jim Durfee said new requirements for the Joeger Road plant will be expensive to comply with and efforts to attract federal funding for the regional wastewater solution haven’t been as successful as the county would have liked. With new water-quality requirements on the plant due to be in place by 2010, the county is now at a point where it has to consider taking on an upgrade or pipeline construction with local funds, Durfee said. “We’re embarking on extensive outreach and the board will be considering options after the first of the year,” he said. Will Dickinson, deputy director for environmental engineering-utilities, said the county effort will hopefully bring a sizeable number of residents to the workshop to get their questions answered. Fee increases associated with the board’s decision next year would likely be phased in beginning next spring. Sewer fees are assessed annually and included in property tax bills. “We’re not advocating either one, and we’re not trying direct the decision one way or another,” Durfee said. “Both have their pros and cons. We want the public to be as informed as they can.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com. ---------- North Auburn wastewater options outreach Workshop: 7 p.m. Nov. 17 in the Community Development Resource Agency building, 3091 County Center Drive, North Auburn Telephone survey: 200 residents in North Auburn will be contacted in late November. Online survey: Available at placer.ca.gov/SewerDecision Comment forms: Request one at (530) 889-6846 or download one at placer.ca.gov/SewerDecision