Moving fast after a decision to plug into the state water system, Ventura city water planners have set a meeting for early next month to begin the difficult task of figuring out how to finance a $120-million pipeline and to prepare for any environmental challenges to the costly project.
The July 7 meeting between officials of the city of Ventura, Casitas Municipal Water District and United Water Conservation District will bring together the three partners in the plan to add enough water to sustain a population of 115,000 in Ventura by the year 2010.
Among the first challenges for the three agencies--meeting in the wake of a Ventura City Council vote authorizing the city to obtain state water supplies partly to improve the existing quality of local water--will be reaching agreement on whether to begin immediately with route and environmental impact studies.
Ventura Water Supt. John R. Mundy, who estimated that cost of the additional state water could eventually double local water bills, said this week that it could take a year to complete initial studies, and several more years to design and construct the 45-mile pipeline to Lake Castaic that will bring the water to Ventura.
Ventura, Casitas and United have been paying $1.4 million a year since 1963 into the State Water Project for the right to plug into the state system, but only last week did the City Council formally approve the final go-ahead as part of a comprehensive growth plan for the year 2010.
City officials have not yet committed to a specific financing approach for the pipeline, but Mundy and others said the two most likely financing routes would be general obligation or municipal revenue bonds.
In the debate that preceded the water vote, council members de-emphasized the importance of additional state water for a larger population, not wanting to tie the water issue to the controversial growth question. Instead, they stressed the poor quality of local ground-water supplies and said the new state water could make a dramatic difference.
Under the agreement with the state, Mundy said, the three water districts can draw 20,000 acre-feet of water a year from the state system, of which 10,000 acre-feet would be allocated to the city of Ventura. At present, the city uses about 23,000 acre-feet of water annually, about 7.5 billion gallons a year.
No Hookup Problems Seen
Declaring that he sees no major problems in the Ventura hookup to the state system in terms of water availability, David Kennedy, director of the California Department of Water Resources, said the only problem the city should anticipate would be some sort of environmental challenge to the pipeline.
"It will take several years, depending on the opposition," Kennedy said. "Every pipeline involves a lot of negotiation. There is always an environmental fight of some kind. It's kind of a full employment program for some folks."
Shelley F. Jones, director of public works for the city of Ventura, agreed that some environmental challenge can be expected.
"We need to perfect the route so we can do an environmental report," he said. "When you build a 45-mile pipeline, you go through a lot of places. That's one reason we need to develop the project scope a little bit more, get some route studies and do some preliminary engineering."