Feb 5, 2019
by Will Carruthers
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved emergency funding to repair a rapidly-degrading portion of a road near Geyserville, accepted a staff plan to offer financing to homeowners rebuilding their septic systems in a neighborhood destroyed in the 2017 fires, and discussed lawsuits involving the county behind closed doors at a Feb. 5 meeting.
The supervisors approved a staff request to fund emergency work shoring up a portion of River Road near Geyserville that has been degraded by the Russian River during recent storms.
Staff said that emergency work, securing rubber matting to the river's shore, would cost approximately $250,000, but potentially save lots of money in the long run. If the road continues to slip into the river, it would cost around $7 million to rebuild it further inland and purchase land rights from neighboring land owners.
Johannes Hoevertsz, director of the Transportation and Public Works, said the county had been monitoring the portion of River Road for three years. The county has applied for a hazard mitigation grant to pay for work on the stretch of road, but has not heard back.
The item was added to the agenda late because the bank degraded more during storms this weekend, according to Hoevertsz. In January, the bank receded by 3.5 feet. This weekend, it receded by another two feet.
"We don't know if we have a week or a month," Hoevertsz told the supervisors.
The supervisors' vote allowed county staff to waive the competitive bidding process on the project - which takes between two to three months - because of the added pressure of the project.
If the road fell into the river, approximately 400 residents would be cut off from town, according to Hoevertsz.
During a discussion about the funding, supervisors Shirlee Zane and James Gore referenced the county's Aggregate Resource Management Plan, a document meant to regulate how the county deals with gravel and dirt found in local rivers and creeks.
Zane said it may be time to "dust off" the plan as part of a discussion about keeping local rivers healthy while protecting roads from flood damage.
The supervisors unanimously accepted a staff plan to offer financing for Larkfield Estate residents seeking to join the county's sewer system as they rebuild their homes.
Under the plan, known as the Larkfield Estates Sewer Project, the county will offer low-interest loans for residents seeking to connect to a new sewer system serving the homes.
After the neighborhood was destroyed in the 2017 fires, residents weighed their options for rebuilding. While joining the sewer system would allow them more service options, it is an expensive process. The county decided to make sewer service voluntary for households rebuilding in the neighborhood.
Building the systems and connecting them to the greater system will cost between $62,000 and $75,000, according to Michael Thompson, assistant general manager of Sonoma Water's maintenance division.
There are 143 lots in the area and staff expects approximately half of the households to sign up for the program. Because construction costs rises by about three percent a year, connecting to the sewer system will become considerably more expensive over time.
A letter of intent to join the system is due by March 31. Staff hopes to complete construction by the summer of 2020.
County staff will host a public meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Riebli School to allow homeowners to sign up for the project.
In an afternoon closed session, the supervisors discussed a lawsuit involving the county in relation to the Potter Valley Project, a PG&E-owned hydroelectric facility in Mendocino County with an uncertain future.
The project impacts the Eel and Russian rivers as well as Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma. Supervisor James Gore represents Sonoma County on the Eel-Russian River Commission.
The full agenda is available online.
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