At the Fern Valley Water District board meeting, General Manager Steve Erler noted that decreased water pressure cited by some firefighters responding to the Howland fire may have been the result of an older 4-inch line feeding Howland.

“Firefighters took water from the hydrants at the dead end at the top of Howland and from the hydrant in front of the Stewart home,” said Erler. Erler noted there was a newer 8-inch line at Cougar nearer Fern Valley Road that could also have also been used to supplement fire suppression. “All our water is gravity fed,” said Erler, noting that he did not know if firefighters also used the Cougar hydrant.

Director Robert Krieger observed that a 4-inch line has about 1⁄4 the capacity of an 8-inch line. Erler said the district would make certain Idyllwild Fire Protection District has an updated map of lines and hydrants but also noted that the district does not color code hydrants for pressure. “We’re looking into that,” he said. Erler also noted that about 150,000 to 175,000 gallons of water were used to suppress the Howland fire.

In other business, the district granted an easement between the district and contiguous landowners Gary and Susan Weber. The easement for a sewer line requires the Webers and future owners to maintain the easement and restricts their ability to construct any structure that would interfere with that easement.

The board also heard from Wally Franz, vice president of Albert A Webb and Associates, about its proposal for a Fern Valley Road Pipeline Improvement Project including the provision of environmental consulting services in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The project, which would replace existing lines, extends from Rim Rock Road to the south side of Tahquitz Creek with extensions up Howland and Encino Roads in an anticipated first segment and continues across Tahquitz Creek up to the tank farm in a second segment. Once approved by the board, possibly at its next meeting, the environmental study could begin this year and the full project could be completed by 2014.

The board also voted to nominate Jo Mackenzie, a member of the Vista Irrigation District, for election to the California Special District Association.

The board heard from Office Manager Jessica Priefer that because of CalPERS rules and the board’s recent vote to change employee contributions, a new hire to replace a retiring employee might have to be delayed from May until July 1. Board member Trischa Clark recommended hiring someone on a training or temporary basis in the interim. Erler said he would begin to advertise the position and that he preferred to hire locally and find someone familiar with the mountain.

In his report, Erler noted that well production for March is down from a year ago (394,022 gallons this year compared to 541,730 in 2011), treated water storage is at 68 percent of maximum capacity and raw water storage is at 57 percent of maximum capacity. Static well levels for April show increases in well levels with the largest being in well number 10, up 8 feet over last month.

A draft policy and procedures manual was distributed to board members for their review. The existing manual was last revised in June 2007.