During its evaluation of Idyllwild Water’s District’s application for grant funds to construct a proposed water recycling plant, the State’s Water Resources Control Board determined that Idyllwild’s population is too wealthy for a significant grant. Instead, the board is proposing a $973,000 loan coupled with about half the grant money.
Funding for the facility will not be denied, but more will be a loan to be repaid than grants or forgiven loans. The total funding tentatively being offered to Idyllwild is about $1.3 million, of which $324,000 is a grant and the balance a long-term loan.
The SWRCB has decided that Idyllwild’s median household income was $55,500. This is 90 percent of the state’s median income and to qualify as a disadvantaged community, the limit is 80 percent.
Secondly, the state agency compared the local district’s water rates to the median income and decided the rates were too low, less than a half percent of median income and the SWRCB recommends 1.5 percent.
A final decision will not be needed for four to six months according to IWD General manager Terry Lyons. The state still has to make an official offer and IWD must take several perfunctory steps before its application is complete, such as enacting a recycling ordinance. Nevertheless, the board was disappointed with the recent news.
At the March 20 meeting, the IWD board decided to continue to take actions to complete its application for state funding while investigating other sources of money in order to reduce the borrowed amount.
Other sources of possible funds include the Rural Water Association and the Department of Agriculture Rural Development funds, as well as a local bond issue, according to Lyons. In response to a director’s question, he stated his belief that the interest rate from the state would be at a substantially less than one for a bond issuance.
“The current exposure is minimal now,” said Director Jim Billman, in favor of moving forward until a final offer and decision is needed in the fall. “Technically it buys time to do research on better funding.”
At this point, IWD is completing its SWRCB recycled water application and will investigate other possible funding sources. Wednesday’s vote was not a decision to construct the facility. Without additional funding, some directors were concerned about the cost to the district of the project.
“We do need additional grant funding to do the project,” said Director John Cook. “It’s an important project if funding can be found.” Director Michael Freitas was more succinct, “Would we do it without additional money?”
During the discussion, the board expressed surprise that the previously optimistic and encouraging attitude from the state had suddenly seemed to change.
Anders Wistroms, IWD’s water consultant, said “It’s important to understand, California has been in a recession for years. The governor [Jerry Brown] has been using the money for other things.”
The board also plans to research the state’s assessment of the local median income figure. If it represents the entire 92549 ZIP code, the board thinks it may be high compared to just the IWD jurisdiction.
In other water business, Wistrom discussed his model of water supply and demand for the Tollgate Zone. He assessed the carrying capacity of the pipeline and the constraints on fire flow to Idyllwild Arts Academy.
The results of his work indicated that IWD could supply 700 to 900 gallons per minute to meet the school’s fire flow needs, he reported to the board. He and Lyons agreed that some modifications of the infrastructure would protect customers in front of the school’s pipeline.
The next day, Laura Sherman, Idyllwild Arts’ project manager, expressed optimism about the future resolution of the school’s request for will-serve letters. This specific topic had been pulled from the IWD agenda at Idyllwild Arts’ request. Sherman indicated the school may resubmit the application after they gain more clarity about the new process.
The district is continuing to work with Riverside County’s Parks and Open-space district to lease a site west of Delano Road for the location of a new storage tank to supply the Tollgate area.
In water business, Lyons continued to express concern about water levels for the district’s wells and especially Foster Lake, which was at 7.5 feet last month.
“That’s down from the past two years,” he told the board. “Several wells are also already dropping.” Despite the recent snowfall, Lyons was concerned that stream levels were not higher and that the recent high temperatures were melting the snow, which was passing through the community without percolating into the ground.
“We were able to move about two-thirds of the water to the lake compared to what we actually use,” he said. If IWD cannot fill Foster Lake before summer, Lyons is worried about the water supply through fall. “We need to get the lake ready before summer. Half-full doesn’t get us there. We have a limited supply of water — all rainfall or snow pack.”