Most of 2021’s last Fern Valley Water District (FVWD) board meeting was taken up discussing the proposed rain capture program Friday morning, Dec. 17.
Before that discussion, President Richard Schnetzer mentioned that former Idyllwild Water District Director Dave Hunt was supposed to be at the meeting to discuss the cloud seeding project the Santa Ana River Watershed Weather Modification Pilot Program is proposing. Hunt was not at the meeting and later told the Town Crier he could not figure out how to get on the call. (FVWD uses GoToMeeting and not Zoom.)
Schnetzer and other directors were not enthused about the project and decided to drop it.
General Manager (GM) Victor Jimenez said, “The wells are doing good … The moisture has helped. Hopefully, we’ll be getting the creeks back.”
FVWD is dependent on wells right now because of high concentrations of total organic carbons in the low creek waters.
Jimenez explained to the board the process of how when a well has been used quite a bit, it takes a while to recover.
He reported that progress is being made on 2.5 kilowatt (KW)-capable solar panels for the filter plant, the only FVWD operation he recommended to the board for panels. Wicker Well recommended a cost of $300 to $500 to install timers in several locations to shut off operations during peak hours of 4 to 9 p.m. and save electrical costs.
Renova Energy recommended installing eight panels on the filter plant roof. Jimenez said FVWD would also benefit by having its own crews install the panels. The company make the recommendations but will not do the installations because the project is too small.
When asked, Jimenez told the board that installing the solar panels for the well pumps doesn’t pencil out. The pumps draw so much power that it would require a large solar field and be cost-prohibitive.
He said the solar panels in the office during summer when running air conditioning saves FVWD about $135 a month. Installing them on the filter plant could save into the high hundreds. “It makes more sense,” he said.
Director Gary Erb urged Jimenez to get the timers installed as soon as possible. Jimenez said, “Getting off at the peak will make a big difference.” The cost during peak is 31 cents per KW. Off-peak is 15 cents per KW.
As to the rain capture program, the board spent considerable time debating the proposed policy directors Walter Bonneau and Jon Brown prepared and have been tweaking over the past three meetings.
FVWD proposed to replace its low-flow toilet program with the rain capture program. Directors’ biggest concern is captured rain contaminating potable water.
They also debated the rebate amounts and again, as last month, whether to include existing systems. That is because the low-flow toilet budget contains only $1,300, according to Assistant GM Jessica Priefer.
Director Robert Krieger strongly prefers including existing systems for fairnesss.
Bonneau said he has walked around the neighborhood and counted 20 systems already and that could cost $2,000.
“What is the budget for this program?” asked Erb.
“That’s the thing we have to figure out,” responded Bonneau.
Krieger recommended staff survey customers as to who might be interested. Jimenez argued that newsletter surveys generate very little response. Krieger urged them anyway to try to write something that takes a complicated subject and makes it easy to understand.
The board also discussed replacing the engine in a 2016 F250 diesel vehicle that had a faulty repair resulting in engine damage. He said they could sell it next summer for $40,000 but it isn’t worth much now. The board voted to replace the engine for no more than $20,000. Bonneau abstained.
The board unanimously approved the 2000-2021 fiscal year audit.