Officials in Grass Valley are looking to the state for help on costly water-handling mandates they say will impact customers and dampen development.
In February, Grass Valley’s state-issued water standards were increased so that the city falls in line with the expectations and requirements of much larger, more dense urban areas, said Grass Valley’s Public Works Director and City Engineer Tim Kiser.
“Our question is, do we belong in that Phase 2 category?” said City Manager Dan Holler.
The increased expectations will not only force Grass Valley’s government to fund upgrades to its storm waterways, drains and other aquatic controls, but the requirements for builders would also increase, Holler said.
“It’s especially tough because on either side of us, just outside the city, there are different standards,” Kiser said of Nevada County and Nevada City’s lower-tier water permits.
“You could be constructing in the county and your requirements aren’t as strict,” he said.
In addition to more expensive development standards, Nevada County Executive Director Barbara Bashall said the city and contractors could face fines for noncompliance.
“You would be shocked at what contractors have to do,” Bashall said.
Grass Valley’s upgrades could include replacing storm grates, which would also require continuous cleaning, as well as vigilant testing of waters, Holler and Kiser said.
“The amount of money to fund our drainage system (upgrade) is probably millions of dollars,” Holler said.
“The last thing we want is to raise rates on our customers to meet these mandates,” he said. “It’s an ongoing issue as to who funds them.”
While Kiser said Grass Valley officials have a September meeting planned with state officials, the city has already jumped on a bandwagon calling for the state funding.
In August, the Grass Valley City Council passed a resolution joining the California League of Cities’ lobby of the California’s governor and the state legislature to allow a portion of state water bonds to go toward assisting local governments to implement the goals of the Clean Water Act and the state’s water objectives of conserving and reusing storm water.
Across the state, local governments lack the basic infrastructure to capture, infiltrate and reuse storm water as cities are faced with difficult economic challenges, the city’s resolution states. At the same time, federal and state financial assistance has been reduced due to the impacts of the recession and slow economic recovery.
Further, cities have seen their costs with the new National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit requirements double or triple in size in the past year, with additional costs anticipated in future years, the resolution further reads. Many local businesses have grown increasingly concerned about the costs of retrofitting their properties to meet storm water and runoff requirements.
“We are trying our best to see if there are any loopholes that Grass Valley can take advantage of,” Kiser said.
Ultimately, Holler said, a city that is unable to finance more stringent mandates might produce even less clean public waterways.
“It’s not that we disagree. We just can’t carry the burden,” Holler said. “If you want to achieve these goals, then step up on the other side and say, ‘This is how you fund it.’ Wishing it so doesn’t make it happen.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.