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City will have to tighten faucet

For water users who don’t comply with new emergency state regulations, the price of water is going up — way up. 

The State Water Resources Control Board this week approved an emergency state regulation plan that will ask local courts to fine water users up to $500 a day for failure to implement new conservation requirements. And if local water agencies don’t comply they can be penalized up to $10,000 a day. 

The regulations, which are the first of their kind in California since 1997, according to George Kostyrko, a spokesperson for the Water Resources Control Board, will go into effect “on or about Aug. 1,” according to a California Water Board’s press release, and will remain in effect for at least 270 days unless they need to be extended.

“We are facing the worst drought impact that we or our grandparents have ever seen,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus in the release. “And, more important, we have no idea when it will end. This drought’s impacts are being felt by communities all over California.”

For Crescent City, this means that a more restrictive level — Stage 2 — of measures in its Water Shortage Contingency Plan will be implemented, per the state’s regulations that require large water suppliers to activate such procedures, according to Public Works Director Eric Wier.

“We are what they consider a large urban water supplier because we serve over 3,000 customers,” Wier said. “The regulations state that we have to activate the plan to a level where the outdoor irrigation restrictions are mandatory.”

The restrictions, which will be discussed at the City Council meeting Monday, include: 

• Refrain from landscape watering between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

• Refrain from allowing water to run off any lawns, landscaping or gardens into adjoining streets, gutters, sidewalks, parking lots or alleys

• Refrain from hosing or washing sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking lots or other hard-surfaced areas

• Refrain from washing cars, boats, trailers or other vehicles except by hose with shutoff nozzle and bucket

• Equip any hose with a quick-acting shutoff nozzle

• Equip ornamental fountains, ponds or lakes with a water recycling system

• Promptly repair all leaks in plumbing fixtures, water lines and sprinkler systems

• Refrain from filling or refilling a swimming pool, spa, or hot tub

• Restaurants provide on each table a notice of water emergency and refrain from serving drinking water except upon specific request

• Hotels and motels provide in each room a notice of water emergency

“Right now we’re in stage 1 — which is voluntary water conservation and (is) basically just best management practices for water,” Wier said. “But this would go into stage 2, which is mandatory.”

Exactly how the restrictions will be implemented and policed are issues that will be taken up at Monday’s meeting, Wier said, although no votes are expected until the next council meeting.

Wier added that even though Del Norte’s drought situation isn’t as severe as other parts of the state, the conservation restrictions are still important. 

“Del Norte County is in a different scenario than Southern California,” Wier said, “so we’re not seeing the emergency conditions that a lot of the state is. But that being said, we’re in a drought too, and the water conservation requirements that (the state) is imposing here really are things that people should be doing anyway. Those are good practices regardless.”

Delinquent sewer accounts

At the other end of the pipes, people who were late paying their 2013–2014 sewer bills just got added to the county’s list.

Per a resolution passed at the last Crescent City Council meeting, the city turned over 28 delinquent sewer accounts to the county on Friday, which was the city’s deadline for filing its report. Now instead of sending payments to the city, delinquent account holders will have to pay the money they owe when they pay their property taxes.

“I imagine (the money) will get paid,” Crescent City Finance Director Emily Boyd said. “The alternative is don’t pay your taxes and lose your property at some point down the road.”

The delinquent accounts total $21,395, down from $29,689 when the city sent out letters to the account holders in June. Twelve percent of the original total was paid after the letters were sent out, and another 16 percent was paid after the council heard Boyd’s report last Monday. 

“Since we sent the letters out we collected 28 percent that was due, which is fairly typical,” Boyd said.

In 2012–2013, Boyd said the delinquent accounts, which also happened to come out to 28 (“It looks like there’s some repeat offenders here,” Boyd said), owed a total of $15,689 when the list was turned over to the county. “It’s a bit larger this year,” Boyd said, adding that she wouldn’t infer from that information that the change has anything to do with the sewer rate increases, which most recently went into effect on July 2.

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