By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Crescent City is running out of sewer connections, and that is raising concerns among Del Norte County officials who paid cash for connections they may have to wait seven years to use.

It leaves the county with the impression that we may not be able to exercise the permits we have paid for, said County Administrative Officer Ben Angove.

City engineer Mike Young said he understands the countys concerns and admitted at some point people who bought connections might have to wait.

Presently, 164 connections have not been taken. Those will be just a first-come, first-serve basis, Young said.

The wastewater treatment plant, located in Beachfront Park, is owned by the city of Crescent City. Prior to 1997, the plant was operating over its capacity.

Then the state stepped in, ordering the city to cease its practices and upgrade the plan to provide more capacity.

Since then, Young said the city and county have worked together to improve the capacity of the current plant.

Although currently enough hookups exist to serve everyone who has purchased connections, that may not be the case in a few years, Angove said.

Theres not a dispute as of yet, but were looking down the road at the hotel project and other possible big projects that would require several of those connections.

There may be a problem in the short term that if people want to develop in the urban services area outside the city, those connections wont be there, Angove said. We consider that sewer permits are like footballs, and because we paid for them with hard cash, we would hope they would be set aside.

The citys engineer said the county purchased its sewer connections about 20 years ago. Young said the city adopted the first-come, first-serve policy to accommodate those needing the connections now, instead of some unnamed future date.

To help solve the problem, the city is actively pursuing ways to increase the capacity of the current sewer plant to make even more connections available.

Well put in a higher pressure outflow pump to make outgoing flow faster, said City Manager Dave Wells, and that means flow going into the plant can be accepted faster, thus increasing capacity.

After making such changes, Wells said the city could then go to the Regional Water Quality Control Board to request more connections.

Cooperation and agreement between the city and county is crucial to getting state and federal funds for a new, larger sewer plant, says County Supervisor Jack Reese.

What troubles me is that here we are in the middle of trying to collectively put in an alternative site and we cant get the money from the government to do it, unless we work together on it, Reese said.

The new treatment plant, slated for 2007, is estimated to cost $33.9 million and is proposed to go in behind the Safeway, Rite Aid and Rays stores off Highway 101.

Both the city and county plan to hash out the details of the remaining sewer connections and how to distribute them. The city manager will make a presentation on the issue to the County Board of Supervisors on March 27 at their public meeting.

Issues surrounding present and future connections will be further discussed March 29 at the Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting, also open to the public.

We havent really sat down with the city and asked how many are left and what will be done with them, so this subject is going to be on the discussion table, Angove said.