No sewer connection? No building permit

October 15, 2003 12:00 am
Progress is being made on the Peacock Creek fish ladder, under construction near the Smith River and just off Highway 197. The largest of its kind on the West Coast, the 180-foot-long structure will aid salmon migrating into the stream from the Smith River. Prior to the start of the project, a 4-foot concrete bridge support stood in the way of small fish trying to get upstream. "The fish would literally jump out of the water, hit the wall and float back downstream. It was a pretty bad fish barrier," said Del Norte County Engineer Art Reeve. The new structure is likely to serve as a model for other fish-barrier removal projects. (Eric Caldwell).
Progress is being made on the Peacock Creek fish ladder, under construction near the Smith River and just off Highway 197. The largest of its kind on the West Coast, the 180-foot-long structure will aid salmon migrating into the stream from the Smith River. Prior to the start of the project, a 4-foot concrete bridge support stood in the way of small fish trying to get upstream. "The fish would literally jump out of the water, hit the wall and float back downstream. It was a pretty bad fish barrier," said Del Norte County Engineer Art Reeve. The new structure is likely to serve as a model for other fish-barrier removal projects. (Eric Caldwell).

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

Builder Joe Pamplona was shocked when the Del Norte County Planning Department refused to give him a building permit because the county has run out of sewer connections.

No more building permits will be issued to anyone wanting to build outside the Crescent City city limits if the parcel they are building on requires a connection to the sewer system. All new buildings on less than half an acre must be connected to sewer.

The suspension of building permits will likely end in November, when the state is expected to lift present capacity restrictions on Crescent City's wastewater treatment plant.

"Somebody is not on the ball. My gripe is I am paying the tax assessed on my land for the repairs the county did on their sewer pipes, and I can't connect to the sewer or build on the land," Pamplona said, after arguing his plight at yesterday's meeting of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors.

Pamplona, of Golden State Construction, said he owns a small parcel off Humboldt Road in the Bertsch Tract and has already found a buyer for the single-family house he is hoping to build there.

Because his lot is smaller than half an acre, Pamplona is not allowed to use a septic system.

He said he was more surprised that the county won't let him start construction of the house than he was about the lack of sewer connections.

"I would like to be able to sign whatever it takes to get this project going. Why can't they issue me a building permit so that I can get started and just not give me a certificate of completion until I have the connection in hand?" Pamplona asked.

The supervisors promised to look for a way to allow builders to get permits so they can start construction before the sewer capacity is increased again in November.

The state water quality control board declared the city-owned sewage treatment plant at full capacity several years ago. The city and county have worked since then to increase capacity by fixing leaky sewer pipes and modifying equipment in the plant.

Most significant improvements were made in the past year and, in September, city officials asked permission from the water quality board to use the added capacity to issue 160 new sewer connections.

"We asked for as much as we felt we could absolutely justify, which was 160 connections," said Dave Wells, Crescent City's city manager.

Wells said the city's request will be heard when the state water board meets in Santa Rosa on Nov. 4 and 5.

As soon as the city's request is approved by the board, those additional sewer connections will be made available to the public.

Since 1981, the city has sold 2,900 sewer connections to the county and allotted another 140 connection to the county. The county has sold all of those. The city still has about nine connections available for builders applying for a permit to build inside the city limits.

And although the county has sold all of its connections to private builders, about 62 of those connections remain unused. Twelve of those connections are owned by individuals whose building permits have expired.