Archive for the ‘Paul Helliker’ Category

by Paul Helliker

In a surprise move, the Sonoma County Water Agency has abandoned the Water Project, the new Environmental Impact Report for the project and the Dry Creek bypass pipeline and its request for additional water supplies from Lake Sonoma to meet future needs in Sonoma and Marin Counties.  SCWA proposed this major change in direction on August 25, but the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors postponed decision on the request until September 15, to allow SCWA staff to discuss the proposal with the cities and water districts with whom they have contracts to provide the additional water.  SCWA staff and three of the Supervisors met with the Water Advisory Committee (composed of MMWD and other retail water suppliers who buy water from SCWA), but failed to definitively answer the questions of the Committee members.  As a result, the Committee unanimously adopted a resolution to the Board of Supervisors, asking them to reject the proposal by SCWA staff.  The resolution further asked that SCWA work with the retail contractors to revise the 2006 Urban Water Management Plan, so that future decisions about the Water Project and the application for additional water rights could be based on sound analysis.

The reasons for the proposed decision include the claims by SCWA that the Water Project would be too expensive, that it would be inconsistent with the Biological Opinion to protect salmonids in the Russian River, and that it is not necessary, because conservation can reduce future demands and render the Water Project unnecessary.  However, no data or documentation was provided by SCWA to support these claims, nor was any substantive alternative plan provided by SCWA to meet documented future water supply needs.  Various retail water contractors provided extensive information refuting these claims, and a lawsuit to prevent SCWA from rescinding its application for more water supply from Lake Sonoma was filed by Santa Rosa, North Marin Water District and Valley of the Moon Water District.

Despite the inadequate substantiation of the reasons for the decision, and despite the fact that SCWA has contracts that obligate it to deliver all of the water in its current water right and in its request for additional water supplies, the Board of Supervisors approved the proposed actions on September 15.  The County Counsel assured both the Superior Court that heard the lawsuit (which requested a restraining order against SCWA to enjoin them from rescinding the application for more water) and the Board of Supervisors that the County would wait at least thirty days before rescinding its water right application.  The retail contractors are currently evaluating their next course of action.

The following articles in the Marin Independent Journal and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat provide more information on this decision:







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by Paul Helliker

At the August 19 meeting the MMWD Board of Directors unanimously approved a 5-million-gallon-per-day (MGD) desalination facility, expandable to 15 MGD, thereby keeping desalination available as one of Marin’s potential future water supply sources.

Earlier this year, on February 11, the board adopted several other water supply options, including operational improvements to the reservoir system, an expansion of MMWD’s recycled water distribution system, investigation into ways to improve the reliability of the district’s Russian River water supply, and further investment in MMWD’s aggressive water conservation program.

The desalination project approved by the board was the primary water supply alternative studied in an environmental impact report (EIR) that was certified by the board on February 4, 2009.

In the process of making their decision, Board members assured the public that each future Board action necessary before a desalination plant could be constructed and operated—such as contracts related to permitting, all design work, the issuance of debt, and the actual construction of a plant itself—would be subject to further public review and comment. In addition, a plan for providing renewable energy for the facility will also be developed and subjected to public review and Board action.

For several years MMWD has been investigating desalination along with a number of other options to provide an adequate and reliable water supply for customers during droughts and in the future. Specifically, MMWD has studied desalination since 1990 and initiated work on the current EIR in 2001.

The Marin Independent Journal has run a number of positive columns on desalination and this decision.  The first is a column by Richard Rubin, which is at:


Dick Spotswood, the political columnist for the Independent Journal, weighed in here:


And the whole editorial board of the Independent Journal provided the following support for MMWD:


The Pacific Sun also provided the following positive take on MMWD’s action:


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by Paul Helliker

IMG_2232MMWD is working to reduce our environmental impact by installing three photovoltaic energy projects at District-owned facilities: the administration building in Corte Madera, the corporation yard, also in Corte Madera, and the San Geronimo Treatment Plant in Woodacre.

This past weekend, electricity was shut off at the administration building so that the new rooftop solar array could be interconnected to the main service panel. Testing and commissioning will happen this coming week. The array is expected to be fully operational in early August and will supply 35 percent of the building’s annual energy use.

Altogether, the three projects will provide approximately 300 kW (kilowatts) of solar power and generate approximately 500,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of clean, renewable energy each year, offsetting 380,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year—equivalent to avoiding 380,000 automobile miles.

All systems will feature Suntech modules with industry-leading power output tolerances, high conversion efficiencies, and a 25-year power output warranty. According to Suntech, water districts are particularly well suited for solar power due to their high electricity usage and unique load patterns. By replacing expensive midday electricity with clean solar power, we’ll immediately reduce our electric bills and our reliance on carbon-based peak power.

The Corte Madera projects are being financed by $1.956 million in zero-interest Clean Renewal Energy Bonds (CREBs). The projects also will qualify for up to $577,000 in rebates from PG&E for California Solar Initiative performance-based rebates.

The investment in solar power is part of our larger commitment to manage our natural resources sustainably.

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by Paul Helliker

Water-Matters-Logo-SDMMWD has partnered with NBC—KNTV Channel 11—to create a dynamic new presentation of the state of water supplies and programs to conserve them in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The series covers the Marin Municipal Water District, the Sonoma County Water Agency and the Contra Costa Water District.  The series can be viewed on the KNTV website at the following link:


This series will be shown during the upcoming weeks on the local NBC broadcasts, at the following times:

Sat 7/25 11:00 a.m.
Sun 7/26 11:30 a.m.
Sat 8/8 noon
Sun 8/16 10:00 a.m.
Sat 8/29 3:00 p.m.
Sun 9/6 10:00 a.m.
Sun 9/13 9:00 p.m. (post NFL)
Sat 9/26 10:30 a.m.

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by Paul Helliker

It is with much sadness that I report the recent death of MMWD’s Board President, Alex Forman.  Alex had been diagnosed with cancer in 2005, and had been receiving treatment since then.  Alex passed away on July 9, 2009.

The following article from the Marin Independent Journal provides an excellent review of Alex’s life:


Alex was a dedicated member of MMWD’s Board of Directors, having been elected on a pro-conservation platform in 2000.  Alex served as President of the Board in 2004 and again this year, and was an active member of both the Watershed Committee and the Water Conservation Citizen’s Advisory Committee.  He was also a regular participant in the Tomales Bay Watershed Council meetings, serving as MMWD’s liaison to that group.

Alex will be remembered for his passion for meteorology and for hiking and bicycling the trails of MMWD’s watershed on Mount Tamalpais.  He always had respect for his fellow Board members, MMWD staff and for his constituents.  We will miss him greatly.

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by Paul Helliker

I am pleased to introduce this column, which is the Marin Municipal Water District’s leap into the blogosphere. Think Blue Marin will serve as a conversation forum about all things water in South and Central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, etc. “Think Blue” gives us the mechanism to have an online dialogue with you about these important topics.

We all know that California is again confronted with constraints on our water supplies. Water is a basic and essential natural resource that makes life possible for all of us and the creatures with whom we share this beautiful county. Our mission at MMWD has always been to provide residents of southern and central Marin high-quality drinking water in an environmentally-sound manner. This mission, coupled with our stewardship of Mount Tamalpais and Lagunitas Creek, is more critical than ever.

In this forum, I am looking forward to sharing what we are doing to ensure the reliability and quality of our water supply now and into the future. Other MMWD staff will be contributing to this blog to provide a comprehensive and genuinely interactive information channel. We are thrilled at the opportunity to use this space to talk about smart water use. We are even more excited to hear from you. Please check back often to learn about our programs, our people—to read our stories and to share yours.

Our hope is that by sharing stories, information, insights and opinions, we will together work as a community to protect our water supply.

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