Survey seeks info on river incomes

The Sonoma County Water Agency wants to find out family incomes of residents living within the Russian River Sanitation District where anticipated sewage system upgrades will require substantial state and federal funding.

Confidential household survey letters went out recently asking sanitation district residents to disclose their annual household incomes, information the agency says will help determine the district’s eligibility for grants or low-interest loans.

“We’re doing the survey to determine if the district qualifies as a disadvantaged community,” said Water Agency Programs Specialist Barry Dugan. A disadvantaged-community designation may get the district needed funding to help pay the anticipated expense of refurbishing or replacing components in the district’s aging sewage system.

“The facilities are approaching the end of their useful life,” said Water Agency General Manager Grant Davis in his letter asking residents to respond to the confidential income survey.

The sanitation district plans to use the district’s income information when applying for state and federal aid to upgrade the Guerneville sewage treatment and disposal system now 35 years old and in need of work.

“If successful these applications will relieve significant financial burdens on district ratepayers and materially reduce the likelihood of public health and environmental hazards by improving the sanitary infrastructure,” said Davis’ letter to customers. “The district’s success in receiving funding for these project depends on the participation” in the survey.

Work is needed at the sewage treatment plant on Neeley Road as well as on the entire force-main collection system piping wastewater to the Neeley Road plant.

The headworks and lift station improvements project “will address the condition, identify priority projects and design and construct the projects to refurbish or replace the treatment plant headworks and the lift stations throughout the collection system,” said Davis.

The force-main project will assess the condition, identify priority projects and design and construct the projects that will refurbish or replace the 9,000-foot force main that passes adjacent to and then under the Russian River to the Guerneville treatment plant.

“These projects will prioritize efforts to avoid pipeline failures and sewage spills,” said Davis.

 The Water Agency recruited the non-profit Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) to do the income survey to establish the district residents’ median household income.

“This information will not be made public,” said the RCAC survey letters. “No identifying information will be given [to] Russian River County Sanitation District, or the state Water Resources Control Board to maintain confidentiality.”

Once the completed surveys have been returned, the RCAC will calculate the district’s median household income. Because data will be a key factor in funding attractive grants and loans for the district, “it’s important that the information you provide is an accurate representation of the questions asked,” said RCAC.

“We don’t have a cost yet,” on the anticipated work, said Dugan. “When the assessments are completed we’ll know the cost.”

River sanitation district customers now pay approximately $1,500 per year per single-family dwelling to pay off principal and interest on the original debt needed to build the system.

The Russian River Sanitation District, which takes in most of Guerneville from Rio Nido to Vacation Beach, serves approximately 3,000 equivalent single family dwellings, all connected to the sewage system by a mandatory hookup requirement. Initial construction of the Guerneville sewage disposal system was completed in 1983 to replace the town’s individual septic systems, some of which were little more than redwood boxes buried beneath summer cabins.