|Casino gets use of RP sewer pipes
Approval of tribal authorities seems a mere formality
Rohnert Park’s City Council approved a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) to allow wastewater to be piped into the city’s sewer system and thence to the treatment plant Santa Rosa owns on Llano Road.
Tribal authorities must approve the JPA, but no problem is seen here.
This sort of an arrangement is nothing new to Darrin Jenkins, city engineer and director of development services. Sonoma State University has had a JPA with RP ever since its days on Collegeview Drive; both Canon Manor and Sonoma Mountain Village’s “job incubator” use city wastewater facilities.
“It’s the best way to mitigate impacts of wastewater and protect a groundwater source,” he said.
In his comments, Jenkins noted the Graton tribe’s “authorized to construct a new wastewater treatment plant and disposal system (overland effluent by spraying fields)” and the city could do nothing about it.
“Staff believes it is of the best interest of our residents to prevent that sort of construction; the environmentally preferred alternative…is connection to the existing Rohnert Park sewer system and the Subregional Laguna Wastewater Treatment plant,” said Jenkins.
This could be accomplished under JPA rules permitting government (Graton tribe) to government (City of Rohnert Park) pacts.
Graton tribal officials already have an analysis from RBF Consulting pointing out how this connection could be made. It would begin with underground pipes at the casino on Wilfred Avenue, down to the south end of tribal trust property along Business Park Drive and then east to Redwood Drive. South from here, a short hop to J. Rogers Lane and then west to the city’s pumping station. Next stop would be the Laguna Treatment plant on Llano Road. Estimated length of the underground pipe is 3,140 feet.
The tribe, including city’s expenses on putting together the agreement, would pay all costs of the project. The tribe would pay regular wastewater fees plus 10 percent because they’re from out-of-town. The city will also provide recycled water to the casino via an 8-inch new pipe the tribe will also pay for.
The Memorandum Of Understanding the city council approved in October 2003 listed wastewater disposal as one of its key points, mentioning on-site treatment or connections with the city’s sewer system. This was in Section 5 of the MOU.
Jenkins also provided a chart showing wastewater totals including current residential usage, specific plans already on the books and future projects.
“The city has sufficient capacity to enter the agreement and provide wastewater services to the Trust lands as well as other approved and future projects,” he said.
Jenkins also noted this JPA is “the first time the city determines what’s best for the community, not state or federal agencies.”
There were a few comments from the public, mostly about the speediness of the decision.
“This project’s going too fast,” said Eunice Eddington. “I think it should be delayed.”
David Grundman asked, “Why wasn’t the public notified about this decision? Station Casinos has gone bankrupt and the Graton tribe has a caveat in the MOU that if it can’t pay its bills, it doesn’t have to.”
Roy Iverson said, “We need a lot more communication and transparency on this. When you don’t let the people know what’s going on, the city’s lost their trust.”
Alisa Capalloni said, “The casino will cause broken homes and more crime.”
Pastor Chip Worthington, stepped down from his role as founder and director of Stop the Casino 101 Coalition to turn the lectern into a pulpit.
“The environmental impact statement (EIS) on the casino is specious. It’s not fact. In my opinion, you’re not protecting the public,” he said. “A rush vote on this is the height of arrogance, it opens the door to evil, corruption and dirty money if you vote yes. May God have mercy on your souls.”
The four city council members were not swayed by public comments.
“What’s the best way to protect the city?” Gina Belforte asked.
Amy Ahanotu echoed her question: “What is the best way to protect the interests of the city?”
Vice-Mayor Pam Stafford said, “You have to remember the feds and then the state approved the casino, not the city.”
Mayor Jake Mackenzie reminded the council,
it’s not the city’s job to get involved with the environmental impact statement, that’s a federal and state job. And our city attorney has told us CEQA rules no not apply to tribal lands already in federal trust. I think the alternative from our city engineer is the superior alternative.”
The vote was 4-0 with councilmember Joe Callinan absent.