Oroville nears agreement for water right

OROVILLE – Oroville has been working on getting a transfer of the water right it acquired from Veranda Beach Resorts and their predecessors for nearly seven years – that process may soon be reality if Oroville can put a little money aside for conservation.

Rod Noel, Oroville Superintendent of Public Works, told the city council at their Dec. 16 meeting that the state Department of Ecology may look more favorably toward issuing the city a permit if they write conservation into their request.

In the past, according to Noel, the city wanted to pump water from one of the city wells to supply water to those living on the east side of Lake Osoyoos using the resort’s water right, however, Ecology said that they were two separate water sources – one fed by the Similkameen River and the other by the lake and other sources.

“We hired Aspect Consulting to work with Ecology to issue the transfer,” said Noel. “We looked at going through OCPI in an effort to show an ‘overriding good to the public’ as a reason to make the transfer… but we got challenged a couple times by environmental groups.”

So rather than go through the other process, Noel said Ecology might allow a transfer to the city’s well number 4 if a “conservation aspect” was added to the request. The city’s consultant recommended four items, which included a system-wide outreach to water users during low flow periods of the Similkameen; an increase in rates for excess use to enhance water conservation; pledging a portion of the rate increase to fund a water use conservation program and replacing appliances and city equipment with water efficient ones when they are need of replacing.

“What’s our time frame?” asked mayor pro temp Walt Hart.

“He felt we could get the permit issued by the end of the year,” replied Noel.

Councilman Ed Naillon wanted to know if the city had been considering a rate increase prior to this information.

“And will the rate increase be even larger based on this letter?” he asked. “Will we have to do a rate increase just to lubricate this water permit?”

Naillon was told that the city had been talking about a rate increase because there hadn’t been one for a couple of years – however, a special increase for the east side water users could be done in order to get the permit for their part of the water system. Water rates are already different depending on whether the customer lives in the city, or on the west or east side of the lake, explained Clerk JoAnn Denney.

Noel added that Oroville’s rates remained considerably lower than other nearby communities.

“We have to keep our rates affordable based on our population, not Omak’s,” said Naillon.

Noel said the wording of the letter was purposely vague, while Naillon and the other council members said they would like to see it more spelled out.

If we can’t get it done by next council, we can’t get it done. I just think our consultant would like to get it done while they’re (Ecology) in the mood,” said Noel. “We are already committed by state law through the Department of Health at 10 percent conservation.”

Naillon said, “Doesn’t seem Ecology has given us much guidance on how much we need to commit. It seems they will take as much as we can commit,” said Naillon.

“I agree we need to get it done, but we definitely have to watch our language,” said Councilman Jon Neal.

Patrol Car

Police Chief Todd Hill discussed purchasing another patrol car to replace one that has been costing the city a lot in repair costs.

“I’ve been looking around and think one that is for sale, a Washington State Patrol car, a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria, with 114,000 miles might be the way to go. The transmission was replaced in 2013 and the car has been well maintained,” said Hill, adding that the asking price is $2,275.

Since the item was in Hill’s budget the council gave their approval.

“The other thing with our department is the Tasers are getting old, they were purchased by Randy Wheat and the company says they will no longer replace or repair them,” said Hill. “If the Tasers don’t work than that gives us no other non-lethal option but the baton.”

Hill told the council he would like to purchase four Tasers with accessories like battery packs and holsters. The cost he said would be roughly $3,914 and would come from seized money.

“Do you have enough to do both the car and the Tasers?” asked Hart.

Hill answered that he did and that the Police Committee had already recommended the department make the purchases.

“Since it is already in the budget we don’t need a motion,” said Hart.