Sonoma County Gazette, May 2011

Protest Hearing Announced for Fee Increases: Russian River County Sanitation District

Brenda Adelman

Ratepayers in the Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD) recently received an orange notice announcing fee increases for the coming year.  Sewer charges on the 2011 tax bill will go up to $1,153 for each E.S.D. (equivalent single-family dwelling).  Those of you who own more than one developed District parcel should have received one notice for each of your parcels and will have to pay that amount for each one.

There are two ways you can protest this annual fee hike.  You can attend the hearing at the Board of Supervisor’s Chambers on May 24, 2011 at around 10 AM. (575 Administration Dr. in Santa Rosa) and express your concerns to the Board of Supervisors (District Directors) directly.

You can also send in the protest form before May 22nd. The back half of the orange announcement is a protest ballot to send in to the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA).  If you want to object to the fee increase, then cut the orange paper in half, sign the form (You don’t have to add comments unless you want to.) and print your name below your signature.  Fold the form so that the District/SCWA address is showing and put a $ .44 stamp on it.  Do this for each orange announcement received.  (Please do not list multiple parcel numbers on one announcement; you MUST send each orange form in separately.)  If you lost your announcement, then contact the Agency at (707) 521-6200 and ask for another.  (Be sure to give them your parcel number(s).)

If 51% of the forms are returned (about 1400 forms), then the Agency cannot raise rates.  Even if they don’t receive that many, the more they get, the more they will know that ratepayers are tired of high rates.  Guerneville rates are higher than most Sonoma County cities.

Informational flyer is missing information…..
Included with the orange announcement was a flyer entitled, “Understanding Your Sanitation District Budget and Fees”.   The last section is entitled, “Where the Money Goes”.  A general statement takes up a third of a page and a graph that you need a magnifying glass to read takes up another third.  Under that it says, “The list of major capital projects planned for the district includes:  Capital Replacement Program, $250,000” and then one third of page is blank.

The brochure says nothing about the Disinfection Project, which will begin very soon and will take a year to complete.  We believe there are other projects planned for this year as well, but so far our request for information from our Supervisor about this notice has gone unanswered.

A recent newspaper article in our local daily said the Disinfection Project would cost 4 million dollars.  SCWA obtained a $2 million grant which was very good news, but the other $2 million was a loan.  The article mentioned it would cost $4 per hookup to pay back.  (That comes to about $13,000 a year.)  At that rate, with NO interest, it would take 154 years to pay back at that rate.  Obviously, there is a mistake.  While we don’t know the amount of interest, we do know there must be some and that would add significantly to the amount owed.

While we are concerned about costs and about poor communication with District ratepayers, we do not think that the Disinfection Project should be stopped. The RRCSD has had many water quality permit violations over the years, accompanied with high penalties.  These were a result of an inadequate disinfection system.  Our rates have included many thousands of dollars for penalties because of this.

Yet ratepayers are not being told in this announcement that the system also needs expanded storage and irrigation capacity to serve current ratepayers without causing problems to the river.  These projects may cost $10 million or more.  Local citizens have NO say in the management of this system except for this one opportunity to vote.  At a minimum, the Agency should have held meetings in the District to explain to the public what is happening in their sewer district and what future costs are going to be.

Finally, we believe that the County and Regional Board are hoping to expand capacity at the plant and then hook up Monte Rio to the system.  For the last sixteen years, our group (Russian River Watershed Protection Committee) has been requesting a comprehensive environmental review of all impacts if they intend to expand the current use.  Instead, they have added oversized components one by one, and have failed to conduct a full review.  The system almost always pollutes the river during very high winter flows, and we have reason to believe that some of the nutrient pollution in Monte Rio’s section of the river may be coming from RRCSD discharges.

PLEASE SEND IN YOUR ORANGE FORMS.  Suggested comments could include:

  • a request for periodic meetings in the District,
  • full disclosure of future plans for the system that includes a Master Plan for the District, and
  • comprehensive environmental review for any expanded hookups including cumulative and growth inducing impacts.


You may contact Brenda Adelman at with questions.