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August 24, 2011

MSWD Study Session - August 11

The audio recording of this study session of the Mission Springs Water District board of directors is available here.

Financial Master Plan

Raftelis Financial Consultants presented their proposal to handle the district's financial master plan as well as public outreach. They are competing against Glenn M. Reiter and Associates who made their presentation at the August 2 workshop. The presentation was led by Sudhir Pardiwala [yeah, that's a spelling I actually checked] who said he manages "the local office for our firm here in Pasadena."

I've uploaded a copy of the Raftelis Financial Consultants & CV Strategies powerpoint presentation to Google Docs.

Raftelis is a national firm working in water and wastewater. In 2010 they worked in 26 states conducting over 200 studies. They have an impressive background in published works. They work with the American Water Works Association, which is a big thing.

He introduced Erin Gilhuly of CV Strategies, whose firm would handle the public information and outreach aspects. She has lived in the desert since 1995. She ran the KPSP news room, she said. She said she had interviewed President Brown in the late '90s. She started CV Strategies in 2007. Her co-founder was Rob Bernheimer who was on the Indian Wells City Council. They serve developers and the public sector. There hasn't been much development work. They are "extremely entrenched in the community" serving retailers, organizations, non-profits, including Living Desert, CVEP, Boys & Girls Club. They have served over a dozen water agencies throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

She said her firm has been hired by PR firms from outside Coachella Valley to give their campaigns the nuance necessary for Coachella Valley. She people who don't live here don't understand the valley. They have a Spanish speaking employee who lives in DHS.

Mr. Pardiwala said he has 30 years of experience.

They have divided their approach into three phases. Phase 1 is to review district info. Phase 2 is model development. Phase 3 is master plan adoption, which would include a 218 hearing - which presumes a rate change.

He showed a sample of what he called their "dashboard of the financial model." It displayed 4 graphs simultaneously (revenue & debt coverage, reserves, CIP & funding sources). The dashboard had what he called "spin buttons" which would allow the user (district board and staff) to adjust the parameters and immediately see the potential effect. The sample showed only 4 "spin buttons" - revenue up and down, debt up and down. I'm sure it's got to be more sophisticated than that. If that's all it took to figure out how to keep a water district solvent, you'd only need paper and pencil to do it.

He then invited Cara Van Dijk from CV Strategies to speak. She said "You all have a copy of the RFP and have, I'm sure, already read in detail more of our public outreach plan." She said they felt that the public outreach component was essential because of the initiatives [well, duh!] and they expected to start almost immediately. They propose to create a utility advisory committee which would be made up of both board members and community members. They would meet several times.

She said that everyone knows Mission Springs. Everyone knows MSWD has the best water in the valley. Everyone knows about the awards won. But people take it for granted and don't understand what is behind bringing good water to their tap. It takes more than "dig a hole, get water." The district is fiscally responsible, the board is transparent and open, she said. The district needs to let people know what's behind the award-winning water and the value of it. They have a "tried and true plan" for public outreach:

  1. Facilities tour
  2. Overview of enterprises
  3. Benchmarking and level of service study
  4. Financial plan
  5. Preliminary rates
  6. Final rates
  7. Determine strategies for public outreach

[It doesn't seem right to me that the last step in a public outreach schedule is "determine strategies for public outreach."]

They would organize focus groups to test key messages for different segments of the community.

Mr. Pardiwala opened it up for questions.

General Manager Wallum said that RFC is one of the largest firms that do this sort of work. Mr. Pardiwala said they are the largest in California.

President Brown asked if this is a partnership between RFC and CV Strategies, or is it a subcontractor relationship. Mr. Pardiwala said it is currently written as a subcontract. Mr. Brown said he wished the board had the dashboard the last time they did rates.

Director Wright said she didn't get their proposal. Mr. Wallum said he thought the arrangement would be that the applicant would bring anything they wanted to give to the board. It turned out no director had gotten a copy of the RFP. One of the consultants said it was their understanding that John Soulliere had distributed it.

President Brown asked staff to articulate its preference for one applicant or the other, if it had one, at the Monday board meeting.

Engineering Services Contract for the Dewatering Belt Press Design

This would be to award a contract not to exceed $48,040 to AECOM. A representative of AECOM was there to explain the work. The design for Horton Phase 5, which included the dewatering belt press. Now the district wants only the dewatering belt press, so the engineers need to revise the documents to address only that. Also, the building will be in a different spot than originally specified.

Dewatering Belt Press Environmental Work

This would be to award a contract not to exceed $17,655 to Tom Dodson and Associates to prepare a mitigated negative declaration for doing the dewatering belt press.

Permanent Asphalt Repair Contract

After the district digs up the street to do a repair, it puts in an acceptable temporary patch. When a sufficient number of temporary patches are lying about on our streets, they send in a contractor to lay down some professional, up-to-snuff asphalt to please our friends at the city. Last year the contract was with Tri-Star. This year SoCal and Associates Plumbing came with the low bid, which is not to exceed $70,000 through June 2012.

Engineering Contract For Predesign of Sewers at I-10 & Indian

This is for approval of the scope of work and proposed contract agreement with Webb & Associates for $108,500 (plus 10% contingency). "A predesign establishes the points of connection necessary to coordinate a comprehensive sewer plan for this area that will connect with the future Regional Wastewater Plant and sewer interceptor already installed under I-10."

Director Wright pointed out that many businesses cannot get financing if they expect to rely on septic tanks. Sewers are necessary for the economic development of the area.

Water Quality Constituents In Mission Creek Subbasin

Earlier this year MSWD contracted with GSI Water to study uranium and nitrates in Mission Creek Subbasin. The preliminary uranium report is available here. The preliminary nitrate report is available here.

The presentation by Mike at this study session had already been given to CVWD and DWA in a General Managers meeting.

Mike displayed this temperature map which was prepared in 2005:
MSWD Temperatures 2004
Ground temperatures at a depth of ten feet
. The scale ranges from 20° (blue) to 32° (red) Celsius (68° to 90° Fahrenheit). The red diamonds are locations where probes were inserted into the ground. There is a correlation between water temperature and water movement. Water is moving faster in the cooler, blue areas. All the district's wells are in blue areas.

The maximum contaminant level (MCL) permitted for nitrates is 45 mg/liter. Here are the nitrate levels found in district wells:

  • Well 28 <= 6.3 mg/L
  • Well 30 <= 4.7 mg/L
  • Well 22 <= 4.7 mg/L
  • Well 24 <= 5.5 mg/L
  • Well 29 <= 4.7 mg/L
  • Well 27 <= 7.4 mg/L
  • Well 31 <= 3.4 mg/L

The most likely source of nitrates in this district is septic tanks, although there may be some coming from golf course fertilizer. The nitrate levels are rising in wells 28, 29 and 31 at estimated rates of 0.08, 0.11 and 0.04 mg/L per year. If the rate of increase were simply linear, this could go on for a hundred years and still be safe enough. But sometimes the rate of change becomes exponential. The explanation for Well 29 specifically is thought to be some broken septics that were found in the area which has a high concentration of septic systems.

Record amounts of water have been delivered to the Mission Creek recharge basins out along Worsley Road over the last year. It looks like this will continue for awhile. That big flow of water into the aquifer may begin to move contaminants toward the district's wells.

Vice President Bowman said there is a lack of data on the Desert Hot Springs (hot water) aquifer. He wanted to know if samples were needed from hot water wells to form conclusions. Brent Gray said that the district will monitor two hot water wells. One is on 2nd Street at the MSWD offices. The other is an "old fashioned well near Hacienda and Verbena." I wonder if that's the "artesian well" that we visited on the Mayor's Walk On The San Andreas Fault in November 2010. Mr. Bowman suggested that some of the hoteliers would be willing to let their wells be used for samples.

The MCL for uranium in California is 20 picoCuries/liter (pCi/L). Here's what's found at the district's wells:

  • Well 28 <= 22 pCi/L
  • Well 30 <= 24 pCi/L
  • Well 34 <= 20 pCi/L
  • Well 35 <= 14 pCi/L
  • Well 22 <= 15 pCi/L
  • Well 24 <= 14 pCi/L
  • Well 29 <= 9 pCi/L
  • Well 37 <= 11 pCi/L
  • Well 27 <= 5 pCi/L
  • Well 33 <= 4 pCi/L

Brent Gray said that Wells 28 and 34 are being treated. Well 30 is on standby (i.e., not in use). Mr. Wallum said he didn't think 34 was being treated yet. Mr. Gray disagreed. Skyborne pays for the maintenance and rental of the treatment equipment until another well is built which can be blended with 34.

The federal limit is 30 pCi/L. California is 20. Mr. Wallum said there's a similar situation with arsenic where the federal limit is 10 [units unstated] and the California limit is 6.

Here is the map of uranium concentrations in the district. There are five colors used, but they're very hard to distinguish. Nonetheless, you can see the colored area is separated into five zones. The zones from low to high are

  • <5 pCi/L (blue)
  • 5-10 pCi/L (blue)
  • 10-15 pCi/L (purple)
  • 15-20 pCi/L (purple)
  • >20 pCi/L (purple)

The 3 purple zones are the northern zones, the two blue ones are to the south.
Uranium Concentrations Map for MSWD
Note that the map also shows the four CVWD wells that are north of Dillon between Little Morongo and Palm Drive. They're in the 5-10 pCi/L zone. The map shows that the uranium is following the flow of water. Uranium is found all over in Morongo Basin and it is believed that is the most likely source for our uranium. There could also be layers rich in uranium in the alluvial fan on which we live. Colorado River water is between 2 and 3 pCi/L, so it does not seem to be the source.

Mr. Bowman asked how the uranium scrubbers on the well heads work. Mr. Gray said it used a resin-ion exchange. Water goes through the resin and the uranium stays in the resin. When the resin begins to break down and let uranium through, the resin is pumped out and replaced. The spent resin is considered low level radioactive waste and gets delivered to Nevada. The treatment doubles the cost of producing water from a well.

Mr. Wallum said that when water consumption begins to rise, it will become more cost effective to build a new well rather than to increase pumping from Well 28.

Authorizing Delegates To Vote At LAFCO Special Districts Election

President Brown will attend the meeting as the delegate from MSWD.

Recommend Director Wright To Be Elected To LAFCO

If elected, Ms. Wright would serve as the Special Districts Commissioner. She has been serving as the Special Districts Alternate since 2008. In 2010 the Commissioner spot became vacant, so she has served in that position since.

Association of California Water Agencies Region 9 Election

The recommended slate includes voting for Craig Ewing from the Desert Water Agency as Chair. Director Wright thought that Kathleen Tiegs was more qualified for the position. A discussion ensued in which part of the concern expressed was that it might be politically inadvisable to go against the recommended slate to vote against someone from our sister water district.


A birthday cake was provided after the meeting to celebrate John Brown's birthday.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 24, 2011 at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

Two Dead In Joshua Tree N.P. Identified

The Sheriff's Department has released the identity of the two people who recently died in Joshua Tree National Park:

The man and woman found dead in Joshua Tree National Park on Monday, August 22, 2011, have been positively identified as Augustinus Van Hove, age 44 years, of [Tilburg,] Netherlands, and Helena Nuellett, age 38 years, of [Neu-Ulm,] Germany.

Investigators have determined the pair were tourists who stayed in the Coachella Valley the previous night and were en route in a rental car to Arizona. Evidence indicates they entered the park shortly before noon on the day they were found. The rental car was found abandoned in an area generally deemed impassable to passenger vehicles. Although the investigation continues and toxicology results are not yet in, at this point there is no sign of obvious injury to either person and the evidence indicates the pair both succumbed due to exposure to the elements.

UPDATE: The L.A. Weekly is reporting that the two tourists were searching for the location of the joshua tree used for the photo on the U2 album. If that's actually the case, these two were extremely ill-informed. The joshua tree on the U2 album was up near Death Valley and has died and fallen. The area of Joshua Tree National Park where these two died is in the lower Sonoran Desert, where joshua trees don't grow.

Filed under California,Coachella Valley | permalink | August 24, 2011 at 07:27 PM | Comments (2)

DHS Redevelopment Agency Board Meeting August 25

It's a special city council meeting, but it's going to deal only with redevelopment matters, so technically it's only the redevelopment agency board. Agenda here. They're going to vote on the resolution necessary to keep the redevelopment agency in existence while all the nonsense at the Sacramento level gets worked out. The meeting will be at 3 PM at the Lozano Center.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 24, 2011 at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2011

The Burning Man Clock

The Sacramento Bee has an article about the Burning Man Clock ("Burning Time") which, when complete, will be the largest timepiece in the world...for about 8 days. The center of the clock will have three lasers that will mark out the hour, minute and second as they sweep across the playa. Around the Esplanade, about half a mile away, will be a pylon for each hour. We are honored in our camp to have one of the artists who will be painting one of the pylons. He is supposed to arrive on the playa tomorrow to begin his work.

Since the center piece of the clock is not the Man and is not on top of the Man, I am curious to see how they will compensate for the shadow cast by the man. Somewhere around 8 or 9 o'clock the lasers will be obstructed, unless they've come up with something ingenious that they haven't mentioned to us.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | August 23, 2011 at 03:54 PM | Comments (1)

Has The Desert Claimed Two More?

Press Release: Two Dead Bodies in National Park
Agency: Indio Station
Station Area: Indio
Incident Date: 8/22/11 Time: 6:48 PM
Incident Location: Black Eagle Mine Road, Joshua Tree National Park
Reporting Officer: Lieutenant Terrence Tingle #1200


We are investigating the death of two people found in the Riverside County portion of Joshua Tree National Park.

About 6:48 PM on Monday, 8/22/11, a couple visiting the national park notified us they found a dead man along the Black Eagle Mine Road. Arriving emergency personnel found the dead man on the edge of the Mine road over a mile and one-half east of Pinto Basin Road, a major thoroughfare for the park.

A few hours later, deputies found the body of a female along the same road, about a mile east of the man. Deputies next found a car stranded on the same road about five miles east of the woman. Investigation shows the man and woman may have been travelling together and may have been using the car we found stranded.

Riverside County firefighter/paramedics assisted us as did a US National Park Service Ranger, Sheriff's Coroner's Bureau personnel, and evidence technicians. The investigation is continuing.

We ask that anyone with information about this matter call Investigator Prezell Burgie at (760) 863-8945, or the Riverside County Sheriff's Department Indio Station at (760) 863-8990, or by emailing us at IndioStation@riversidesheriff.org

Filed under California | permalink | August 23, 2011 at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial

Which had its soft opening today. A virtual tour which will do little to help you figure out where exactly it is:

But here's a nice map that stands still so you can look at it. If I've got this right, the statue of Martin Luther King is standing with his back to the Lincoln Memorial so that he is facing the Jefferson Memorial. That doesn't seem right to me, but maybe it came down to what land was available there. I'm sure it could not be a Republican/Democrat thing.

| permalink | August 22, 2011 at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

Waterloo, Iowa, Teen Beaten To Death

19-year-old Marcellus Richard Andrews was pronounced dead yesterday afternoon after being beaten early Friday morning by "a group of people."

[Nakita Wright] said the problems started at about 12:45 a.m. Friday when she and Tudia Simpson, her cousin, went for a walk down the street. Andrews opted to stay behind, waiting on the enclosed porch, she said.

The two women hadn't made it as far as Adams Street a block away when they heard yelling back at the house. They ran back and found a truck stopped in the street, and the occupants were taunting Andrews, calling him "faggot" and "Mercedes," a feminization of his first name, Simpson said.

At some point during the scuffle, Nakita Wright felt her leg brush against something on the ground. She looked down and saw Andrews.

"I tried to help him up, and then this boy ran back and kicked him in his face," Nakita Wright said.

After the brawl ended, she tried helping Andrews to his feet. He appeared dazed. She grabbed one arm and coaxed him as she lifted. He pushed up with his other arm, but then gave up.

Andrews was a step team captain with the Crusaders Drill Team at Union Missionary Baptist Church. He had been scheduled to lead the team's Saturday night performance at "March Against Darkness" and to deliver the opening salute. His expected death was announced over the PA system during an intermission in the performance. Here's a description of "March Against Darkness" from a couple of years ago.

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | August 22, 2011 at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)

Soroptimists Food And Wine Experience - October 29

Soroptimists Food And Wine Experience

Soroptimist Clubs Present

Cabot's Pueblo Museum
67616 Desert View Avenue, Desert Hot Springs

Food and Wine Experience

Offered by
Chef Andre Carthen and Sommelier Bruce Barett in Association with KathyIrelandWorldwide.com

Fine Wines And Cuisines From Around The County
Saturday October 29, 2011
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Tickets $50 - Includes docent tours
Lots of exciting raffle prizes
Entertainment by DHS High School Trio
Proceeds to benefit Soroptimist House of Hope

Soroptimist Patron Clubs:
Anza/The High Country
Cathedral City/Rancho Mirage
La Quinta/Coachella Valley
Moreno Valley
Palm Desert
Palm Springs
Twentynine Palms
Yucca Valley

For more information contact dreed66133@aol.com or call 760-835-4576

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | August 22, 2011 at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

"I'm A Climate Scientist"


Filed under Science | permalink | August 22, 2011 at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

The Man In Repose

The Man In Repose by John Curley
This is a photo of the Man supine, shot by John Curley
. They are about to attach burlap with paraffin to him so that he flames up better when the time comes. More photos and story here.

Filed under Burning Man | permalink | August 22, 2011 at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)