LOCAL NEWS | By Keila dos Santos
City Council Commits Budget to Non-Profit Water Agency
Council Holds Special Session to Approve $37,000 Budget for Sierra Watershed Progressive
At 6 p.m. on August 7th, 2018 the Ojai City Council called to order a special session about the availability of water in Ojai, as an urgent response to Sierra Watershed Progressive (SWP). The Sierra Watershed Progressive (SWP) is a non-profit that focuses on creating water conservation systems. Their mission is “integrating onsite water capture and reuse with watershed level planning to conserve water, sequester carbon and create beautiful ecologically sustainable landscapes.” (View Agenda Item Here)
SWP has been working with students and staff at Ojai Valley’s Thacher School to achieve the objectives of the Thacher School Water Management Plan. The idea at Thacher was to design and implement a comprehensive water management plan based on water management best practices. Some techniques include rainwater harvesting, grey-water reuse, and low water-use landscaping. This naturally inspired further investigation into the valley’s watershed and led to opportunities to develop a more resilient model for water use.
The agreement by Ojai’s City Council would fund Phase II of SWP’s Water Demand and Recharge Analysis. This would empower the city to make common sense policy and meaningful recommendations regarding the development of Ojai’s infrastructure. Ultimately, a “yes” vote would function as a funding bridge for the Sierra Watershed Progressive’s continued work in the valley, while more lucrative grant applications were pending approval.
City Manager Steve McClary requested the meeting so that SWP would meet the deadline to apply for a planning grant by the state of California, due on September 4th. Since grant applications take a considerable amount of time, it was noted, the next city council meeting on August 28th would hardly allow for sufficient time.
The initial grant would get SWP through the Phase I of their work in the Greater Ojai area to uncover existing opportunities for optimizing the local watershed. Approval of this resolution marks a commitment by the council to fund the next (Phase II), at an estimated cost of $37,000 to the city.
McClary provided a staff recommendation to endorse the project. He presented the fiscal impact of approving the request, “It would not be difficult to find this sum in the city’s Capital Improvement Budget of $437,000. “Typically,” he said, “we don’t get to all of the projects in the Capital Improvement Budget which usually results in a year-end surplus, anyway.” According to a representative from SWP, approving this Phase II budget could put the city in line for an estimated $2 million in potential grants for infrastructure development on Ojai’s water systems.
When the floor opened for public comment, Todd Coissart, Executive Director of Ojai Valley Green Coalition (OVGC) made a statement, “I’ve had an opportunity to see remarkable information that is going to empower the entire city.” He also mentioned his urgency and willingness for OVGC to to partner with and assist SWP in their efforts, thus assuming some of the financial burden.
Manager McClary explained that the since the project was still in process and under deliberation, the documents mentioned by Mr. Coissart were not yet public record. “We will bring these forward to the council once they are completed and accepted by staff.”
Mayor Johnston stated, “We’ve seen enough of this to take a bet that this is going to work out. Whether or not we win the bet, we don’t know.”
The agenda item passed with a unanimous vote.