REGIONAL — Officials from the Zone 7 Water Agency recently reported an expense of $140,000 for the cleanup of one homeless encampment last year.

Colter Andersen, Zone 7 production manager, provided the figure during a Jan. 6 special meeting, noting that the expense stemmed from hiring a contractor to complete the 10-day cleanup.

“That 10-day clean up included propane tanks, a 55-gallon drum half full of needles, 40 tons of material taken in 14 40-yard bins,” he said. “If you imagine 14 of the biggest dumpsters you’ve seen — that amount of trash was taken out of Arroyo Los Positas behind Kohls and Walmart . . . We had 12 individuals get permanent shelter, so that was a good thing that came out of that.”

Zone 7 staff, he explained, also cleaned 11 encampments at four flood control channels in 2020. Andersen confirmed on Tuesday this week that the total cost of last year’s creek cleanups was approximately $225,000, including the $140,000.

In coordination with local cities, social services and law enforcement agencies, cleanups begin after homeless individuals receive a 72-hour notice. He went on to add that eight of the cleanups addressed debris only and did not displace residents of the channels.

Zone 7 General Manager Valerie Pryor stated that more people experiencing homelessness appear in the region’s flood control channels when local shelters are full. She noted that while the agency empathizes with the individuals struggling with financial and homeless insecurity, the danger of debris, impeded waterflow and hazardous materials must be considered.

“This can lead to instances where encampments dig into channel sides and undermine the structural integrity of the channels,” Pryor said. “We do have to balance the needs of our multiple stakeholders, and we are very empathetic to our homeless population, but we do need to maintain water quality and channel integrity.”

Los Vaqueros Expansion Gains Momentum

During the meeting, Marguerite Patil, Contra Costa Water District assistant general manager, presented an update on the Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion project, located along Vasco Road.

“We have a lot of momentum right now, because we got through our environmental approvals without legal challenge,” Patil said. “And we got approved by the federal government, so we can qualify for 25% federal funding. That was a big deal.”

Expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir will increase the reservoir’s capacity from 160,000 acre-feet to 275,000 acre-feet. The estimated total cost is $895 million, with $459 million in state funding, $223 million in federal funding and $213 million in local funding. Permitting and design are ongoing; construction could start as early as next year.

“What we are working on right now is forming a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) with all of our local partners,” Patil said. “We are doing a round of updates for these various partners to get their boards ready to consider approval of a JPA agreement to form a JPA.”

As a local partner agency, Zone 7 would have a seat on the JPA, once it is formed. Zone 7 Board President Olivia Sanwong said she was excited to see the project moving forward.

“For me, Los Vaqueros was one of the first projects I heard about as a member of the City of Pleasanton’s Economic Vitality Committee,” she said. “This is a project that really clued me in to all the complex decision making that’s happening with all the different agencies, so as you talk about the JPA, it really brings full circle all the different things that got me interested in Zone 7 and being here today.”

Patterson Pass on Track for 2022 Completion

The board also received its quarterly update on the Patterson Pass Water Treatment Plant Upgrades and Ozonation Project. The plant sits at 8750 Patterson Pass Road in Livermore. This capital improvement project costs approximately $110 million. It will double plant capacity, increase treated water storage, replace or upgrade major plant components, and improve treated water quality and plant reliability.

“The Patterson Pass Water Treatment Plant is being upgraded and expanded so that Zone 7 can continue to meet our commitment to providing safe and reliable water,” said Mona Olmsted, Zone 7 associate engineer. “The project is being funded by a combination of water rates, new connection fees and $19 million in bonds. The project is on track to be complete in spring of 2022.”

The Zone 7 Water Agency supplies treated drinking water to retailers serving over 260,000 people in the Tri-Valley. They also supply untreated irrigation water to 3,500 acres of South Livermore Valley vineyards. The agency owns and maintains 37 miles of local flood protection channels.