Clearing-up Confusion: Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and The Humboldt Community Services District

by Ali Ong Lee

As part of our local governance series, in EcoNews, we have explored what Joint Powers Agencies (JPAs) are and reviewed Humboldt County JPAs whose collective decisions both positively and negatively impact the environment.  This month, we begin discovering Special Districts, which are another form of local governance by which jurisdictions are charged with cooperating to provide essential services, consolidate resources, and serve efficiently.  California has 3,300 special districts providing legal and regulatory oversight over necessary services—like water.

In particular, we examine two special districts often confused with one another since they are similarly named (starting with “Humboldt” and ending with “District”) and since both provide water services, in Northern Humboldt: the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) and the Humboldt Community Services District (HCSD).

California Special Districts: Quantities and Types


Airport Districts


Utility Districts


Reclamation & Levee Districts


Harbor & Port Districts


Healthcare Districts


Cemetery Districts


Library Districts


Irrigation Districts


Community Services Districts


Transit Districts


Recreation & Park Districts


Fire Protection Districts


Veterans Memorial Districts


Resource Conservation Districts


Water Districts


Mosquito & Pest Abatement Districts


Sanitation Districts


Further Context

To provide further context (in 2018) Humboldt County had a total of 60 special districts, with 1,135 employees, whose wages total $29,749,122—out of which $9,279.441 was the annual, total health and retirement contribution. Special districts comprise an employment sector, in Humboldt (


Infrastructure Districts

Both HBMWD and HCSD are independent, infrastructure districts, providing water services, as did the first special district, in California, in 1887; however, HCSD being a community services district, also provides retail sewer services, and street lighting services.

Special districts are limited purpose local governments – separate from cities and counties. Within their boundaries, special districts provide focused public services such as fire protection, water, sewer, electricity, parks, recreation, sanitation, cemeteries, and libraries.


Recently in the News

Both HBMWD and HCSD have both recently been in the news:

  • The Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria was proposing HBMWD consider exploring a controversial water extension for the Rancheria’s proposed development. The communities of McKinleyville and north of McKinleyville requested consideration of their water districts, and both potential impacts and encouragement of growth. 
  • HCSD has been trying to resolve issues with controversial the Martin Slough-Intercept Project, in Eureka, tied to the also controversial development of the McKay Tract whose planned sub-division has been seen as missing key environmental and energy efficiency protections and public transit and non-motorized transit options by the Environmental Protection Information Center, Humboldt Baykeeper, and Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities.


Some Similarities between HBMWD & HCSD


Bay Municipal Water



Community Services


Is a California Special District Is a California Special District
Provides Water Services Provides Water Services
Only water source is the Mad River One water source is the Mad River
? Accessibility options on website
Automatic bill payment option. Automatic bill payment option.
Pay bills on-line portal (Xpress Bill Pay) Pay bills on-line portal (USA E-Pay)
Bills considered past due after 21 days
Currently Meeting on-line during COVID-19 Currently Meeting on-line during COVID-19
No currently expiring seats are open for appointment. One open seat for appointment; board member Desiree Davenport resigned upon

moving out of the service area

Three director seats are open for election in November 2020 Four board seats are open for election in November 2020


Some Differences between HBMWD & HCSD

Differences Humboldt






Acronyms (vs. abbreviation) HBMWD HCSD
Services Provided Wholesale & retail  water services

and Recreational facilities

(Park 1 on West End Road)

(Park 4 on Warren Creek Road)


Sewage collection,

and street lighting

(no recreational facilities)

Area Served City of Arcata

City of Blue Lake

City of Eureka

Fieldbrook-Glendale CSD

Humboldt CSD

Manila CSD

McKinleyville CSD

15 square miles of unincorporated areas adjacent to Eureka city limits:


Elk River,

Fields Landing,


Humboldt Hill

King Salmon


Pigeon Point,

Pine Hill,



Proposed Spheres of Influence Areas (for expansion)
Board Meetings Once monthly, 9:00 am  Twice monthly, at 5:00 pm 
Meeting Notes on Website Yes No.  Meeting notes available upon request.
District Transparency Webpage ?
Number of Employees (2018)

28 27
Total Wages (2018)

$2,163,607 $1,321,414
Average Wages (2018)

$56,937 $47,833
Total Health/Dental/Vision Contribution  $687,541 $713,467
Total Retirement & Health Contribution (2018)

$985,216 $887.216
Staff Compensation (2018)

Superintendent $139.651

General Manager $132.651 (2018)

General Manager $135.107  

Superintendent $96,765 (2018)

Board of Directors District 1: Neal Latt (VP)

District 2: Sheri Woo (President)

District 3: David Lindberg

District 4: Bruce Rupp

District 5: Mitchell Fuller

Dave Tyson (President)

Dave Saunderson (VP)

Frank Scolari

Alan Bongio

Gregg Gardiner appointed 07/2020

Board Terms Expiring /

to be voted on this November 2020 Election

Neal Latt, November 2020

Sheri Woo, November 2020

David Lindberg, November 2020

Gregg Gardiner, Dec 2020

Dave Saunderson, Dec 2020

Frank Scolari, De 2020

Dave Tyson, Dec 2020

Board Annual Compensation Board members ranged from

$9,870 to $2,880


Board Members ranged from $2,550 to $100 (one meeting)


Board Health/Dental/Vision Annual Contribution Board members ranged from

$1,005 to $627


Board members ranged from $34,220




$0 (for one meeting in 2018)


In Summary

Although HBMWD and HCSD are sometimes confused with one another, they are two different special districts providing water, in Northern Humboldt.  In summary:

  • HBMWD is a municipal water district provides both wholesale and retail water services (commercial and residential) and maintains two recreational facilities.
  • HCSD is a community services district providing both retail commercial and residential water services, as well as sewage treatment and street lighting services. Ratepayers have submitted a petition requesting HCSD also activate its recreational services.  Some of HCSD’s water comes from HBMWD—adding to the confusion.

Their boards have very different personalities and very different constellations of professional backgrounds, with HCSD being comprised exclusively of developers who were mostly appointed.

Both HBMWD and HCSD have implemented rate increases, with plans to increase rates for rises in health benefits and infrastructure repairs and maintenance.  According to the 2016 “Report Card for Humboldt County’s Water Infrastructure” by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Humboldt earned a “B grade” for its water infrastructure—with more infrastructure funding needed for years ahead.  HBMWD provided for 43.96% of Humboldt’s consumption of water via a total of 199 commercial and residential water connections, while HCSD provided 8.18% of Humboldt’s consumption of water via a total of 7,284 commercial and residential water connections.


Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD)


Email: & Phone: (707)443-5018

Addresses: 828 Seventh Street, Eureka, CA 95501 & P. O. Box 95, Eureka, CA 95502

Current Mtg. Agenda:

Meetings: Once monthly, 9:00 am, on the second Thursday of the month.

During COVID-19: Zoom meeting & by phone 1-669-900-9128 (See Agenda for ID & codes)


Humboldt Community Services District (HCSD)


Email: & Phone: (707)443-4550

Addresses: 5055 Walnut Drive, Eureka, CA 95503 & P. O. Box 2158, Cutten, CA 95534

Current Mtg. Agenda:

Meetings: Twice monthly; at 5:00 pm on the second and fourth Tuesdays

During COVID-19: Public Participation teleconference (518) 351-9265 (See agenda for details.


Why It’s Important to Pay Attention to Water Districts

by Caroline Griffith

When we think of the Halls of Power in Humboldt County, it’s easy to focus on the big names: the City Councils, the Board of Supervisors, even the Planning Commission, but oftentimes decisions that affect the character of our communities are made by boards that don’t get a lot of attention. Community Service Districts and Water Districts throughout the region not only provide clean drinking water and wastewater treatment services, they also determine how development happens in their regions by deciding when and how to expand their services. Both of the Districts outlined in the previous article will have an influence in development projects that have been covered in previous issues of EcoNews.

According to Desiree Davenport, who served on the HCSD board for two years before resigning when she moved out of the district, one of the issues that came up when she was on the board was whether or not to spend HCSD resources on potential housing developments by providing the developer with a water capacity study, which they would need in order to permit their project. Subsidizing development seems like a hot-button issue, but according to Davenport, very few members of the public attend HCSD meetings to learn about these issues or comment on them. Many HCSD board members have ties to developers and have run unopposed in past elections.

The HBMWD, which is far more transparent and accessible than the HCSD, will have an impact on the Trinidad Rancheria hotel project, the Nordic Aquaculture fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula, and also weighs in on development in and around the Mad River, which is where its water is pumped from. The Trinidad Rancheria has requested the HBMWD extend a water pipeline to Trinidad, which could also open up development in the McKinleyville area.