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
Reclamation & Levee Districts
Harbor & Port Districts
Community Services Districts
Recreation & Park Districts
Fire Protection Districts
Veterans Memorial Districts
Resource Conservation Districts
Mosquito & Pest Abatement Districts
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 (https://publicpay.ca.gov/Reports/SpecialDistricts/SpecialDistrictCounty.aspx?county=Humboldt&year=2018)
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
|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
BAY MUNICIPAL WATER
|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)
and street lighting
(no recreational facilities)
|Area Served||City of Arcata
City of Blue Lake
City of Eureka
|15 square miles of unincorporated areas adjacent to Eureka city limits:
|Proposed Spheres of Influence Areas (for expansion)||www.humboldtlafco.org/msr-soi-reports||www.humboldtlafco.org/msr-soi-reports|
|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||www.hbmwd.com/district-transparency||?|
|Number of Employees
|Total Health/Dental/Vision Contribution||$687,541||$713,467|
|Total Retirement & Health Contribution
General Manager $132.651
|General Manager $135.107
|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)
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)
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: email@example.com & Phone: (707)443-5018
Addresses: 828 Seventh Street, Eureka, CA 95501 & P. O. Box 95, Eureka, CA 95502
Current Mtg. Agenda: https://www.hbmwd.com/meetings
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: https://humboldtcsd.org/email-administration & Phone: (707)443-4550
Addresses: 5055 Walnut Drive, Eureka, CA 95503 & P. O. Box 2158, Cutten, CA 95534
Current Mtg. Agenda: https://humboldtcsd.org
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.