MENDOCINO Co., 7/28/21 — A proposal to haul water from Willits to Fort Bragg via tankers on the Skunk Train is no longer being seriously considered, Willits City Manager Brian Bender said Wednesday evening during a staff report to city council.
“The proposal was to access water that we would be able to provide, and as noted on the agenda, we were looking at upwards of a million gallons a week,” Bender said.
After a series of stakeholder meetings the decision was made last week to forgo the proposal, and Willits is no longer being considered as a supplier for drinking water in Mendocino County’s coastal communities. Stakeholders are now looking at trucking water in from Ukiah, Bender said.
“It’s a relief, I believe, to have that off the table,” Mayor Madge Strong said in response to the news.
Willits has its own water woes and Thursday night the city will be enacting Stage 1 water conservation measures, which are voluntary, Public Works Director Scott Herman said later in that meeting. More information is expected on that this week.
The Fort Bragg City Council also discussed the Skunk Train proposal during their regularly scheduled meeting Monday night. Concerns were raised about the costs of transporting the water over the hill by train, as opposed to by truck, how most bulk water delivery is currently done.
The coastal city — which is currently in Stage 2 as a result of decreased Noyo River flows — has about a month’s worth of water in reserve based on the current rate of use, according to City Manager Tabatha Miller. The city has been working to secure alternate sources, including a well sharing agreement with the Fort Bragg Unified School District that should provide roughly 5 percent of the city’s total water needs.
“Are we okay?” Councilmember Marcia Rafanan asked. “I’m getting a lot of questions. Should we be nervous or scared because of the drought?”
“I don’t think there’s any reason to be nervous or scared but we should be certainly aware,” Miller said.