Tri-Valley voters will decide how to fill three seats on the Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors from among five candidates in the upcoming March 3 primary election.
The top three candidates with the most votes will win the seats outright; there will be no runoff election.
The at-large positions representing Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore for four-year terms are currently filled by directors Angela Ramirez Holmes, Dick Quigley and Sandy Figuers, each of whom is running for re-election. Two challengers are on the ballot as well: Laurene Green and Hugh Bussell.
Zone 7 was also set to hold an election for a fourth board seat, a special two-year term to complete the rest of an unexpired term left vacant by a midterm resignation last year. But Director Michelle Smith McDonald, the Dublin resident appointed by the board last spring to initially fill the vacancy before the election, was the only candidate to file for that two-year position so it won't appear on the ballot, with Smith McDonald winning the term unopposed.
Formally known as the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Zone 7 is a public agency that acts as a water wholesaler for water service providers in Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore and San Ramon's Dougherty Valley along with providing flood protection in the Livermore and Amador valleys.
Challenger Green, a hydrogeologic engineer from Pleasanton, told the Weekly that she will use her scientific expertise to "try to bring to a more significant level that we have clean, safe drinking water." Green holds a master's in civil engineering from Stanford University, and also sits on the city of Pleasanton's Committee on Energy and the Environment.
If elected, Green said she will make informed decisions about things like potable reuse -- better known as the process of recycling wastewater for potable use, which Green said doesn't have "the scientific assurance I'd like to see, so I'm not convinced right now" -- as well as flood control management and water storage.
Particularly, Green shared her concerns about PFAS, which are chemical contaminants that pose a health risk to humans and have been detected in some local underground aquifers. "We need to find the sources (of PFAS) and remove them, and that's a chore in itself -- that's the sort of thing I'd be proposing," Green said.
She also wants to expand Zone 7's water capture and storage capabilities, "which we not only need to do but, relative to climate change, definitely need to."
Bussell is a new challenger as well, but he might be familiar to locals; the Livermore resident ran in the 2014 congressional race as the Republican challenger against Rep. Eric Swalwell. Though Bussell lost that election, the tech industry professional said that he's now running for Zone 7 in the hopes of bringing a different perspective to issues like wise water use.
Unlike Green, Bussell wants to "see more of an exploration" of recycling water; he also said flood control management and water storage would be top priorities of his, though maintaining good relationships with various stakeholders should also receive attention.
"Our No. 1 interest is making sure we supply clean water to residents and that we're looking out for them," Bussell said. "We also have to be sure we're fairly allocating the cost of water. People that use potable water have different requirements than those that we give untreated water to -- we need to have a fair way of allocating those costs."
The incumbent directors seeking another term this year each told the Weekly that the board needs experienced members with deep knowledge about Zone 7 and its history, needs, priorities, partnerships and various projects.
Figuers, who has been on the board since 2008, and served 12 years before then in the '80s and '90s, said he brings that and decades of hydrogeology experience. Figuers is the current board president and sits on the ad hoc, finance and water resources committees.
"The water business over the last eight years has changed dramatically from outside forces, and because I've been on the board so long, I'm able to see some of the background of what these changes are being driven by, and some of the potential good points and pitfalls that are occurring from these changes," Figuers said.
"I can understand the internal workings of the basin as well as understand the internal workings of the State Water Project" that Zone 7 receives their water from, he added. "I'm the technical guy on the board. I want to remain on because you need all of these viewpoints and right now I'm really the only technical guy on there."
First elected in 2004, Quigley is another veteran of the Zone 7 board who decided to give it another shot.
"I thought about not running; I gave it a lot of thought, but I thought I had unfinished business," Quigley told the Weekly. "There are several very new and inexperienced board members in there, really good folks, and ... I know how long it took me to learn about water."
The former board president added, "I really believe water is a way to keep our eyes on the ball for a better quality of life," and that he wants to diversify Zone 7's water portfolio and be better prepared for droughts.
"I've followed the opportunities for storage; locally, in the valley, we have two opportunities, in my opinion -- Lake Del Valle and the Chain of Lakes," Quigley said. "Those are two current pieces of landscape that we have the ability to put more water in."
The network of non-vehicular trails along the Arroyo Mocho and Del Valle that connect Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin, and securing funding for various water projects are just a few of the items that Quigley said he's proud to have helped lead or support while on the board. Quigley also sits on the Zone 7 administrative and finance committees.
Ramirez Holmes, who served as president a little more than a year ago, joined the board after being elected in 2012. The Pleasanton resident owns a campaign consulting firm, serves on the ad hoc, finance and liaison committees, and is also well known for her nonprofit work.
Ramirez Holmes is running for re-election and said she also will ask to remain on the finance committee to "ask those tough questions and be sure the agency stays accountable."
She said her "most proud project has been the increased transparency with the public" by broadcasting meetings on cable access television, for example.
"I think those things have been really critical for increasing trust with the public as an agency, and I feel that's been a priority, my role as a board member, and I will continue to do that, hopefully," Ramirez Holmes said.
"It's a really important piece to ensure trust with our public but also with our retailers," she added. "When I first came on the board, Zone 7 did not have a very good relationship with retailers. I am very happy to say those relationships have improved, and our regular liaison meetings are a piece of that."
For more information about the March 3 primary election, visit the Alameda County Registrar of Voters at https://www.acvote.org/.