Tri-Valley Conservancy pushes ballot initiative for sewer line expansion | June 3, 2022 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |
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News - June 3, 2022

Tri-Valley Conservancy pushes ballot initiative for sewer line expansion

Livermore city staff to return to council with finalized language soon

by Cierra Bailey

Livermore voters may find a new environmental initiative on their ballots come November, proposed by the Tri-Valley Conservancy regarding a sewer line expansion into the unincorporated South Livermore Valley.

The Livermore City Council last week discussed the TVC's amended language for a ballot initiative, which would allow the city to extend sanitary sewer service beyond the urban growth boundary to serve wine country uses, according to the city staff report.

In November 2021, city staff presented draft language for the initiative and the council directed staff to modify the verbiage. Staff presented the updated version to the council on May 23. All five councilmembers expressed support for moving the ballot initiative forward and directed staff to prioritize clarity in the finalized version of the language with consideration to suggestions from the community and stakeholders.

"I do believe that getting the language right is critically important to getting this passed," Councilmember Trish Munro said. "I believe that if that's not the case we may have a problem with the representation of the initiative," she added while asking staff to make sure that the finalized language is "as clear and airtight as possible."

Councilmember Bob Carling echoed similar sentiments about making sure the language is clear. "I think to work and provide as much clarity as possible at this point would certainly be encouraged by me," he said, noting that they may not be able to avoid unintended consequences that arise in the future but they could do the best job possible now to prevent them.

Some of the community suggestions made during public comment at the meeting included clarifying the entirety of who the sewer extension will serve beyond wineries (including residents who live on Buena Vista Avenue), clarifying the restrictions for visitor-serving commercial uses, such as restaurants and tasting rooms, and addressing the impact to the Bottleneck Project located west of the project site that was identified in the 2017 Sewer Master Plan.

The land-use restrictions put in place by the South Livermore Valley Area Plan and Measure D -- passed two decades ago to protect open space -- would remain in effect with the sewer line expansion.

However, because the sewer line would cross the voter-approved South Livermore urban growth boundary, voters would need to approve the sewer line expansion for the plan to move forward.

If approved by voters, the extended sewer line would protect the groundwater from contamination and allow a limited expansion of wine country-related businesses in the area, according to a statement from TVC.

"Providing sewer services to homes and businesses located in the tourism core of unincorporated South Livermore Valley is a straightforward solution that would help prevent contamination from existing and future wine country uses," Lori Souza, chair of the TVC Board of Directors, said in a statement.

According to TVC, the construction of the proposed sewer line expansion project would have no direct impact on Livermore taxpayers, and the city has affirmed its existing wastewater system has the capacity to process the additional wastewater.

The cost of construction would be split between Alameda County, which would contribute $6.5 million -- 80% of the funds needed -- and commercial and residential properties that choose to connect to the new sewer line.

"A vibrant wine country is key to maintaining the South Livermore Valley's community character and agriculture economy," said Mark Triska, chair of the TVC's Land Conservation Committee.

"Right now, many vintners haul wastewater offsite at great expense, and new wine operations are hesitant to locate here because of the lack of wastewater treatment options," he said. "Without a healthy agriculture economy, the pressure will grow to develop open space in ways that go against the spirit of the South Livermore Valley Area Plan. Extending Livermore's sewer line would address this problem."

The city released a draft supplemental environmental impact report for the proposed project on May 6. The public comment period is open until 5 p.m. on June 20.

Following last week's direction, staff is set to return at a future meeting this summer with environmental documents and final ballot language for council certification and authorization.

Once the official ballot initiative language has been finalized and the environmental review process has been completed, the city will have the option to place the initiative on the November ballot. The deadline for including the initiative in this fall's election is in September.

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