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Local News

MUSD's recycled water project permit approved

 A map of a water project.
Mendocino County Planning Commission packet for July 6 meeting. Map provided by applicant.
A map of MUSD's proposed recycled water project.

The Mendocino Unified School District now has a permit to begin a recycled water project for fire suppression and irrigation.

The Mendocino County Planning Commission on Thursday approved a coastal development use permit for the Mendocino Unified School District to install a grant-funded recycled water project in the town of Mendocino.

The project, which has been five years in the making, includes pipelines, an irrigation system, a storage tank, and fire hydrants throughout the town. Planner Rob Fitzsimmons provided details from the staff report. The project’s goals, he said, are to use recycled water “to offset potable water use and provide additional fire protection.” The proposal also includes underground water pipelines and thirteen fire hydrants on Little Lake Street, Little Lake Road, and portions of Kelly Street, Ukiah Street,Kasten Street, Lansing Street, School Street, and within the state right-of-way on State Route 1. According to the staff report, “A new irrigation system would be installed at Friendship Park, and recycled water irrigation services would be provided to Mendocino High School and the K-8 School. A recycled water storage tank would be installed at MUSD-owned property at 44020 Little Lake Road.”

Matt Kennedy, a consultant with GHD representing the school district, told the Commission that, “The project is 100% grant-funded through a Clean Water State Revolving Fund grant issued through the Department of Finance and the State Water Resources Control Board.”

Kennedy emphasized that the water will be used for fire protection and to ease the strain on the area’s limited groundwater. He said the school district will also be able to irrigate its playing fields, which it has not been able to do since the beginning of the drought. “So this recycled water system would further support a reduction in the use of limited groundwater supplies for non-potable purposes,” he said. “The other benefit is the increased fire protection that this project would bring. The community of Mendocino has no dedicated fire protection outside of a couple of tanks that supply water to small residential developments. This would significantly augment the existing system that serves Mendocino, which is a school district-owned water system. So those are the only fire hydrants in town, are those that were installed as part of the school district’s water system.”

Commissioner Marie Jones asked if the project is likely to induce growth. Julia Krog, Director of Planning and Building Services, explained that she thinks commercial expansion has been limited due to requirements for commercial groundwater extraction permits, rather than the lack of a fire suppression system. “I think this will overall be a benefit to the community, but it’s because there are so many other factors at play,” she said. “I’m not aware that there have been limitations on folks who have wanted to do activities but can’t because of fire suppression issues.”

The Commission voted unanimously to approve the project, after amending the permit to add a requirement that the work be monitored by a representative of a local Native American tribe. The three commissioners present were Jones, vice-chair Cliff Paulin, and James Ramos.

In Planning Commission developments elsewhere, the Redwood Credit Union is appealing the Ukiah City Planning Commission’s decision to turn down its proposal for a new branch on the corner of Perkins and South Main. The Commission denied a major site development permit last month, saying the proposal does not comply with the design standards of the general plan and the downtown zoning code.

Redwood Credit Union’s appeal is scheduled to come before the Ukiah City Council on July 19th.

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.