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Fifteen Years and $20 million

[whitespace] A look at Santa Rosa's wastewater history

1985: Some 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage accidentally are dumped into the Russian River, along with an illegal release of 750 million gallons of treated effluent. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board orders Santa Rosa to find an alternative to the Russian River as its primary wastewater-disposal site.

1992: The city decides to build a 185-foot-tall dam and a four billion-gallon reservoir near Two Rock west of Petaluma to store wastewater for summertime agricultural irrigation. Superior Court Judge Elaine Watters rules that the $4 million environmental study on the Two Rock project is incomplete. Santa Rosa goes back to the drawing board to look for a wastewater-disposal solution, including discharging wastewater into the Russian River.

1997: A coalition of farmers and environmentalists opposes a proposal for a west county storage and irrigation system, arguing that the city is planning to run roughshod over their property rights. The federal government puts Russian River steelhead trout and coho salmon on the threatened species list, putting pressure on Santa Rosa to stop its river dumping. A city-sponsored public opinion poll shows that 62 percent of Sonoma County residents oppose dumping treated wastewater into the Russian River, and 44 percent would pay $15 more a month to use wastewater for agricultural irrigation.

1998: The City Council votes to deliver 11 million gallons of wastewater a day to a consortium of investors at the Geysers to generate steam and electricity. The Alexander Valley Association and the Madrone Audubon Society file lawsuits objecting to a proposed pipeline route through the valley and the Macaya-mas Mountain Sanctuary Wildlife Preserve. Unable to win against the city's eminent-domain authority, the Audubon Society settles its claim with the city.

July 1999: The City Council and the Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities are expected to certify the EIR on the Geysers project and select a final pipeline route.

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From the June 24-30, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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