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As part of the Town’s Camp Fire recovery efforts, various grants have been secured. Starting with an initial grant by the North Valley Community Foundation, we were able to secure road rehabilitation funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to pave or repave all public roads within the next five years. The current construction schedule for the Paradise Sewer Project overlaps this road repair somewhat. If the proposed sewer project moves forward, one of our first priorities will be to adjust timing of road rehab projects to allow the sewer to be installed in advance of the road being paved. In a similar fashion, the Town is already working with other utility providers to coordinate the installation of their buried utilities with road paving.
In addition to the regional alternative, the Town analyzed a number of options for building its own wastewater treatment plant. Those options ranked lower in almost every category when compared to the regional alternative with the City of Chico.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is also very supportive of the regional alternative, which in turn may translate to financial assistance for both the Town and the City.
- Wastewater systems present economies of scale. As more people are served, the cost per person for treatment goes down.
- Revenue to the City from the regional agreement will provide financial resources for infrastructure projects in the City’s long-term Capital Improvement Plan.
- Regionalization will increase the City’s footing to secure future financial assistance.
- Regional recovery equates to a stronger economy for the Town, City and County.
No, the project is not part of groundwater recharge project exploration efforts by the Paradise Irrigation District (PID) or others. As of early 2021, PID is in the conceptual planning phases of its project and the Town has moved into the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) phase of the Paradise Sewer Project. The project’s EIR will not serve as an EIR for any other project.
Pipe alignment is one of the items the EIR process and Sewer Regionalization Project Advisory Committee (SRPAC) will discuss. Among other options, the EIR is analyzing an alignment that will run down Skyway, then along the anticipated future Southgate Avenue Interchange alignment, then along existing south Chico roads to the Chico WPCP.
Several short alternative segments near Chico will be analyzed during the EIR and a final route selected.
Professional studies from industry experts in every decade since 1980 have been completed and all essentially come to the same conclusion: the Town is running out of time. It is inevitable that the continual degradation of groundwater quality, and exceedance of soil capacities to absorb and treat high volumes of wastewater will require action on behalf of the Town and its constituents. Please see below for a quick recap of the various studies that have been conducted to date.
Over the past seven years, the Town has held 65 public discussions on the project in order to share information and allow for public comment. To learn more about these past meetings, click here.
Growth Inducement & Other Connections
The project is being sized to serve the urban core of Paradise, termed the Sewer Service Area (SSA). Generally speaking, the SSA includes parcels along Skyway, Pearson Road and Clark Road. The Environmental Impact Report currently being prepared will address serving the SSA.
If the project is approved, the Town will establish a procedure and/or policy to address consideration of areas outside of the current SSA but within the Town of Paradise jurisdiction. This procedure/policy will be developed prior to construction of the project. Ultimately those decisions will be made through the Town’s project development process.
As part of the HDR engineering work conducted in 2020, we estimated the amount of wastewater that would be generated in the Sewer Service Area (SSA). The export pipeline down to the Chico plant was then sized to handle that SSA flow, accounting for anticipated growth within the SSA over time.
The export pipeline will be a closed pipe, meaning no other connections to it are included in this project. Any consideration of future connections will be subject to environmental review and approval by each governing jurisdiction.
The proposed sewer system will function better with more initial flow. Therefore, the Paradise Town Council has directed staff to find a way to quickly connect as many parcels within the SSA as possible, at the lowest possible cost. However, no rules or requirements for connecting have yet been established. One option would be to develop a program that incentivizes or subsidizes early connections. The Town will continue to develop this approach, if and when the project advances.
The Town lost 83 percent of its residents during the Camp Fire. As the Town builds back and re-establishes its pre-fire population level, the project will support the recovery of housing and economic activity within the Sewer Service Area.
The project is being sized to serve the urban core of Paradise, termed the Sewer Service Area (SSA). Generally speaking, the SSA includes parcels along Skyway, Pearson Road and Clark Road. The EIR currently being prepared will address serving the SSA.
The transmission pipe between the Town and the Chico WPCP will be a closed pipe, meaning no other connections are included in this project. Any future considerations will be subject to commensurate environmental reviews under the purview of each governing jurisdiction.
Project Area Map
Governance / Legal Agreements
Yes, the City has a provision in its municipal code, Section 15.40.285—Regulation of Waste Received from Other Jurisdictions, for just such a case.
Section 15.40.285 begins with the following text:
- If another municipality or user located within another municipality contributes wastewater to the city’s sanitary sewer system, the director shall enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the contributing municipality. Prior to entering into an agreement, the director shall request the following information from the contributing municipality:
- A description of the quality and volume of wastewater discharged to the city’s sanitary sewer system by the contributing municipality;
- An inventory of all users located within the contributing municipality that are discharging to the city’s sanitary sewer system; and
- Such other information as the director may deem necessary.
Section 15.40.285 requires an inter-municipal agreement to address the following:
- The contributing municipality (Paradise) must adopt a sewer use ordinance which contains equal or more stringent standards as the City’s standards.
- The contributing municipality must prepare an annual inventory summarizing the entities discharging to the sewer system.
- Define which pretreatment and monitoring activities will be done by the Town versus the City.
- Specify limits on the nature, quality, and volume of the contributing municipality’s wastewater.
- Provide the City access to pertinent facilities, and pretreatment sampling and monitoring results.
- Specify remedies for a potential breach in terms of the Agreement.
When one agency has wastewater service provided by another (in this case, the City providing wastewater treatment service to the Town), a legal contract must be entered into that spells out all the details of that arrangement. There are two options for the Town and City to come together; these options will be discussed by the Sewer Regionalization Project Advisory Committee (SRPAC):
- The City and Town enter into an inter-municipal agreement, as spelled out in the City’s municipal code, Section 15.40.285—Regulation of Waste Received from Other Jurisdictions. This type of agreement is sometimes called a “contract to serve.”
- The City and Town create a JPA, which is typically more complex than an agreement. A JPA is an on-going entity with a governing board.
A significant portion of the pipeline carrying wastewater from the Town to the Chico WPCP passes through unincorporated Butte County. Therefore, a Butte County Public Works Encroachment Permit will be required.
In addition, the County will be an important reviewer of the EIR.
Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCos) review proposals for the formation of new cities and special districts, and for changes in the boundaries of existing cities and special districts.
Due to the fact that the Town sits outside of the City’s current wastewater service area, Butte LAFCo will need to approve the Town/City wastewater arrangement.
Butte LAFCo will also be instrumental in reviewing and commenting on the EIR.
Cost & Schedule
The next phase of the project will roughly cost $30 million, which includes design and right-of-way along with some contingency for inflation. We’re estimating the total project cost for construction to be approximately $152 million. The Town is attempting to obtain sufficient grant funding to cover the cost of constructing the Paradise Sewer Project in order to minimize financial impacts on existing property owners within the Sewer Service Area. More information on construction costs and connection fees will be available as the project progresses.
Once the project is constructed, parcels connected to the new sewer system will pay a monthly fee for operation and maintenance of the system. Parcels not connected to the new system will not pay this fee, but will continue to incur costs associated with their private septic tank systems.
As stated in the “Phase 1 Executive Summary” (HDR Engineering, November 2020), the estimated project costs are:
$30M Design and Right-of-way
The Town will pursue a number of potential funding sources during Phase 2 to fund both design and right-of-way efforts (Phase 3) and construction (Phase 4). Potential funding sources include:
- A state appropriation (working in conjunction with the City and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development funds
- California Department of Housing and Community Development, Community Development Block Grants – Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR)
- U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)
The City will not be out of pocket for any costs. During Phase 1, the Town worked with the City to estimate the potential costs to the City in Phase 2 to participate in the development of the project.
The current estimate for the City’s work is $300,000. Should this budget be exhausted, the Town will lead efforts to secure additional funding.
Construction for the project is currently estimated to begin in mid-2024 and go through late-2026.
Elected Officials Support
Congressman Doug LaMalfa:
“Completing the recovery efforts in Paradise requires that Sewer infrastructure be addressed and constructed. The intertie project with the City of Chico is a solution that will benefit the town of Paradise and the region economically. The proposed connection would also provide much needed upgrades to the water treatment infrastructure in the City of Chico where many residents of Paradise relocated. This is the most cost-effective option for ratepayers and I support this plan.”
Assemblyman James Gallagher:
“A sewer serving core Paradise areas will increase fire resiliency, improve environmental conditions, and aid the area’s economic recovery. I fully support the Town’s effort to provide sewer treatment via an intertie with Chico, and encourage close cooperation and collaboration between jurisdictions. This is a regional issue – the lack of sewer infrastructure threatens water resources and impairs the region’s recovery efforts. This option also provides for economies of scale, benefitting both jurisdictions by distributing permitting, operation, and maintenance costs.”
There are two main types of construction contracts for water and wastewater systems: a traditional design-bid-build (DBB) contract and the newer design-build (DB) approach. Under state law, both the Town and the Paradise Irrigation District (PID) are allowed to use the DBB approach, but not the DB approach.
AB 36 would give the Town permission to use a DB contracting approach on all components of the Paradise Sewer System.
AB 36 does not tie together the Paradise Sewer Project (led by the Town) and a potential groundwater recharge project (led by PID). It also does not commit either project to using the newer DB approach.