To the Editor: More on the secretive city

Our city has quietly gutted their responsibilities for communication, transparency and accountability to the citizens of Ridgecrest for decades. Three significant examples are the casino that was planned behind closed doors for years, not dealing with critical water overdraft that has been known since the 1960s, and decisions regarding treatment of wastewater since the 1970s. What else does the public not know? This has got to stop! The citizens deserve leadership that will protect our resources for the future and ensure their actions are in the best interest of the public and our grandkids.

Wastewater Treatment Facility project: The proposed new WWTF is a joint city and Navy facility serving the needs of both entities. First, why is the Navy backing out of a successful working arrangement implemented in the mid 1970s? The current facility and the new proposed WWTF are both located on the same Bureau of Land Management land. Somehow the negotiations morphed from the need for a slightly increased no-cost easement footprint to a ratepayer funded lease.

The logic for this is difficult to understand considering other readily available options that include: 1. The entire WWTF could be moved back to the previous city site used until the mid 1970s. That site worked well for the city and could easily be updated to meet current needs. The city would abandon the entire Navy easement and revert to the 1970s operational mode. The Navy can choose to use the city’s WWTF or continue operating the existing facility for themselves. 2. The WWTF could retain the existing functionality at the Navy site and move advanced treatment either to city or IWV Water District property. Infrastructure is already in place to ship the secondary effluent from the Navy site to the city site. The Navy easement would certainly be adequate and likely could be greatly reduced since the tertiary treatment would eliminate much of the need for the numerous evaporation ponds.

The city’s approach to increase the easement footprint will have disastrous consequences in the form of increased cost to all city ratepayers. First, paying the Navy for a lease will clearly increase the cost of wastewater treatment, and the existing sewer fees are already too high. Second, if the Navy requires payment in the form of recycled water, the cost of augmented water could cost several thousands of dollars per acre foot. This will significantly raise the cost of future water. Recycled water given to the Navy will never be available to our future generations. The city’s current approach makes no sense from a financial or sustainability perspective.

City residents need to engage to protect their own best interests. All residents need to ask the City Council how the current negotiations are fiscally beneficial for the ratepayers. Secondly, I encourage all residents to ask Representative McCarthy for assistance to ensure the Federal Government will continue to honor the existing easement agreement with the city of Ridgecrest.

Raymond Kelso

Story First Published: 2020-06-19