Government / Politics

San Juan Bautista moves ahead with water compliance projects

City Council addresses financing and formalizes project managers.

San Juan Bautista made progress on its water compliance projects on Feb. 16 as the City Council unanimously approved contracts for moving wastewater out of the city, financing, and a formalized agreement with the San Benito County Water District to provide water. 

On Oct. 15, the city opted to send its wastewater to the Hollister Wastewater Treatment Plant and to acquire potable water from San Benito County Water District’s West Hills Water Treatment Plant. On Feb. 1, SJB City Manager Don Reynolds went before the Hollister City Council to request collaboration on moving water to and from the city.

San Juan Bautista is out of compliance with its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, as it has been discharging excessive salt levels into the creek at its wastewater treatment plant. San Juan Bautista City Manager Don Reynolds has stated in multiple city meetings that he attributes a large portion of the high salt content to the city’s industrial areas. 

The city, which faces fines estimated at $820,000, has until Dec. 23 to resolve all violations with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. San Juan Bautista has also struggled to provide potable water to its residents, as high nitrate levels have been found in its wells, which have been the city’s source of water. 

Proposed water route between San Juan Bautista and Hollister. Image from San Juan Bautista City Council meeting on Feb. 16.
Proposed water route between San Juan Bautista and Hollister. Image from San Juan Bautista City Council meeting on Feb. 16.

At the Feb. 16 meeting, council members approved a contract not to exceed $1.06 million with Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. for project management, mapping, survey, permits, environmental services, property services, design, bidding and construction support. 

Reynolds said when 30% of the design is completed, the city and consulting firm will determine whether it’s feasible, at which point they’ll decide whether or not to proceed with the design. 

Council members also approved a contract for the San Juan Bautista to Hollister Sanitary Sewer Force Main Project, whose cost staff will continue to negotiate, according to the agenda packet. Stantec and Hydroscience were the only two bids received.

To come up with a financing plan, the county hired California Municipal Advisors, LLC as a financial advisor.

Reynolds informed the council that the city had submitted three grant and loan applications: two to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and another with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). He submitted the applications to the water board on Dec. 31, but said he has not heard back yet. 

“We’re looking at every possibility we can find to create permanent financing for this project in both federal and state resources,” Reynolds said. He added that once the city identifies costs, it could finalize the USDA application. 

Reynolds also told the council that the city had been looking to get a $1 million credit line to fund the sewer design phase. But around two weeks ago, the city received word from the USDA that it required San Juan Bautista to finance the entire project before providing long-term finance. This means the city would need to come up with $10 million.

Reynolds told BenitoLink the sewer project is estimated to cost around $13 million, and that the city will have a better estimate for both projects when the designs are 30% completed and right-of-way is identified. 

“To do that we need bridge financing, a construction loan essentially, and when the project is done the USDA and other resources will step up to provide the long-term debt,” Reynolds said. 

The city also formalized a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreement with the San Benito County Water District to import drinking water from the West Hills Treatment Plant. The water district will fund the feasibility phase and the city would repay it in the final project cost. According to the MOU, the water district will also act as the project manager. 

Other related BenitoLink articles:

San Juan Bautista selects path to resolve water problems

San Juan Bautista closer to providing clean water

San Juan Bautista accepts EPA terms on water issues

BL Special Report: Solving San Juan Bautista’s water problems

BL Special Report: San Juan’s wastewater treatment plant adds to city’s water woes

BL Special Report: Why San Juan Bautista’s million-dollar water fix was never implemented

BL Special Report: San Juan Bautista’s water problems reaching critical mass


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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.