WatchSonoma Watch

Rohnert Park to take casino sewage


The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria casino resort next to Rohnert Park will be connected to the city’s sewer system under a deal approved by the City Council Tuesday.

Site of the newly approved Rohnert Park casino. (PD FILE, 2012)

“It is the environmentally superior alternative,” Mayor Jake Mackenzie said of the plan, which means the tribe will not build its own wastewater treatment plant or dispose of treated water on its Wilfred Avenue reservation.

But residents criticized the arrangement, saying it was put together too quickly and adopted without enough thought.

“It is going too fast,” said Eunice Edgington.

The agreement, approved 4-0 by the council, is designed to protect the city’s groundwater supplies and guard against other impacts, such as “objectionable odors” from wastewater treatment on the site, said city officials, who proposed it to the tribe.

“We’re trying to provide an alternative that has the least environmental impact,” said City Engineer Darrin Jenkins. The plan brings to bear one of the limited means available to the city of minimizing the project’s impacts, he said.

The alternative, said he and City Manager Gabe Gonzalez, was a wastewater treatment plant directly adjacent to Rohnert Park over which the city had no control. The tribe, as a sovereign nation, is largely exempt from local and state regulations.

The federal government’s 2010 approval of the project explicitly outlines the tribe’s options as including either connecting to the city’s sewer lines or building its own facility.

Also, a revenue-sharing contract the city and tribe negotiated in 2003 provided for the possibility of a connection to the city and sub-regional system.

The tribe plans a 3,000-slot machine, 317,750 square foot casino complex and, at a later date, a 200-room hotel on 66 acres of its 254-acre reservation just south of Home Depot.

Jenkins said the tribe would be limited to 410,000 gallons daily of discharge into the system. That includes the hotel, he said. The plan also leaves the city with excess sewer system capacity, even after including other, unrelated proposed and potential developments, he said.

Construction of two pipes, each less than a mile long, would be required, and the tribe is to pay all project costs under the deal. Also, the tribe is to pay standard sewer rates plus 10 percent extra.

Residents on Tuesday criticized the council for not disclosing that negotiations were underway, for hurrying its approval and for not fully analyzing the ramifications to the city.

“This thing’s been bounced around for a while; it’s the first I’ve seen or heard of it,” said David Grundman. “It’s ridiculous.”

Others said that if the city had to deal at all, then it should seek a better one.

“Don’t sell yourself and the people’s assets cheap,” said Betty Fredericks.

But city attorney Michelle Kenyon said inter-governmental agreements such as the one the council approved Tuesday had to be concluded within 90 days of a March 30 agreement between the state and the tribe that allowed the tribe to build the casino.

“What happens if we ask to continue this or say ‘No?’­” said Councilwoman Gina Belforte.

“I don’t believe they will wait for future council meetings to decide what to do,” Jenkins said.

The arrangement will tie the casino project into a subregional wastewater treatment system managed by Santa Rosa that also serves Cotati and Sebastopol.

The system’s deputy director, David Guhin, said Tuesday before the meeting that the agreement has been examined and required inspection protocols are in place.

“From a sub-regional perspective it’s just like any other large customer,” he said.

Bringing a major new user online may also make future rate increases less, because debt service payments would be spread among more ratepayers, said Jenkins, the city engineer.

“I think what the city did tonight was in the best interests of the community, the environment and the tribe,” the tribe’s attorney, John Maier, said after the meeting.

Councilman Joe Callinan was absent.


12 Responses to “Rohnert Park to take casino sewage”

  1. Paying Attention says:

    Jake is on the SCWA water committee as well, he will see to it that his casino gets free water too, at our expense.

    Why hook up to RP’s sewer? The fire station that handles that area is unincorporated (Rincon Valley). So why not hook up to that fantastic Santa Rosa pipe to the geysers that cost RP so much?

    I’m sure this deal was already in the works for many years. Do you remember new sewer pipes being laid under the creek on the west side of 101 near I-Hop around 2009? I was wondering what was going on so urgently to cover a new pipe out in that area.

    Oh, and surprise, right after that – the RP citizens got raised sewer fees.

    These officials are not looking out for us, they seem to think their constituents are the big guys, not the little guys.

    To summarize: the people of RP do not want a casino and now we have to subsidize it with our limited sewer and water resources.

    We can remember this in November!

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  2. Manuel says:

    OK, how about we send all the sewage to Ms. Inzane Zane home, isn’t she full of it.

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  3. Sarkyfish says:

    And, what about the social sewage of all those desperate people sticking their last dimes into the slots?

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  4. John Hudson says:

    The “agreement” says that the casino will produce 410,000 gallons per day of wastewater. If they actually built their own wastewater treatment plant they would have to dispose of about 205 gallons of wastewater on each acre of adobe soil they own per day. This is, of course, physically impossible. The casino would be put out of business by its own effluent. That’s why I knew all along that the casino would have to hook up to the RP sewer. The treatment plant was never anything more than a big bluff. If the city council had not allowed the sewer hook up the casino would have been impossible. The city council lied when they said that the vote was not about whether they wanted the casino.

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  5. Much as I defer to bear’s knowledge of what is needed to flush a toilet and agree with him in principle that other cities should have a say in this disaster, it is clear that he didn;t get the memo: As a sovereign nation, Gratonia will do pretty much what it pleases and we can all just put up with it.

    If Gratonia discharges more than their allotted 410,000 gallons a day, I can’t wait to see the County’s response. Maybe they’ll declare war and invade.

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  6. 0 Representation says:

    I think what the city council did for the city of Rohnert Park was the very same thing the last city council did and the one before that which by the way included Jake MacKensie (one HUGE waste of a representative!) …. They sold our city out. And you know who will be picking up the bill? If you guessed the citizens of Rohnert Park you are correct. All incubents need to be replaced with regular people that ACTUALLY care about our city.

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  7. GAJ says:

    Bear, what’s across the road from Oakmont is the County facility that takes care of children when they’ve been taken from their parents due to some criminal, abusive or negligent activity.

    It’s called the Valley of the Moon Children’s Center…a worthy facility.

    They do great work there even if many of the line employees are not paid very well and many don’t receive benefits.

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  8. John Parnell says:

    Whether they like it or not, Sonoma & RP are going to take as much of the casino’s crap as Mr. Sarris wants to give them (both literally & figuratively). Better get used to the “reservation”.

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  9. Nicole says:

    All the money the city and county will collect from this project annually sounds more like the deal of the century to me. Great job RP city council!!

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  10. bear says:

    Let’s not forget that Rohnert Park doesn’t have a sewage treatment system. It is served by a REGIONAL system that also serves (at least) Santa Rosa and Cotati. All the treated wastewater gets pumped to the Geysers, and that pipeline has a fixed capacity. If memory serves, Windsor also uses that pipeline to dispose of treated effluent. And if Healdsburg doesn’t, they wish they could.

    But where’s the WATER coming from? From groundwater, which could affect local wells, or from SCWA, which also serves many cities and water districts as far away as North Marin and Sonoma Valley?

    Point is that other cities, starting with Santa Rosa, have a say in what happens to water and sewer capacity. Did Santa Rosa sign off on this? How about the County?

    That said, there have been numerous past examples of questionable urban expansion that use water and sewer capacity – starting with Oakmont, including whatever’s across the Highway 12 from Oakmont, and Fountaingrove and the Airport Industrial Park.

    But not to worry. The entire SCWA service area will be out of water to serve new growth by 2020. Remember that the SCWA spent millions on studies and EIRS to draw more from the Russian River water system (including Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma), then abandoned the effort?

    If there’s not water in the toilet, then there’s no way to flush it. Sometimes things are simple.

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  11. Chuck G says:

    What goes on in RP, stays in RP

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  12. Reality Check says:

    A 10% rate premium for the ability to hook up to a modern and EPA-approved waste water treatment plant is the bargain of the decade. It saves the tribe the cost of building a new plant, which would be far more than two short pipes.

    Worse, the city becomes a enabler to something it says it doesn’t want. The tribe says “we’re sovereign and independent, but oh, by the way, can we hook up to city services?”

    Rohnert Park has just made it easier for other tribes to do to other cities what’s been done to its citizens. Its says loud and clear, “the local pols will scream and shout a little, but in the end they’ll come around, and come around cheap.”

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