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Fall 2011 Newsletter

Welcome to Vista Vu Water Users Association's newsletter. Our purpose is to keep you informed about important activities and projects that your Board of Trustees is undertaking on your behalf.

Domestic System Expansion Completed

On October 12th, a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) connected to our new domestic well pump was turned on. This act marked the completion of a major domestic system upgrade that began three years ago. Mandated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, we were required to install an arsenic removal system in the domestic pump-house. Our arsenic readings had been acceptable until the threshold for human health concerns was lowered to 10 parts per billion (ppb) from the previous limit of 50 ppb. We also doubled our storage capacity with two above-ground 10,000 gallon tanks to permit additional hook-ups on Jack Crane's house lots on Engh Road and other legal subdivision of large lots.

Obsolete Equipment Replaced

Since most of our pumping equipment was nearing the end of its useful life, we included a new domestic well pump and motor in the project. The wisdom of this decision became clear when our old well-pump motor burned out on August 16th. When we examined the failed unit that had been in place for twenty-five years, the corrosion was so bad that the motor was hanging on by only a couple of threads and was ready to fall down the well! We have also replaced the old single domestic booster pump and motor in the domestic pump-house with a new dual unit running on its own internal VFD.

Contractor Was the Best

Your Board has nothing but praise for our prime contractor, Shannon Industrial Contractors, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. They were easy to work with and did first class work. Their bid was lower than we had expected and tasks that had been placed on hold due to budget limitations were included in a change order late in the project. As a result we have had Shannon install meters every parcel except Vanderstoep, Harrison, Stenberg and Elsbree properties. These will be located in one concrete tile and work completed by volunteers when the ground thaws in the Spring of 2012. Marsh will install his own and Shove's meters. Oestreich and Truitt are on one meter because we could not locate where Oestreich's line splits off. His meter has been purchased and will need to be installed when he can locate his line. Old corroded shut-off valves were removed as the pit-set meter boxes have their own lockable internal valves.

Paying for the Improvements

With the exception of some unforseen electrical work, all the contracted work was paid out of our Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) loan. At an interest rate of 1% on a 20-year loan this is very cheap money. But it must be paid back out of our operating budget, hook-up fees and, perhaps, water sales (see below).

Irrigation System Improvements

The Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) and related equipment to control the main irrigation pump have been functioning as designed through our 2011 irrigation season, now coming to a close. The reduction in the work-load and levels of frustration among the volunteer Board members who manage the irrigation system has been huge. Instead of running back and forth to the river several times a day to manually adjust pressure as owners turn their lines on and off, we turn the pumps on at the start of each set and ignore them until it's time to turn them off.

We have tracking our power usage and have identified substantial reductions that off-set recent PUD rate increases. During the 2011 irrigation season we pumped 4% more water than in 2010 while our electric power bills were almost level (up only 0.6%). For every 1,000 gallons we pumped there was a 16.7% reduction in power consumption after the VFD was installed.

Opportunity to Sell Surplus Domestic Water

Last November the State Supreme Court handed down an Opinion in Lummi Nation v. State of Washington that affects us in a beneficial way. Small water systems like ours with 15 or more connections will be able to distribute water anywhere within their service areas just as a municipality can. We will no longer be limited to just 25 connections, nor restricted as to where they may be installed. Further, we will be able to lease or sell domestic water to downstream users for either replacement of interruptible supplies or for project mitigation. Our ground-water right is no longer subject to relinquishment for non-use of water.

A developer in Bridgeport, AUSA Bar, learned from our Attorney that we had surplus domestic water and has offered to purchase an acre-foot for $7,500. There may be a requirement by Dept of Ecology that we prove connectivity to the Okanogan River before they will allow the water to be transferred, and, if so, there may be costs to hire a hydrologist to prove it. Once connectivity is proven, though, we'll be free to transfer any or all of our remaining surplus water to willing downstream buyers.

Doug Marsh has conducted an exhaustive investigation of our domestic water consumption and, building in a 50% cushion, has concluded that we can safely dispose of at least 10 and up to 15 acre feet without compromising our capacity to expand to 35 hook-ups.

Board of Trustees Burn-Out

This year, more so than for many years, the burdens of managing and upgrading your water systems have fallen on just a few shoulders. The administrative load quadrupled as a consequence of the bidding, contract management and flood of paperwork required by State agencies; and this was on top of your Treasurer's regular work-load of budgeting, billing, banking, book-keeping and chasing down overdue water payments.

Dealing with emergencies and glitches that arose during the domestic system expansion kept Board officers Skidmore, Marsh and Goodwin constantly running, giving up their annual leave, retirements and outside interests and hobbies since the early Spring. For example, when our electrician forgot to turn the well-pump back on after wiring in new controls, the tanks drained dry and caused the booster pumps to shut down. Attempts to restart them blew special fuses in the controller which were only available at one supplier in Moses Lake. Doug Marsh flew his plane to Moses Lake to pick them up and we were able to restart the system with minimal down-time, but much disruption of three Board members' days. And, when the domestic well pump quit in August, Stu and Bob worked for twelve straight hours arranging for emergency delivery of water by tanker truck and getting our engineer and contractor to accelerate the installation of a replacement pump.

Simply put, the stress and strain on Board members has become unsustainable. You, as members of the Association, will have to step up to serve on the Board, show up for work parties, learn to operate the new systems, or face sharply higher costs of water as routine and emergency tasks are contracted out to paid professionals. Every able-bodied Vista Vue owner is expected to contribute some of their time and energy to this community over the course of a year. If you can't do the physical work, those who can always appreciate someone bringing coffee and snacks to the work parties, running errands and helping with phone trees when emergencies arise.

Special Thank-You's

To Roscoe Howard for his helpful ideas and welding skills. He solved a vexing problem when starting the river pumps and was always there with good technical advice when we needed it. Roscoe also took his turns starting the pumps.
To Trustee Mike Stenberg for taking on the Board Secretary duties and help with managing finances.
To Lianne Marsh and Cindy Rose for staffing a phone tree when emergencies arose, or special notices needed to be communicated to members without internet access.
And, finally, to all of you who show up when there's a work party scheduled and pitch in to help.

Raft Removal Work Party

Volunteers are needed this Friday, October 14th, to help remove the raft and pumps from the river. Work starts at 8:00 a.m. The boom truck is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. We should be finished before noon.

Bob Goodwin
Vista Vu Water Users Association

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For further information contact: Stu Skidmore, President; Doug Marsh, Vice President;
Bob Goodwin
, Secretary/Treasurer; Mike Stenberg, Trustee; or, Ken Vanderstoep, Trustee.

We welcome your comments on the website.