The Ridgecrest City Council has approved not one but two potential sites for a new wastewater treatment plant, but only with the understanding a decision on the actual site should be made next month.


That was the upshot of a potentially confusing motion passed by council at its meeting April 19.
Council has been looking at two potential sites for the new WWTP: one on Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and one in Ridgecrest. Complicating the issue is the fact that the city has been waiting to hear from the Navy's Southwest Command on whether or not an easement will be granted on the China Lake site.


The decision last week did not make a determination between sites, but rather indicated either would be satisfactory with regard to environmental factors. It also included the stipulation that the item be brought back at the second meeting in May, presumably so one of the two sites can be chosen.


The China Lake site, which is essentially the one recommended by consultants Provost & Pritchard, is  estimated to cost around $50.6 million. The city site, meanwhile, is estimated to cost $57.5 million. Previous estimates were $44 million for the NAWS site and $50 million for the city site.


The item was listed on the consent calendar. It was pulled for discussion by multiple people.


According to a staff report, the Environmental Impact Report certified by council on July 6, 2016 looked at both sites and found them to have the same or very similar environmental impacts. Both sites would cause unavoidable adverse impact and would require a Statement of Overriding Considerations be adopted, which apparently has happened according to the report.


Speer said that normally the site approval would have been discussed last summer when the EIR was certified, but the decision was delayed “because there was an expectation that the Navy by this time would have provided the requested easement but they haven't.”


Speer added, “we need to complete this part of the environmental process that will put us in a position that irrespective of the Navy's decision we can move forward. We hope that we will have be able to receive an easement but that has still to be determined.”


Speer reassured council members that approving both sites did not restrict council from picking a specific one at a later date.


“This does nothing to take away that decision capability of council,” Speer said.


“The longer we delay this it seems like the more it's costing,” Council member Michael Mower said, referring to the estimated 15 percent increase in costs recently added to the estimate. “We need to make a decision [between the two sites].”


Council member Lindsey Stephens noted that the infrastructure committee seemed to feel strongly that the city site would be preferable, in terms of avoiding problems and hassles.


Mike Neel also spoke up, seconding this.


“I have been at almost all the infrastructure meetings and I will echo the impression that the best site is the city site,” he said. “It give us more control over our own destiny.”


Mower noted that judging by input from his recent “Coffee with the council” event “there are a few residents in that area that really don't want the sewer plant in their neighborhood.”


Much discussion centered on attempts to have outside forces such as Kevin McCarthy's office convince Southwest Command to make a decision. Captain Paul Dale, Commanding Officer NAWS China Lake also offered to bring more visibility to the issue at the previous city council meeting. The Daily Indpendent learned at press time from Speer that he just received the Navy’s comments and a request to call them.

We will provide updates to this story as they become available.


Mower ultimately made a resolution to approve the two sites, with the stipulation that the item be brought back before council next month.


“If we haven't gotten a response from San Diego or from Kevin McCarthy's office by the second meeting in May I think we have to make a decision,” Mower said April 19.


Approval was unanimous. All five council members were present.