By Chris Frost
Oxnard— The Oxnard Planning Commission held a public hearing on Aug. 15, to receive comments on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Public Works Integrated Master Plan.
The Public Works Department oversees the water, wastewater, recycled water, and stormwater utilities throughout Oxnard and faces challenges managing its services and future water resources.
Assistant Public Works Director Tien Ng presented the item and said the city wants to integrate the water, wastewater recycled water and stormwater while looking for opportunities to align projects on the same street. They want to do them at the same time. Doing this enhances the schedule and cost for such projects.
"The other thing we also look at for the integrated master plan is looking at water, wastewater, and recycled water," he said. "The city has a recycled water facility and is close to getting the permit for groundwater injection and subsequently pump it out as drinking water. Those systems need to be integrated and optimized, so we always know what the goal is."
Additionally, the existing facility needs rehabilitation and replacement parts, which are consistent with the city's 2030 general plan.
"Those projects that are identified in the master plan are to be implemented over the next 15-20 years," he said. "We've taken the draft master plan to the city council last year for discussion."
They plan to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in phases, he said, and every five years the city will identify and rehabilitate a portion of the facility.
Steve Brown from SMB Environmental told the commission that the master plan has to undergo a CEQUA (California Environmental Quality Act) analysis. His company prepared a programmatic EIR (Environmental Impact Report) which assesses the environmental impacts for the projects moving forward.
"For any potential environmental effects, we have developed mitigation strategies to avoid or minimize those impacts," he said. "The programmatic EIR provides the framework and umbrella for all these environmental projects and provides a 30,000-foot level for all the projects. They include broad mitigation strategies and recognizes that each project may require an environmental impact report."
Nothing gets built because they create a programmatic EIR, he said, and over the years they will need to do individual site-specific projects that may have exemptions.
"For example, if we create a storage tank, which falls under aesthetics and visual, it could obstruct a view and be an eyesore," he said. "A mitigation might be to fence it off, paint it a neutral color and blend in with the existing environment like trees and other natural things to hide it from view."
CEQUA requires an environmentally superior alternative, he said, and the company selected the city's master plan because it has benefits to the city's water system. The impacts can also be reduced to less than significant levels.
"However, the "no project" alternative which is required as part of the CEQUA analysis does not meet the city's goals and objectives," he said. "It does not allow the city to have a reliable and sustainable water supply to meet its 2030 planning horizon."
Public comments on the plan are due by Aug. 30.
"We're going to take any written comments we receive and respond to them individually in writing," he said. "We're going to prepare a final EIR that will be submitted to the planning commission. If you recommend it, then it would go to the city council for final approval."
Send comments to Kathleen Mallory, planning & sustainability manager, City of Oxnard, 214 C Street.