As the City of Beaumont works to distance itself from its recent corruption scandal, it is also under mandate to upgrade and expand its wastewater treatment plant.
In April 2015, the city issued a Request for Proposal to upgrade and expand its wastewater treatment plant. The work was requested in accordance with the agency’s application for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit renewal pending before the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (SARWQCB).
The project is expected to cost approximately $110 million and although it must be done, questions remain regarding how the city will pay for it.
The city’s outgoing mayor, Lloyd Wright, explained to a Press Enterprise reporter that a 2013 sewer rate increase has resulted in the city’s ability to raise about 60 percent of the needed funding; however, it is short of the funding necessary to complete the entire project, which includes tapping into the brine line. The Inland Empire brine line is a unique and indispensable resource for the Santa Ana River Watershed. According to the SARWQCB, it provides a facility for exporting salt from Inland areas to the ocean. Salt export is important for protecting water quality and meeting regulatory requirements.
According to Wright, the plan was to fund the balance of the project through debt. Yet the council has failed to clearly define how the debt should be repaid. One way would be to raise rates. At its December meeting, the city council considered a proposal that would have increased rates by 4.19 percent beginning March 1, and then another seven percent per year from January 1, 2019 through 2022.
The council decided to put the proposal on hold until later this year. This will allow time for the public to weigh in before the rates are increased as required by law.