Town officials won't fight a state-mandated residential construction moratorium after all.
In March, the state Division of Drinking Water issued an executive order prohibiting the town from approving new construction and any new water connections. That order stops construction in Woodland Hills until state officials are satisfied with the town's water situation.Mayor Reed Larsen and members of the Town Council were considering fighting the moratorium, saying it would seriously crimp the town's ability to expand and possibly leave officials open to lawsuits from frustrated developers or potential homeowners. But after a sometimes heated exchange with concerned residents Wednesday night, the council instead voted unanimously to comply with the moratorium.
"Our voices were loud and clear," said Todd Rupper, who leads a committee charged with investigating Woodland Hills' water situation. Rupper actually contacted state officials after the Town Council failed to follow his committee's recommendations regarding a building moratorium.
A state engineer inspected the town's culinary and irrigation water systems this spring. Based on his report, state officials issued the order, saying that Woodland Hills didn't have enough water to supply its existing homes, much less any new developments.
Larsen had disagreed. He said standards the engineer used to make his findings are faulty. But now he and other leaders will begin negotiations to acquire water rights from a new well located within the town's boundary in Maple Canyon. That well is owned by local landowners who are hoping to develop the property nearby, which means a building moratorium could hurt those negotiations.
And now, Rupper and his committee have recommendations for town leaders regarding this summer's water situation.
The committee is recommending residents conserve on watering, with odd-numbered addresses watering on odd-numbered days and vice versa. Also, residents would be advised to water during the hours of 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. to avoid evaporation and not at all on Fridays to allow the city's water tank to accumulate reserves that would ensure firefighting efforts.
Also, Rupper is recommending that Woodland Hills officials use a "flag" system to notify residents as to the water situation on a daily basis. A green flag would mean that water reserves were ample and residents could water using conservation methods. A yellow flag would mean that residents need to reduce their consumption, and a red flag would mean all outdoor water usage would be curtailed because the town might not have enough water to fight a residential fire.
If that system did not work, the committee has prepared a resolution that would allow town officials to drastically raise water usage rates as a deterrent for high-water users.
"Hopefully we won't have to go that far," Rupper said. "Our residents really turned around after the mayor asked them not to use so much water last year. I think they'll respond well to our recommendations."
Council members are expected to discuss water-usage recommendations in their Wednesday, April 26, meeting. That meeting will start at 7 p.m. at Salem Elementary School, 140 W. 100 South, Salem, and is open to the public.