But as officials get ready for that meeting, they're experiencing frustration in reaching agreements with water board staff about what the city's actual sewer capacity really is.
At the same time, an offer of help from the county may turn things around.
City staff updated the Lakeport City Council on the situation at its Tuesday night meeting.
The water board delivered a cease and desist order, which included a ban on new hookups to the City of Lakeport Municipal Sewer District (CLMSD), to the city Jan. 18.
The hookup ban resulted from an incident last April in which the city sewer system became overloaded due to heavy rains and problems with Willopoint trailer park's sewer system.
The city tried to release treated wastewater from its system through irrigation, in order to prevent its sewer ponds overflowing, according to acting City Manager Richard Knoll. However, due to ground saturation, between three and six million gallons of treated wastewater ran off the site, into a Clear Lake tributary and, eventually, into the lake itself, violating CLMSD's waste discharge requirements.
The city met with water board representatives last month to ask that the sewer hookup ban be lifted, but the board staff didn't agree to do so.
Knoll, updating the council Tuesday, said city staff has been working with water board staff to come to an agreement on how much sewer capacity the city has.
Up until last Wednesday, said Knoll, city staff were “pretty optimistic” that they and the water board would see eye to eye on system capacity in the form of a “water balance” assessment.
On Wednesday, city Utilities Superintendent Mark Brannigan explained water balance as “an engineer's look at what their prediction of capacity would be if a 100-year storm event was to take place.”
Howeer, Knoll said the water board has used a calculation method that shows the city a sewer capacity that is substantially lower that what it's permitted for, said Knoll, which is three million gallons a day during peak flow periods.
That doesn't bode well for the city's chances of having the ban lifted, he said. “I frankly am coming before you tonight to kind of prepare you," Knoll told the council.
The water board's calculations also indicate that the city has less sewer capacity now than it did in the late 1980s, said Knoll, a conclusion he called “completely absurd.”
Brannigan said at the meeting that city staff has been working long hours to remedy the situation. He said that Tom Warnock, ans engineer with PACE Civil, the company working on its sewer master plan and other sewer-related projects, has been working with the city to address the water board's calculations.
Supervisor Anthony Farrington told the council that the county is familiar with how difficult it can be to deal with the water board on such issues. “The county has been there and done that and has the regional board t-shirt, and it's not a good t-shirt to have,” he said, noting that ratepayers lose out.
Farrington said he'd been speaking with individual council members over the past week about the sewer ban, and that he was offering to go to the Board of Supervisors for some help.
Last year, the city and county made an agreement in which the city would take on sewer hookups from Lampson Field. As part of that agreement, the county would eventually help make improvements to the Rose Avenue Pump Station.
Farrington said he is considering asking the board for $500,000 to begin work on retrofitting the pump station in order to allow 100 residential unit equivalents – or capacity for 100 homes – to flow to the county's northwest treatment facility.
Those measures could help the city on an interim basis, he said, and might result in the hookup ban being lifted. Farrington also mentioned that the county is looking at a Lampson Airport sewer system project, which would remove more residential unit equivalents from the city's sewer system.
“It's an opportunity for us to partner,” he said.
The council approved a motion that included pursuing Farrington's suggestions, along with directing staff to negotiate a contract with PACE Civil for improvements to the city's sewer facilities, which would add more capacity.
Meanwhile, the city is preparing for the March 15 water board meeting in Rancho Cordova.
“It's hard to say what's going to happen,” said Brannigan, who explained that they're hoping to come to agreement with water board staff about capacity before the meeting arrives.
The best case scenario, said Brannigan, would be that the board would lift the ban. The worst case, he said, would likely involve the hookup ban staying in place, with the city in much the same position as it is currently.
Farrington said Wednesday that as soon as he receives a letter from the city formally requesting county assistance, he'll schedule the topic for an upcoming board meeting.
He said the proposal's details will become more clear in the coming weeks, as he meets with city and county staffs.
E-mail Elizabeth Larson at email@example.com.