The Exeter City Council approves the last step in executing the Exeter and Tooleville water connection
EXETER – On Jan. 24, Exeter City Council had approved the agreement between the city and Tooleville, giving way to its final step which was approved at their last meeting on March 28.
The Exeter City Council approved the execution of the consolidation agreement between Exeter and Tooleville. This marks the beginning of much needed water infrastructure repair for both areas, and is set to put Tooleville’s water woes to an end. The agreement was passed on to the State Water Board in January and was approved with no changes required. Now, Ennis says that the next steps are to get everything settled with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) grant to get the ball rolling on the project. Since it would take years to reach a full consolidation, the city will first work on their emergency intertie solution, which will be an interim solution until then.
“We’re continuing to make progress. It won’t necessarily be a fast process, but we’re gonna move it along as quickly as we can,” Ennis said “However, we’re working through state funding and the processes for that, get contractors out there, getting the work done. We anticipate about two years or so for that to get finished.”
The consolidation agreement that was approved outlines the responsibilities of Tooleville Mutual Non-Profit Water Association (TMNPWA) and Exeter for making the water connection a reality. Under the agreement, the city will commit to improving the water connection for those within the current TMNPWA service area, which includes residential areas plus a restaurant that sits in Tooleville. Additional service connections will not be extended to new commercial uses or developments. Ennis said that the intent of this water connection is to serve what is already in Tooleville, not future projects.
On the flip side, the agreement reads that Tooleville will commit to support state and city applications for funding and projects that will be needed for the consolidation. They will be responsible for providing information needed for the project, and transferring over any customer accounts and ownership of water infrastructure to Exeter during the consolidation process.
“We’re going to keep pushing it through the process. However, there’s so much of a process that it will take some time, so it’ll just take some patience along the way. Until then, the emergency intertie is at least going to help take care of the water supply,” Ennis said.
Ennis noted in the agreement description that the project is contingent upon government funding. Because of this, the rates of residents for both Exeter and Tooleville will not be affected, and city resources will also not be diminished. The consolidation will also be under the agreement that it serves a community outside of city limits, but the consolidation will not be brought into city limits. After the consolidation, water rates and fees for the serviced areas will be subject to covering the costs of operations, maintenance, repair and replacement of the improved water infrastructure.
A LONG TIME COMING
This agreement was the result of a turbulent summer for Tooleville two years ago, as the town’s wells dried up and left them without any water for hydration, hygiene or cooking in July of 2021. One of the unincorporated area’s two active wells stopped producing water as of July 21, throwing the community into crisis midway through a brutally hot summer in the Central Valley and the beginning of another drought in the West. However, their water issues began long before their wells went dry.
In September 2019, Tooleville came knocking to consolidate their water system with their neighbors, but Exeter’s city council turned them down. Just a month prior, Exeter published their water system master plan, which identified some serious shortcomings of their own lack of water infrastructure. In order to even think about helping Tooleville, Exeter needed to fix their infrastructure before they could sustain another community’s water needs. Exeter identified about $15 million in short-term and long-term water infrastructure improvements.
On Sept. 13, 2022, the council adopted a resolution for the Exeter-Tooleville Emergency Intertie and Water System Improvement Project. The approval of this resolution enabled the city to finally receive grant funding and begin on a planned water improvement project with Tooleville, whose wells are not only running dry, but have been unusable for quite some time.