The City Council received a detailed presentation about the Replenish Big Bear project at its October 18 meeting. Following discussion, Council expressed its preliminary support for the project, and directed City staff to work closely with other regional agencies to help develop an affordable and equitable financing plan for the City Council to consider in the future.
The Replenish Big Bear project is a cooperative effort among several regional agencies, and is being led by the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA). The Replenish Big Bear project would treat domestic wastewater to a standard that exceeds drinking water standards, and approximately 650 million gallons of highly treated water would be retained in the Big Bear Valley rather than continuing the current practice of discharging wastewater off the mountain to Lucerne Valley. Retained water would be used to recharge local aquifers, Shay Pond, and Big Bear Lake, and the project would help to ensure adequate water supply in the Big Bear Valley in the future during drought periods. In addition to increasing local water supply, the project could also raise lake levels by up to 4 ½ feet during future drought periods.
The total estimated cost of the project is approximately $56 million, and the total cost would be shared among many partners, including the Federal government, State government, and regional agencies in the Big Bear Valley. The key to moving the project forward is the development of an affordable and equitable financing plan, and BBARWA and other regional partners are aggressively pursuing Federal and State grant funding to minimize the local cost of the project. City officials will be working hard to identify a local funding source to complement other funding sources, and ensure that project costs are equitably distributed among the various project beneficiaries.
If an affordable and equitable financing plan is devised, the City's potential participation in this plan will be presented for City Council consideration sometime in 2022.