Historical Summary

Written Statement presented at City Council meeting on March 2, 2009:

I would like to very briefly share with you some information I've gathered since the Special Meeting in January on the proposed 2 million gallon tank.

First, there was some discussion at that meeting regarding the need for storage for disasters. The '64 Flood and '92 Earthquake Fire were given as examples. For information on the '64 Flood I found a book, The Killer Eel at the Fortuna Library. It is a photo essay of the damage from the flood: the destroyed power lines, bridges, roads, homes and businesses. There are two photos of Fortuna floodwaters. In the caption is the information that "For several hours all of South Fortuna was threatened and more than 1000 persons were evacuated from their homes." The "Killer Eel" was kind to Fortuna. I also found in a local paper two photos of the Fortuna water department pumping plant. One photo was too dark for the machine to print, but the caption read, "Why you are boiling your water." (Dec. 31, 1964)

The City did receive $122,000 for flood damage. The June 30, 1965 Annual Financial Report, printed in the Humboldt Beacon, listed flood damage expenditures as of June 30th. They were for : water treatment, Wells No. 2 & 3, Water Site, Lift Station and Sewer Line Repairs. (Aug. 12, 1965)

As for the '92 Earthquake fire, the National Geophysical Data Center web site states an earthquake started the fire early Sunday morning and a second earthquake snapped the town's water main. Firefighters had to draw water from a nearby log pond to contain the fire.

In neither disaster was water storage the issue; the flooding of the wells and pumping station, power and piping were.

So why was Vancil built? In recent newspapers and the Staff Report (p. 25) it has been written that Vancil was built in direct response to flooding in 1964. This is not the case. Looking at Humboldt Beacon papers I found that the City Council "Accepted a bid. . .for delivery of laminated beams to roof the Vancil Street reservoir" only six months after the flood. Going backwards through the papers, I found that four months prior to the flood the City Council authorized the CAO and City Engineer "to start on the roofing project for the new city water reservoir."

And why were they building a new reservoir? Annexation was in the news. Two months after the '64 Flood the Humboldt Beacon reported that a petition was circulating "for one of the largest area annexations in the history of the City of Fortuna. . ." and on "continuing reports that many residents in the Kenmar Road and Campton Heights districts are anxious to explore the possibilities of annexation. Here again, the matter involves water,sanitation and lighting. . . " The article concludes "The City of Fortuna is not soliciting these annexations, . . .simply putting out the welcome mat, and preparing through constant utility improvements to make it possible. . ." (Feb. 11, 1965)

A couple weeks before this report the Humboldt Beacon reported that the Fortuna Area was to get a $13,000 planning grant. Perhaps the map in the 1967 Humboldt County - Fortuna General Plan Project was one of the results of that grant. The map shows the plan in 1967, 2 1/2 years after the flood, was for public facilities at the Vancil site, a tank reservoir. There are no public facilities planned for the Stewart Street site on this map.

I hope this information provides you with a clearer historical perspective as you continue planning for the use of our water rate revenues.

Note: As I retyped this here I corrected, and possibly added, a few grammatical and typographical errors. In addition to reading the written report, an apology for going over time and thanks for their patience were given orally.

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