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Published November 30th, 2016
MOFD to Work to Improve Poor Water Flow in Orinda
This hydrant on Charles Hill Circle in Orinda delivers substandard water flow. Photo Nick Marnell

Residents and board members have complained that substandard water flow to fire hydrants in north Orinda is so serious a community shortcoming that the Moraga-Orinda Fire District inserted water flow improvement as an additional element to its recently unveiled five-year Strategic Plan.
Outgoing north Orinda director Alex Evans has advocated for improved water flow in Orinda and Craig Jorgens, elected to fill Evans' seat, pushed for aging water pipe replacement in his campaign literature. Fire Chief Stephen Healy has maintained that even considering the 2 percent of the 1,430 district hydrants that do not measure up to current water flow standards of at least 500 gallons per minute, MOFD can handle routine emergencies any place in the district. But routine emergencies do not concern Orindans; they fear the potential of a serious wildfire that the inadequate water flow could not handle.
"It represents a significant risk to maybe the most vulnerable part of this district for a major catastrophe," Moraga resident and past board member Dick Olsen said at the Nov. 16 district meeting.
The catch for the district is that the underground piping infrastructure and the fire hydrants are owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Healy recapped a recent meeting he attended with EBMUD officials who told the chief that the water district will pay for 10 percent of a pipe rebuild if MOFD pays for 90 percent. "I have a major problem with that from a public policy perspective," Healy said. "I was very disappointed when I walked out of that meeting."
"EBMUD is tone deaf about replacement of its infrastructure," added board president Steve Anderson.
The water company serves 1.4 million East Bay customers and has to be mindful of everyone's needs, according to EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook. "We've been in conversation with MOFD regarding this issue for years," she said. "Our money is not our money. They are all ratepayers' dollars, and we have to be fair how we allocate them."
Understanding the political issues the district faces in this regard, the MOFD board agreed that just because it adds the water infrastructure project to the strategic plan, Healy will not be effective taking on the water district by himself. "We need to mobilize with cities and citizens' groups to encourage EBMUD to do its job better," director Brad Barber said. "It may mean for the city of Orinda to try again." Orinda residents defeated ballot measures in 2002 and 2006 to raise money for city infrastructure improvements, including hydrant and storm drain repairs.
The water district will hold a Fire Agency forum at its headquarters Dec. 13. On the meeting agenda appears an update on fire hydrant inspections. Healy and the MOFD board members plan to attend.
Though the success of the squeaky wheel may be overrated, "The wheel that never squeaks never gets the grease," Barber said, as he and the other four directors approved the water flow improvement project as part of the MOFD 2016-2021 Strategic Plan.

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