The development of two new municipal wells in Cloverdale could be expedited thanks to, of all things, beer.
To help secure more water for its Cloverdale facility, Bear Republic Brewing Co. and the city have struck a tentative deal that will speed up development of the wells.
Details are still being finalized, but city officials said Bear Republic would pay in advance for the water it needs to expand beer production, enabling the city to bring more wells into production sooner.
"The public-private partnership will allow them to pay impact fees forward. Payment will be used to connect to new wells we have started exploratory drilling on this week," said City Manager Paul Cayler.
City officials expect that new wells near the Russian River not only will provide more water for Bear Republic but also for current and future customers of the city utility.
During heat spells, Cloverdale's wells have been unable to keep up with demand to serve the population of more than 8,600 people. The city has kept the water taps from running dry by relying on conservation efforts and reservoirs. But the reservoirs run the risk of being depleted during an extended heat wave. Officials also want to keep the supply intact in case of large fires.
Cloverdale's precarious water situation improved last month with a fifth municipal well that went on line and boosted city supplies by 15 percent.
Cloverdale also wants two more wells, but financing through low-interest federal loans isn't immediately available and likely would take at least a year to obtain, according to city officials. There are funds to bore the wells, but the $460,000 cost to hook both up to the water plant are not immediately available.
That's where Bear Republic can speed up the process.
The brewery would pay for a sizeable share, if not the full portion, of the connection costs of the wells to the city's water treatment plant, said City Manager Cayler.
"We've calculated what we think their impact fees will be," he said, adding that the company would pay for underground piping and electrical controls to bring water into the treatment plant.
"We're hoping development of the wells will service Bear Republic, as well as some other economic development," Cayler said.
The brewing company wants to more than triple the production at its Cloverdale facility. Brewmaster Richard Norgrove Jr. said that the brewery is capped at around 65,000 barrels of beer a year, or slightly more than 2 million gallons.
If he can get sufficient water, Norgrove said he would like to expand to around 200,000 barrels, or 6.2 million gallons of beer.
His father, company chief executive Richard Norgrove Sr., said Thursday his son's estimates are conservative because demand appears to be even greater.
"Every drop of beer I can make is probably sold before I can make the darn stuff," said Richard Norgrove Sr.
He said the craft beer business continues to grow. Bear Republic is riding the popularity crest with its flagship, top selling brand, "Racer 5."
The Cloverdale facility employs about 125 people and is currently entitled to 8 million gallons of water annually.
"The City of Cloverdale wants Bear Republic to stay here. We view them as a key anchor industry. Micro beers and breweries are an important part of economic development," Cayler said.