Monterey Attacks Water Board
City council moves to dissolve the board over water credit transfers.
Thursday, April 4, 2002
Nov. 5 looks like judgment day for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District.
At its Tuesday, April 2 meeting, the Monterey City Council voted unanimously to direct city staff to draft an advisory resolution for the November ballot directing the state of California to abolish the district. The move was a response to the water board''s February vote to eliminate all water credit transfers-which allow businesses and individuals to sell their rights to district water.
"Just make it simple-whether the water management district should be dissolved or not," Mayor Dan Albert said.
The Council also asked city staff to invite other municipalities within the district to take similar actions, and asked staff to find out how much money the district has cost taxpayers in its 24-year existence.
"My feeling is that in those 24 years, they haven''t done a thing to find an extra drop of water, but they have cost consumers millions of dollars," says councilmember Theresa Canepa. "It has to stop."
Now the council has until August to place the measure on the city''s November ballot. If Monterey city officials see enough support from the Peninsula''s other municipalities, however, they could decide to place a measure on a ballot before the entire water management district electorate-including the communities of Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Sand City, Del Rey Oaks, the airport district and unincorporated parts of the county.
Earlier in the evening, the council met in closed session with City Attorney Bill Conners to discuss potential legal action against the district.
"The City of Seaside has sent a letter of intent to sue [the water management board] under CEQA," Conners says. He says Ordinance 102, the water credit transfer ban, is subject to the California Environmental Quality Act, and therefore requires an environmental impact study. "Some of the council members have asked me what Seaside is doing, and should we be doing the same thing. That''s why we''re meeting in closed session."
Seaside Mayor Jerry Smith has said his city will challenge the ordinance in court because it infringes on Seaside''s municipal authority and strangles Seaside''s redevelopment plans.
In other efforts to overhaul the water district, a group calling itself Save Our Water, spearheaded by the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, the county Hospitality Association and Realtors Association will meet Thursday, April 4, to "start phase two."
Phase One ended unsuccessfully on April 1, when the committee came up short in its campaign to collect 3,600 signatures on a petition demanding that the board either repeal Ordinance 102 or submit it to the district''s voters in November. The committee collected about 2,900 signatures, of which about 2,800 would be counted, according to water district officials.
"Phase Two will include efforts to identify the specific steps that we will take next," says committee member Kathleen Eckerson, who also chairs the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce''s board of directors. She says those steps may include recalling certain water board members or dissolving the water district.
The original water-credit transfer policy, adopted in 1993, allowed business to-business transfers only, intending to keep the local economy healthy in spite of the water shortage. The policy also intended to conserve water taken out of the Carmel River by retiring 15 percent of any credits transferred.
Critics say instead of conserving water, however, the system promotes increased water use. It has also led to water profiteering, or selling water privately for huge profits.
Water district board member Zan Henson says the policy favors increased water use over conservation because it transfers credits from entities that are not using water to entities that will.
"So how you can predicate a water-conservation program on such transfers is ludicrous," Henson says.
Board Chair Kris Lindstrom says he doesn''t expect the political pressure to force the water board to reconsider.
"I voted my conscience and I did what the people elected me to do," says Lindstrom, who was joined in his vote by Henson, Molly Erickson and Judi Lehman.
Lindstrom says he recently met with Monterey city officials to address their concerns that growth at the Defense Language Institute and the Naval Postgraduate School may be limited by the water-transfer credit ban. (The water board has said they are willing to work with municipalities that have "special projects.")
Lindstrom says he came away from the meeting thinking the city''s questions had been answered, and their worries appeased.
"But apparently they have another political agenda in mind," he says. "We''re trying to work with everybody given that we have a shortage of water."