Thursday, February 13, 2003
Keeley Praises Cal-Am Move
In a long anticipated decision, California-American Water Company announced on Tuesday that it has scrapped its application with California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to build a dam on the Carmel River. Cal-Am will instead seek approval for the Coastal Water Project, also known as Plan B, which focuses on desalination and underground water storage.
"I think it's a very positive turn of events" said former Assemblyman Fred Keeley. "This has been a vexing problem for decades," said Keeley, who, in 1998, authored Assembly Bill 1182, directing the PUC to develop an alternative to the proposed Carmel River dam.
"In my judgement, Plan B represents the best opportunity for solving the water supply problem on the Peninsula," said Keeley, now executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, a Sacramento-based environmental group. "I think it is a landmark decision."
The Coastal Water Project proposes the construction of a desalination plant at Moss Landing near the existing Duke Energy facility. The Project aims to generate 10,730 acre-feet of water per year, 9,000 acre-feet of which would come from desalination. The remaining water would come from excess winter flows from the Carmel River.
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District Chairman Zan Henson shared Keeley's enthusiasm for the announcement but also expressed some reservation.
"I feel it's a positive development but I have two concerns," Henson said. "Given the conflicting demands for water from Moss Landing I fear [the desalination plant] won't get built anytime soon.
"My second concern is it's more expensive water for the Peninsula than it would be from a local desalination plant because of the $45 million pipeline needed to get the water from Moss Landing to the Peninsula."
The next step for the Coastal Water Project is to gain acceptance from the Public Utilities Commission.
Carmel and PG Parents Wield Pens
Parents worried about proposed budget cuts in Carmel and Pacific Grove schools are hoping to generate a response from Governor Gray Davis through a letter-writing campaign to the governor, Senator Bruce McPherson and Assemblymember John Laird.
At stake is a proposal by Davis that would reduce funding to so-called Basic Aid districts--schools throughout California that receive most of their money from local property taxes.
The Carmel Unified School District (CUSD) stands to lose $11.3 million--or 41 percent of its $27 million budget. The Pacific Grove Unified School District (PGUSD) would lose $3 million from its $16 million budget, or almost 20 percent of its funding.
"This is more than serious," says Eric Sand, a father of triplet boys in Pacific Grove schools. "If we did away with all the programs that could be considered extra-curricular--like music, the arts, and physical education--we'd still be $1.5 million short. What are they going to do, turn the water and power off every other day?"
So far, organizers have been phoning parents requesting that they download letters from parent- and school-operated Web sites, and hosting informational booths in front of the schools. Both groups are hoping at least 1,000 letters will be sent.
In a letter posted on the CUSD Web site, Superintendent Marvin Biasotti stresses the unfairness of the proposal.
"We are exploring legal options and pursuing legislative action to derail this proposal," he writes.
Rich Schramm, member of the PGUSD board, says that since 80 percent of the districts' budgets pay for salaries, teacher layoffs would be inevitable. And given the timing of the state budget, it would be impossible to provide staff with proper notice of layoffs.
"One of the unfortunate things is that even in a good year, a state budget is hard to get in on time," he says. "We may not know the state budget until the middle of summer or fall, but we have to give layoff notices to teachers by March 15."
Schramm says that in addition to the dramatic reduction in services that will be necessary, Davis is already proposing a 10-percent categorical fund cut in the school budgets.
"In California, we already rank 46th in the nation for spending on students," he says. "We can sort of view this as a leveling down to what the state is willing to spend by formula rather than what the community is willing to spend."
For more information or to download a letter template, see the Web sites: forestgrove.net or carmelunified.org
Anti-War Protesters Get Wheels
Opponents of threatened U.S. military action in Iraq have been organizing monthly protests in key cities around the world, beginning with the Oct. 26 marches in D.C. and San Francisco. This Saturday, Feb. 15, the anti-war movement kicks off a new tactic, with hundreds of smaller regional actions scheduled along with the massive, centralized rallies (San Francisco's rally will take place Feb. 16 so as not to interfere with Chinese New Year). The closest action to Monterey County Saturday is in Santa Cruz, where people will gather Saturday at 11am on the steps of the County Courthouse at 701 Ocean St. for a "hands across the bay" demonstration. At noon, a march begins at the corner of Water and Ocean streets, continuing down Water to the Mission Plaza, where a rally kicks off at 1pm, ending at 4pm with a free concert. The theme of the Valentines-Day-weekend protest is "Love Not War." Organizers urge attendees to go ahead and make signs to that effect.
Monterey Peninsula residents who wish to carpool to the event will meet by 9:45am in the parking lot behind Mervyn's at the Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey; or in Marina at the parking lot in front of Grocery Outlet, off Reservation Road. In Salinas, carpoolers will meet across from the Salinas Transit Center in the Salinas Street parking lot, or in the Albertson's parking lot at South Main and San Joaquin. The same carpool arrangements are in effect for the San Francisco demonstration Sunday, Feb. 16, but the meeting time will be 8:30am. For details call Laurel at 757-7830.
Kids' Group Home Hosts Dance
The Eagle's Wing Children's Sanctuary, which has for three years operated a residential care facility for six developmentally delayed teenage girls, hopes to open a similar facility for six boys this fall--the first such group home in Monterey County. Board president Bonny McGowan explains that the youths housed at Eagle's Wing "are borderline retarded" boys and girls who, with the right care and support, would be able to hold jobs and live semi-independent lives, "but who come from homes with such neglect and abuse that there isn't much hope of it."
On Feb. 14, from 7pm to midnight, Eagle's Wing is holding a "Sweet Hearts Dance" at the Embassy Suites in Seaside to raise money for start-up costs at the new boys' home. Last year's dance raised enough for a down payment on the building, which will be purchased through CHISPA. "We hope to raise $60,000 to $70,000 at this year's event," McGowan says, "so we can open in late summer or early fall." Tickets to the dance are $30 at the door, or in advance from the Do Re Mi music store in Carmel. For details call 646-2442.
Phil McKenna, Brett Wilbur, Sue Fishkoff