Supes Grab Water
To desal or not to desal? Supervisors appoint advisory board to answer the question.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
The unanimous decision by County Supervisors on Tuesday to form a regional water board marked a very preliminary “first step” in developing some type of long-term water supply project.
Now comes the hard part.
“We will need to identify what we’re actually going to build,” says Curtis Weeks, who heads the county’s Water Resources Agency. “We’ll need to talk about financing, and implement it.”
The new advisory panel, called the Regional Urban Water Supply Board, will include a couple of supervisors, city council members from every municipality on the Peninsula plus Salinas, members of other existing water boards, representatives of wastewater agencies and the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, and others—essentially representing every jurisdiction from North County to Salinas that would be served by a regional water project.
The board will advise County Supervisors on issues including project specifics, water service agreements and funding alternatives. Under this model, the Board of Supervisors will have final authority.
And although a desalination plant in Moss Landing is generally assumed to be the anchor of a regional project which would also likely include water storage and recovery facilities, Supervisors on April 19 insisted that they will consider other projects.
“We’re not just looking at desal,” Supervisor Lou Calcagno said. “We’re also looking at other alternatives. I think that’s important.”
Meanwhile, California-American Water (Cal-Am) continues to move forward with its Coastal Water Project, which is technically unrelated to the County’s Tuesday decision although the primary component is a desalination plant in Moss Landing located near Duke Energy’s power plant.
Last year Monterey County water officials said they planned to partner with Cal-Am to build a desalination plant that would eventually be publicly owned. The County later quashed the idea of a formal partnership and has since been working with local cities and water agencies to develop a regional water project of its own. The Tuesday vote is the first step towards developing such a project.
Cal-Am will have to do something regardless. The state says Cal-Am overpumps 10,730 acre-feet from the Carmel River each year, and state law requires the water company to develop an alternate water source. In June, it will submit its “proponent’s environmental assessment” to the California Public Utilities Commission, and will complete its application for the project.
Cal-Am officials say they want the project to be publicly owned; however, the ownership details have yet to be worked out.
At the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s board meeting on April 18, water board director Alvin Edwards asked that the district place a measure on the November ballot to determine the community’s support for a public buyout of Cal-Am’s Peninsula water system.
The water district’s board of directors will consider placing the advisory vote on the November ballot at its May 16 meeting.
A Monterey group called FLOW (Friends of Locally Owned Water) is studying the feasibility of a public buyout of Cal-Am’s system, as is FLOW in Felton, which wants to takeover the Cal-Am owned system in the Santa Cruz Mountains.