Through Fire and Water
The Monterey Peninsula’s water woes have run a centuries-old course.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Pre-1880s: Monterey Peninsula residents use windmills to fill their cisterns with brackish water.
1881: Pacific Improvement Co. builds the Carmel River Dam and begins delivering water to Monterey.
1907-1949: Monterey County Water Works, a Del Monte Properties subsidiary, buys out the PIC and builds the 1,425-acre-foot San Clemente Dam. California Water & Telephone Co. later acquires MCWW and builds the 3,030-acre-foot Los Padres Dam.
1950s-1966: A movement for public takeover of the water utility fails. California American Water buys California Water & Telephone Co.
1973: California Public Utilities Commission directs Cal Am to build larger-capacity pipes.
1975: PUC bans new Cal Am water hookups. Local officials petition PUC to end the moratorium while asking residents to conserve.
1976: Water rationing successfully imposed; public water acquisition movement is revived.
1977: In January, the PUC orders Cal Am to stop paying dividends until the pipeline project is underway. Cal Am pledges to begin work within six months. The summer brings drought rations of 50 gallons per person per day. Cal Am customers average 30 gallons/person/day.
1978: Heavy winter rains and new, larger-capacity pipes end rationing. In June, voters approve formation of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, empowered to work with or buy out Cal Am. MPWMD begins to look for a new water source, while Cal Am drills wells in Carmel Valley.
1987: Carmel River Steelhead Association complains to state water board, alleging Cal Am is pumping Carmel River water it has no right to divert. Cal Am claims rights to 751,608 afa (acre-feet per annum) – more than twice the river’s discharge in its wettest year.
1988: Environmental Protection Agency dampens MPWMD’s plans for a New San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River, saying it would likely have a negative impact on steelhead.
1989: MPWMD member declares the New San Clemente Dam project dead; district begins exploring a new dam near Los Padres Dam. Residents Water Committee accuses Cal Am of unauthorized river diversions.
1991: Sierra Club and state Parks Department complain of illegal Cal Am diversions. MPWMD proposes a 16,000-acre-foot-per-year New Los Padres Dam and a 3,000-acre-foot-per-year desalination plant.
1993: Cal Am completes 17,619 acre-foot-per-year Paralta Well. Voters reject MPWMD desal proposal. MPWMD expands New Los Padres Dam proposal to 24,000 acre-feet per year.
1994: Cachagua community and eco groups oppose New Los Padres Dam. Cachagua vintners allege the environmental impact report doesn’t adequately address winery impacts.
1995: State water board rules on the CRSA’s lawsuit, finding Cal Am only has a right to 3,376 acre-feet per year from the Carmel River and is illegally diverting 10,730 acre-feet per year. Order 95-10 requires Cal Am to begin conservation, pursue a legal water source and ease river pressure by pumping more from the Seaside Basin. Voters reject MPWMD’s New Los Padres Dam.
1996: Cal Am announces it will build the New Los Padres Dam without the MPWMD. Cachagua vintners win suit requiring more environmental analysis. California red-legged frog is listed as a threatened species.
1997: Cal Am fails to meet Order 95-10’s 20 percent conservation goal. The state water board threatens to fine the company, but Cal Am settles by agreeing to a 15 percent reduction in illegal diversions. Carmel River steelhead listed as threatened.
1998: Assemblyman Fred Keeley sponsors legislation requiring the PUC to come up with a “Plan B” water supply for the Peninsula.
2002: Voters pass Measure B, a toothless, Cal Am-financed resolution to disband the MPWMD. PUC’s “Plan B” report proposes a 9,400 acre-foot-per-year desal plant in Moss Landing combined with a 1,300 acre-foot-per-year Aquifer Storage and Recovery project.
2003: MPWMD and PUC reject Cal Am’s Carmel River Dam applications. Cal Am files action to adjudicate the Seaside Basin; later joins Coastal Water Project effort and focuses on proposed Moss Landing desal plant.
2005: Citizens for Public Water forms to advocate for a public water utility to replace Cal Am. Measure W, proposing to study public water ownership, makes November ballot. Cal Am heavily finances the opposition; the measure soundly fails.
2006: A Superior Court judge adjudicates the Seaside Basin, ruling that pumping must be reduced to avoid seawater intrusion. A regional watermaster board is established to manage the basin.
2007: State water board allows Cal Am to inject 2,426 acre-feet per year of Carmel River water into the Seaside Basin during the rainy season, for use in the dry season. A cross-section of stakeholders known as REPOG / Water for Monterey County begins meeting in Monterey to discuss a regional solution.
June 2008: A so-called Regional Water Project, in contrast to Cal Am’s Moss Landing desal proposal, emerges as the REPOG group’s preference. A third option, the North Marina alternative, is also in the running.
January 2009: The PUC issues a draft environmental report comparing the three water supply options.
October 2009: State water board adopts Order 2009-0060, finding that Cal Am has violated Order 95-10 and must end illegal Carmel River diversions by the end of 2016, when the Coastal Water Project is expected to come online. Cal Am and MPWMD appeal.
December 2009: PUC adopts Coastal Water Project EIR, finding the Regional Water Project Phase I, centered on a desalination plant north of Marina, is the slightly environmentally superior alternative. Local officials and Cal Am get behind it.
November 2009: Monterey County judge freezes Order 2009-0060 while Cal Am and MPWMD lawsuits move forward.
March 2010: After months of closed-door negotiations, stakeholders release details of two proposed agreements outlining operational details for the Regional Water Project. Most negotiating parties back the agreements, but several – notably the PUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates and MPWMD – oppose, raising concerns about the cost and lack of representation for Peninsula ratepayers.
April 2010: A Santa Clara County judge removes the freeze on Order 2009-0060. The state water board’s cutbacks are now in effect.
June 28-29, 2010: Monterey Peninsula residents weigh in on the RWP at public participation hearings in Seaside and Monterey.
Source: Keith Vandevere, http://xasauantoday.com; MPWMD attorney David Laredo; Monterey County Weekly archives, www.mcweekly.com/rwp.