Peninsula water board race focuses on Regional Project contingency plans.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
It’s the desal, stupid.
None of the candidates in the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board race have actually spun off Bill Clinton’s famous campaign quote, but other issues look increasingly trivial as the $400 million Regional Desalination Project falters.
Incumbents Bob Brower, who’s well connected with local business interests, and Regina Doyle, an advocate of sustainable development, have often cast opposing votes on growth-related issues. But they’ve also worked together to create five water supply alternatives to supplant cutbacks from the Carmel River and Seaside Basin.
“As it stands right now, [the Regional Project] is probably not going to go forward in its present governance,” says Brower, a former oilman who now owns Chateau Julien Wine Estate.
Brower says he’s “shovel-ready” to lead MPWMD’s contingency plans: expanded aquifer storage and recovery (the first phase, implemented two years ago, already provides 9 percent of the district’s water); a partnership with the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency to recycle more wastewater; a small desalination plant on Naval Postgraduate School property; and dredging Los Padres Dam.
District 5 challenger Scott Dick, a retired Army officer, is skeptical. “It’ll be millions of dollars and years of infrastructure improvements before those projects come online,” he says.
Dick blames Brower for not going public with governance and fairness concerns before the Regional Project agreements were unveiled in spring 2010. And although Dick voted for 2002’s Measure B to disband the Peninsula water district, he now sees a role for MPWMD to buy out California American Water: “This agency, with public support, could be our water purveyor.”
Incumbent Regina Doyle, an education consultant, is on board with Brower to move water supply alternatives forward in time to meet a state-ordered deadline of December 2016. “The fear message is the part that distresses me most,” she says. “The whole thing is manageable. We can do this.”
Doyle sees an opportunity for the alternative projects to keep businesses open, and even market the Monterey Peninsula as a water-wise destination. “Imagine if people saw we had a certification for sustainable water,” she says.
Her District 4 challenger, architect and former Pacific Grove Mayor Jeanne Byrne, is more focused on providing water for growth. “[Water allocations] become so restrictive that there’s no economic activity, which translates to no jobs, no futures, no family,” she says.
Byrne is the only candidate pushing to stay the course with the Regional Project, which does not include a governing role for MPWMD. “The project is good; the organization is what became a political football,” she says. “To start over on a new project simply runs out the time.”