No Show

Members of Citizens for Just Water assemble outside Marina City Hall, hoping they get to air their grievances against Cal Am

It was the best attended city council meeting that didn’t happen.

Marina City Council had scheduled a special meeting on May 6 for a public hearing on California American Water’s bid for a coastal development permit to build intake wells and related infrastructure for its planned desalination plant on a beach in Marina.

Dozens of residents arrived, including members of Citizens for Just Water, a group critical of Cal Am’s plan to construct a desalination plant. Outside City Hall, demonstrators held signs saying “Science Matters!”, “Illegal Water Grab” and “Yes! Recycled Water.”

But when everyone filed into City Hall, no councilmembers were in sight. Only Assistant City Attorney Deborah Mall appeared. She said Cal Am had withdrawn its appeal at the last minute on April 29 and the council could not proceed with a hearing.

Cal Am is accusing three councilmembers of bias against the company’s proposed desal plant. Among elected officials and residents in Marina, there’s broad support for a separate project that would provide recycled water. The desal plant, critics say, would produce more water than the region needs at a higher cost to ratepayers, while harming Marina’s water basin.

Cal Am had already anticipated a rejection at Marina City Council and planned to then appeal to the California Coastal Commission. Now, the company is waiting for the city to issue a final local action notice affirming an earlier Planning Commission denial, allowing an appeal to proceed. Mall says City Council will discuss that notice in closed session on May 7.

In its most recent quarterly report, Cal Am’s parent company notes delays and acknowledges, “There can be no assurance that the Water Supply Project will be completed on a timely basis, if ever.”

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Asaf Shalev is a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly. He covers higher education, the military, the environment, public lands and the geographic areas of Seaside, Monterey, Sand City, Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

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(2) comments

Michael Baer

This picture is misleading as it was taken about 15 minutes before "the meeting that did not happen" i.e. 5:45. By 6pm meeting time there was at least 20 people holding signs and chanting "Hey Hey Ho Ho, Cal Am Water has got to go!" The Mayor received a warm round of cheers as the council emerged from closed session, then shook our hands as we entered to chambers, only to find out from the city legal counsel that the meeting had been cancelled.

PT Flee

In the first version of Cal Am's desal, the "Regional Water Project" which took shape between 2008 and 2010, the County Board of Supervisors included an agreement that allowed Marina to receive desalinated water proportional to the amount of freshwater sucked by the intake wells. Marina would have had to pay a paltry $150 per acre-foot for that water. It was estimated back then that the peninsula would be paying $6000 per acre-foot for desalinated water.

Marina city officials would probably have been biased "for" desal if that agreement still existed. The water could be used for aquifer replenishment and future developments.

But then the Regional Water Project imploded with the 2011 Steve Collins scandal.

Cal Am started over in 2012. But the new version, the "Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project", gives Marina absolutely nothing. Naturally, the city is now biased "against" desal.

And since an expansion of Pure Water Monterey can easily cover the peninsula's needs at a lower cost, Cal Am's residential customers are also biased "against" desal.

Maybe it's just me, but I find that I'm biased against anything that's worthless.

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