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 She said Cal Am had withdrawn its appeal at the last minute on April 29 and the council could not proceed with a hearing.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.”