County to Marina Coast Water: We Want to Break Up With You
August 4, 2011
The already fractious relationship between the county and Marina Coast Water District has taken a turn for the worse, and could further jeopardize the future of the regional desalination project, according to documents obtained by the Weekly.
A July 21 letter written by Marina Coast lawyer Lloyd Lowrey refers to claims by Monterey County Water Resources Agency attorney Kevin O'Brien that the water purchase agreement between the two agencies for the regional desalination project has been voided. The letter was sent to O'Brien, Cal Am Water President Robert MacLean, County Counsel Charles McKee and the heads of the MCWRA and Marina Coast Water District.
"We cannot understand the county's position and motivations with respect to the [desalination project] and despite our repeated requests, the county has refused to enlighten us," the letter says.
Lowrey also refers to a July 13 meeting in which representatives of Marina Coast, MCWRA and Cal Am met to discuss concerns of latter two agencies that the project agreements are essentially invalid. A proposed July 28 face-to-face meeting among "senior management" of the three parties also is mentioned, a meeting in which "MCWD is willing to consider participating in a confidential settlement discussion and holding the meeting under a one-time confidentiality agreement, provided that attorneys are present."
Lowrey argues that the county's report on former MCWRA director Steve Collins's alleged conflict of interest relating to alleged double-dipping on the desal project is incomplete, and that neither MCWRA nor Cal Am has shared any legal analysis backing up their claims about the project agreements. Collins is currently being investigated by the Monterey County District Attorney and the Fair Political Practices Commission over allegations he failed to disclose his consulting gig with an engineering firm that won a $28 million management contract on the desal plant.
"MCWD believes the project agreements are valid and legally enforceable and that, consistent with the orders of the State Water Resources Control Board and the Public Utilities Commission, the parties must move forward quickly to implement the [regional desalination project]," Lowrey writes in the letter. "The very economic well-being and the health and safety of the Monterey Peninsula, not to mention the entire county, are at stake."
Calls to Lowrey, Marina Coast General Manager Jim Heitzman and MCWRA General Manager Curtis Weeks were not returned.
Meanwhile, the Weekly has confirmed that Russell McGlothlin, the attorney who represented the Monterey Peninsula mayors in their late bid to intervene in the California Public Utilities Commission's Regional Project proceedings, also spearheaded and drafted the confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement signed by the mayors, city managers and city attorneys of the cities of Seaside, Sand City, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel.
The Open Monterey Project, a local watchdog group, obtained the well-hidden confidentiality agreement via a Public Records Act request.
The cease and desist order forces Cal Am to incrementally scale back its Carmel River water deliveries until Dec. 31, 2016—when a desal plant is supposed to be operational or the state cuts off about 70 percent of the river's supply.
McGlothlin's could not be reached for comment Thursday; his voicemail indicated he was on vacation and a return email indicated he was out of the country.