Monterey County To Take Cal Am to Court over Desal Proposal
June 26, 2012
Once they were partners in a desalination proposal to supply the Peninsula with water. Now Monterey County and California American Water find themselves as opponents in a legal battle over a new desal proposal, as state regulators' clocks tick toward a 2017 deadline for Cal Am to stop over-pumping of the Carmel River.
The County Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized litigation over Cal Am's new water supply proposal, which includes a scaled-down desal plant in North Marina. The hitch: Monterey County health code requires desalination facilities to have at least partial public ownership.
"The Board of Supervisors believes public health and safety is served well by this ordinance because it requires desalination operators to meet stringent health standards as well as assuring operators have the technical, managerial and financial capacity to maintain a high quality operation," Board Chair Dave Potter said in a statement.
Before Cal Am announced its new go-it-alone water supply proposal, the private utility company sought legal advice from the California Public Utilities Commission.
"Local ordinances such as [the Monterey County ordinance] are preempted to the extent they interfere with this Commission's statewide regulation of water utilities," PUC General Counsel Frank Lindh wrote in an April 12 letter to Monterey County Counsel Charles McKee.
"In order to resolve this dispute promptly, the Board has authorized and directed me to initiate litigation against California American Water for a court determination on the applicability of [the] ordinance," McKee said in a statement.