Water Grab

Marina resident and Citizens for Just Water co-founder Kathy Biala has been a key player in raising awareness about the potential impacts of Cal Am's desal project.

About 40 residents gathered at the Marina Public Library April 17 for a forum put on by Citizens for Just Water, a Marina activist group that was formed last year to oppose Cal Am's proposed desal project. 

The event was titled "Marina/Fort Ord water: CODE RED."

The deadline for comments the project's final environmental impact report is April 19, and Just Water had two different form letters for attendees to send off to the California Public Utilities Commission and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the state and federal lead agencies on the project. 

But before Just Water co-founder Kathy Biala made a pitch for attendees to sign them, four speakers, starting with Biala, spoke about their concerns over Cal Am's proposed project. 

Biala went first, and spoke to her social justice concerns, arguing Cal Am doesn't have a clear water right to pump the brackish source water under the beach in Marina, and that the matter should be considered before any approvals are considered. 

Under Cal Am's proposal, they will return whatever percentage of freshwater they pump back into the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin—per state law—but it will go to Castroville, not Marina. 

Biala likened that proposal to someone stealing your car from your garage, and promising to park it in your neighbor's garage. 

"The train is heading for a brick wall, and it really needs to be slowed down before it’s too late," she said. 

Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado, who popped in briefly as a City Council meeting was taking place, came next, and said the final EIR is "just as inadequate as draft EIR."

He argued that not only would Marina's near-term water supply be affected by the project, but that it would prevent Marina Coast Water District from being able to comply with the state's 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires MCWD to ensure a "sustainable yield" to its groundwater supply by 2040. 

"Nothing is more important to us here in Marina than the air and water we need to live," Delgado said. 

MCWD General Manager Keith Van Der Maaten came next, and gave a detailed presentation as to how the project, in the the view of Marina Coast Water District, would harm the district's water supply by both taking its freshwater and exacerbating seawater intrusion. 

"The project, today, is not a feasible project," he said.

Van Der Maaten says MCWD has been trying to negotiate solutions, but that so far, there have been no offers from Cal Am that have been acceptable to Marina Coast. 

Litigation if the project is approved—which has been widely anticipated for many months—would a likely possibility if all other options are exhausted. 

George Riley is co-founder of Public Water Now, the Peninsula activist group that put forth a proposed ballot measure that would force a feasibility study for a public buyout of Cal Am. He spoke last.

Riley praised the fact that, in all his 20 years living locally, he said he'd never seen such great leadership in public water officials, a nod to Van Der Maaten, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District General Manager Dave Stoldt, and Monterey One Water General Manager Paul Sciuto. 

"They're smart, energetic, and they work together, they work together," Riley said. 

"The more we stay together, stand together and stay on same agenda, we’re gong to get there," he added. "We don’t need Cal Am’s desal, and we don't need it [in Marina]."

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