California American Water spent $2.1 million urging voters to reject Measure J, a public buyout initiative, yet the measure passed overwhelmingly, with 55.8 percent.
The day after the Nov. 6 election, board members of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District convened for a press conference. Their charge: to pursue a feasibility study and then – “if and when feasible” – to pursue a public buyout of Cal Am, by eminent domain if necessary. The study is required within nine months of the election.
Stage one of that process begins with five listening sessions scheduled for Jan. 7-15, in which board members are asking the public, “What does ‘feasible’ mean to you?”
Outgoing MPWMD chair Andrew Clarke had remained agnostic on Measure J, and had lost his re-election bid the night before to George Riley, who led Public Water Now’s effort to launch and pass the public buyout effort.
“For all I know, at the end of nine months, the board’s going to look at it and say, that’s more than we thought – that’s not feasible,” Clarke said. “The public voted for this, so it is important we get the public’s idea of what is feasible and how that is defined.”
MPWMD General Manager Dave Stoldt expects the study to cost between $400,000 and $700,000, depending on the yet-to-be determined scope of work.
Whatever the final product, it’s unlikely to be automatically released to the public. “It’s a delicate balance because this is real property negotiation,” Stoldt said, referring to an exception to the California Public Records Act. “I don’t think you put that document out and say, ‘Here it is.’”