Water Weight

The board of Monterey One Water, which now meets by Zoom, unanimously supported taking steps to expand a recycled water project in 2019. Now, it’s divisive.

Thousands of people in Marina are being blocked from full representation on the board of a regional water agency, a casualty of a larger battle over the water future of the Monterey Peninsula.

The agency is Monterey One Water, and it is responsible for treating sewage. For a while, the 10-member board of M1W was united, supporting the Pure Water Monterey project, a new cutting-edge facility that promised to help alleviate a chronic local water shortage by cleaning wastewater and recycling into the drinking supply.

But the expansion of that project hs become controversial, a proxy in the bigger battle over California American Water’s proposed desalination project, with opponents of desal – including Marina Coast Water District, which opposes the desal project – lining up to support Marina’s additional vote.

In 2019, M1W’s board voted unanimously to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an environmental impact report to expand the recycled water project. In April 2020, they were divided, and suddenly the board’s voting structure came under scrutiny, with implications for multiple multi-million-dollar projects.

M1W’s governing board and other regional boards like it (such as Monterey-Salinas Transit and the Fort Ord Reuse Authority) are made up of city council members and other elected leaders who are appointed to represent their constituents’ interests. The M1W board has an unusual voting structure, meant to account for the differences in population each member represents. Some get one vote: Del Rey Oaks, Sand City, Boronda County Sanitation District, Castroville Community Services District, and a Monterey County supervisor. Some get two: Pacific Grove and Marina Coast Water District. Some get three: Monterey, and Seaside. Salinas gets six.

For a long time, these numbers held steady, but last year Marina Coast started arguing its population has grown, crossing a threshold entitling it to a third vote. Marina Coast’s claim is now a fact, established by an official population estimate from the California Department of Finance. But when it came time on April 27 to honor the extra vote, some directors demurred.

“We have a census that’s going to take place,” Gloria De La Rosa, a Salinas councilmember, said. “Why can’t we wait for that?” John Gaglioti of Del Rey Oaks suggested that Marina Coast shouldn’t get its extra vote until all the jurisdictions were audited for population size.

Tom Moore of Marina Coast, Tyller Williamson of Monterey and Jason Campbell of Seaside were outnumbered. Marina Coast claims its additional voting weight is being denied for political reasons and is threatening to sue.

It’s not just a matter of principle. Marina Coast’s extra vote could prove consequential. There have been two votes on the Pure Water Monterey expansion project in the past few months. One vote was 11-10 against, the other 11-10 in favor. The sole swing voter has been Linda Grier of the Boronda County Sanitation District.

The result is an impasse. The opponents of the expansion have managed to block it but not to kill it. The next battle takes place on June 29 when the M1W is expected to take up the matter of Marina Coast’s extra vote demand.

Asaf Shalev is a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly. He covers the environment, agriculture and K-12 education, as well as Seaside, Marina, Sand City, Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

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(2) comments

Melodie Chrislock

The rest of the story...

Not only are thousands of people in Marina being blocked from representation on the Monterey One Water board, Carmel, Carmel Valley and Pebble Beach are not represented at all. That’s 11,000 people with no voice and no vote in their water supply.

One million dollars of public money was spent on the environmental impact report for the expansion of Pure Water Monterey. Then in April the board refused to certify the report and approve the project. What’s really going on here?

Monterey One Water boards members John Phillips, John Gaglioti, Gloria De La Rosa, Ron Stefani and Mary Ann Carbone are doing this to try and force Cal Am’s desal on the Peninsula. Why?

Cal Am has promised Salinas Valley members 700 acre-feet of desalinated water for Castroville at a cost of only $110 an acre-foot. But this water costs $7,000 an acre-foot to produce. Cal Am decided its Peninsula ratepayers will pay the difference!

It’s crazy. Salinas Valley board members want the Peninsula to pay $1.2 billion for a desal plant we don’t need to solve a seawater intrusion problem that we didn’t create in Castroville.

This is the only reason Marina Coast’s additional vote is not being recognized. No other city is close to getting another vote due to increased population. That’s a false excuse.

This is all about blocking the PWM Expansion project in an attempt to force the Coastal Commission to approve Cal Am’s desal project in August.

Marina’s 3rd vote should be recognized and the PWM Expansion should be approved.

Tom Moore

Mr. Shalev's article is much appreciated. The original reason for the Marina Coast request for acknowledgement of its 3rd weighted vote on the Monterey One Water Board was last July's approval by the Monterey County Local Agency Formation Commission of a substantial increase in Marina's Coast's legal boundaries. Marina Coast now legally encompasses all of the developed parts of the Ord Community in addition to Central Marina. Folks residing on the Ord Community who previously were "represented" through the Fort Ord Reuse Authority now have the right to vote directly for members of the Board of Directors of Marina Coast. The 1979 agreement that created the predecessor to Monterey One Water calls for the population to be counted within each member agency's legal boundaries and that number (as verified by the Census Bureau or California Finance Department) determines how many weighted votes each member gets. So when Marina Coast's boundaries expanded last year, so did its population count. We are hopeful that the issue will be settled this month.

Tom Moore, President, Board of Directors, Marina Coast

(This post represents my personal opinion and does not represent an officially approved opinion of the Board of Directors of Marina Coast.)

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