Public gifts to private seawater desalination proposals seem to be a spring trend.
Even as it backs the Peninsula mayors’ proposal to give $100 million to California American Water’s desal proposal, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is sliding $1 million to its rival.
In December, the district board approved the expenditure of up to $500,000 per year for two years to fund the environmental review of an alternative to Cal Am’s project. The idea, district General Manager David Stoldt says, is to position another proposal to move forward in case litigation or delays kill Cal Am’s.
“We can’t wait around three years to find out they’re wrong,” Stoldt says.
DeepWater Desal and The People’s Project, both based in Moss Landing, responded to the district’s request for proposals. DeepWater came out on top, and on March 18 the board agreed to negotiate an agreement.
“It was a very enthusiastic meeting,” DeepWater Manager and CEO Brent Constantz says. “It was like a love-fest.”
In an April 8 letter to the board, an attorney for The People’s Project requests the district negotiate contract terms with both proposals.
Stoldt says the $1 million would likely include stipulations such as the option to make the district a public owner of the DeepWater project. “It’s conditioned money, absolutely,” he says. “We’re not in the business of making grants.”
Constantz says the district’s contribution is “really just a drop in the bucket” of costs facing DeepWater, which aims to form a public joint powers authority.
“Cal Am won’t lift a finger unless they know they’re going to get ratepayer reimbursement,” he says. “It seems kind of unfair we’re proposing a public project and this is all our personal capital.”