As the Marina Coast Water District is wrapping up its work on the pipeline that will serve the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project, confusion is swirling around an easement for a section of its pipe.
On July 16, the district’s board approved paying the Army $331,000 for an easement for its pipeline along the Army-owned section of Gen. Jim Moore Boulevard in Seaside. According to Marina Coast’s report about the payment, the Fort Ord Reuse Authority never acquired the easement when it built the road a decade ago.
In response to a piece about that payment that ran in the Weekly on July 19, FORA got to work to find out if Marina Coast’s assessment was true. Initially, FORA officials believed they weren’t to blame for the failure to transfer the easement in question, and that it was actually owned by Seaside – meaning Marina Coast might not have to pay such a significant sum for the right to use its pipe.
On further inspection, it turns out Marina Coast appears to be correct and that the Army does still hold the easement. While it does appear that Marina Coast will have to pay for it, FORA officials are still examining years-old documents, and FORA Executive Officer Michael Houlemard has been working his Army contacts in Washington, D.C. to see if a deal can be struck for less.
The argument Houlemard is trying to make to the Army is that the pipeline will deliver at least 3,500 acre-feet of water annually to the Monterey Peninsula, and will serve military installations like the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute.
Moreover, Houlemard adds, a potential expansion of Pure Water Monterey could ultimately serve residents in the Army-owned Ord community. While Marina Coast has been negotiating with the Army Corps of Engineers, which handles the Army’s real estate transactions, Houlemard is hopeful that a different branch of the Army might see things differently.
“We’ve had a really good working relationship with the Army,” Houlemard says. “The good news is, there might be a path forward.”
Houlemard expects the matter to be resolved, one way or another, by July 27.