Water Wars…Squid was soaking up some rays on this delightfully sunny weekend, trying to turn Squid’s otherwise translucent complexion a little healthier looking. It was a rare set of conditions: Squid could set up on a blanket with a wide-brimmed hat, trashy novel and a big bucket of shrimp-flavored popcorn alongside the Salinas River, which was actually flowing.
For a few minutes of this El Niño winter and unusually wet spring, Squid might’ve been fooled into thinking there’s actually a lot of water here in Monterey County—enough water, even, to fight over. But then Squid turned from Squid’s trashy novel to even more dramatic reading: the latest documents filed in connection to California American Water’s application before the California Public Utilities Commission, aiming to get a desalination project approved in order to meet a state-ordered cutback on over-pumping the Carmel River. There’s more conflict in those documents than in most fiction.
And the best part? Now that all the actual water has been brokered to a truce, they’re fighting over fictional water, what that would be captured by projects that don’t yet exist and may never, never exist.
The latest back-and-forth battle is over the proposed interlake tunnel, which Salinas Valley property owners will have to vote on to decide whether to fund it. If they do, the 11,000-foot tunnel would go underground between Lake San Antonio to Lake Nacimiento, adding water storage. (Both reservoirs still have sorry-looking bathtub rings even after the wet winter, Squid notes, which makes Squid a little skeptical that what’s really needed is more storage capacity.)
The ratepayers advocacy group Water Plus filed a motion April 20 with the PUC that makes a fleeting mention of an idea floated by “one of the frequent attendants to the weekly Water Plus meetings,” Myrleen Fisher. Fisher’s proposal: Let Monterey Peninsula ratepayers pay for the interlake tunnel, and then let them get the “10,000 acre-feet or so” of water from the project. (Squid notes: The bathtub rings are still there, whether the end user is in Carmel or Gonzales.)
The suggestion that people on the Monterey Peninsula might get water from the Salinas Valley so roiled agribiz interests that the Monterey County Farm Bureauresponded with their own motion on April 20, delivering stern opposition: “Salinas Valley water rights are not for sale and cannot be utilized by those outside of the landowners who have paid for them, and cannot be trampled on during a process that is developing a new water resource for a community that has failed in three prior attempts to solve their own problems.”
And Squid watches the proverbial lettuce curtain grow, faster than a field of spring mix. All this fighting over hypothetical water makes Squid want to put away the PUC documents and go back to popcorn.