Squid Speaks

Sign Off…To the outsider’s eye, it may not have looked like Squid was busy this weekend, because most of Squid’s hours were blocked out for “executive time.”

Some of that important watching TV work happened Sunday, when Squid tuned into the most boring Super Bowl in history, which saw the evil empire that is the New England Patriots prevail in a 13-3 snoozefest. (Squid was mostly there for the ads, and especially loved the one from the Washington Post.)

It may not have looked like it, but it was a carefully planned weekend for Squid, because Squid is preparing for another snoozefest, and it’s one that will take far longer than three hours—and perhaps more than three years: Marina Coast Water District and the city of Marina’s fight against California American Water’s planned—and already approved by the California Public Utilities Commission—desalination project in Marina.

Sure, Squid gets it—if you’re a Marina resident who doesn’t like Cal Am, it looks unfair: Cal Am, whether Marina residents like it or not, will likely get whatever approvals it needs to move forward on the project from the California Coastal Commission.

(That's after a little Super Bowl-style show: First, Squid expects the Marina Planning Commission to deny a required permit, then Cal Am will appeal to the Marina City Council, which will also deny the permit. Then Cal Am will appeal to the Coastal Commission, and—voila!) 

Then the city of Marina and Marina Coast will likely sue, and years of litigation will follow, and a bunch of lawyers will make millions but probably nothing will change. It’s all just too predictable, and too boring.

Given all that, Squid isn’t the least bit surprised that some Marina residents—as well as some Cal Am haters on the Peninsula—are still banging pots and pans over Cal Am’s project, and on Jan. 30 hosted a forum at the Marina Library titled “Can Cal Am STEAL Marina’s groundwater?” (Important note: What Cal Am can and cannot do will almost certainly be decided in a court of law, not in the Marina Library.)

Squid is not categorically opposed to asking tough questions and banging pots and pans—everyone needs a hobby or two—but Squid thinks the whole thing went a step too far in a change.org petition that tagged local officials like Monterey Peninsula Water Management District General Manager Dave Stoldt (and all of the district’s board members, among more than two dozen others), who now get an email notification every time 10 new signatures are added to the petition, and who have no discernible way to unsubscribe.

In one such notification Squid saw, those who signed were all from Illinois, Wisconsin or Florida. 

But it's not just those far-away signatories who have no apparent stake in local water politics—it's the people the petition is targeted at, as well. 

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Every official tagged in the post has zero decisions to make about the project’s fate. Like everyone else who’s not a judge, they're just spectators in a long, boring fight, and they probably don’t need to be reminded of that fact.

That said, Squid is happy Marina residents are finally engaging in their water supply challenges, though Squid would counsel against squandering millions of dollars to fight—and perhaps lose—against Cal Am in court.

Instead, Squid thinks Marina should focus on its own very real water supply problems, not its imagined ones: Not a single hydrologist or expert Squid has heard from—who's not on Marina Coast’s payroll, at least—thinks Cal Am’s project will harm Marina’s water supply.

Moreover, consider the water supply: Marina Coast is drawing about two-thirds of its water from the deep aquifer, an ancient, finite water supply with an unknown capacity, and which Salinas Valley growers are actively pumping to oblivion while it still lasts. 

So yes, Marina has water supply problems. They are far more serious, and far more real, than anything related to Cal Am.

Squid’s not sure what it’s going to take to wake Marina residents up to that fact, but perhaps a petition would do, with a constant stream of email notifications.

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(5) comments

Melodie Chrislock

Sounds like Squid just pulled a law degree in water rights out of a Cracker Jack box. It’s a good policy to know what you’re talking about before inserting tentacle in mouth. Clearly Squid didn’t have time to attend the January 30 forum, “Can Cal Am STEAL Marina’s groundwater?” If so, they would know that neither the CPUC nor the State Water Board can grant or determine water rights in the Salinas Valley aquifers.

The point of the City of Marina/Marina Coast case is that the CPUC approved Cal Am’s proposed desal in error without regard to major environmental and legal flaws in their proposal.
This isn’t just unfair, it’s illegal. The inconvenient truth is that Cal Am has NO water rights to Marina’s groundwater, and contrary to its claims, it cannot secure any appropriative water rights in the over-drafted Salinas groundwater basin. Cal Am’s claim that it is salvaging unusable water is a lie and won’t hold up in court.

Cal Am’s argument that taking 15,000 acre-feet a year from Marina’s groundwater won’t harm their already threatened water supply is absurd.
If Cal Am loses in court, there is no back-up plan to provide water or to meet the CDO deadline. That is a problem that our leaders can address and that is the point of the petition. We need to insist on moving the expansion of Pure Water Monterey forward so that our community is not left high and dry when a court finally tells Cal Am, “NO WAY.”

Melodie Chrislock
Managing Director of Public Water Now

Hans Ongchua

It's true that anyone in the world can sign a petition on Change.org. The website will occasionally select petitions at random to promote to visitors. As the petition-writer, I have no control over that; and it's unfortunate that we captured out-of-state supporters just as notifications were being sent out for the first 100 signatures.

The same out-of-state signers (four of them) appeared on 6 of the first 10 notifications. That too was unfortunate. It gave the wrong impression of where the backers of this petition were coming from.

I DO have access however to the full list of signatories and, as of February 4th, 83% of the 293 are from Monterey County thanks to the distribution efforts of local activists.

The recipients need not fear the horrific prospect of cluttered inboxes. Change.org adjusts notifications on a logarithmic scale and these are now arriving every 100 signatures. They will continue to adjust upwards as we build momentum.

By petition, by presence, or by ballot, we intend to make our voices heard.

Hans Ongchua

For the record, the recipients would have received, at most, 12 email notifications as of February 6th.

► 1 on Jan 26th
► 9 on Jan 27th when 100 signatures were reached
► 1 on Feb 1st when 200 signatures were reached
► 1 on Feb 5th when 300 signatures were reached

PT Flee

Just because your house is built on a fault line doesn't mean that you let a thief walk in and take what he wants. The deep aquifer is a problem that MCWD hopes to address by finding other non-desal water sources for aquifer replenishment. In the meantime, the citizens of Marina must deal with the wolf at the door that is Cal Am.

Michael Baer

Squid hears from hydrologists and experts? Are there any neutral ones in this fight? What qualifies her squidness to discern the truth from the competing hydrological reports?

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