Photo | Phil Wellman
Editor’s note: This story has been amended to correct a couple of errors and to include letters from the Monterey County politicians and from the League of Women Voters of Monterey County.
By Royal Calkins
More than two dozen elected officials have signed a letter urging the California Coastal Commission to pull the plug on a desalination plant proposed by the California American Water Co. to serve Monterey Peninsula residents.
The letter was released during an event held by Public Water Now on the lawn in front of Monterey City Hall.
Among those signing the letter were the entire board of the Marina Coast Water District, Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson, Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby, Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado Del Rey Oaks Mayor Alison Kerr and Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker.
Most of those signing the letter were on hand early Monday for what seemed like a pre-game pep rally, with the crowd cheering for the Pure Water Monterey recycling project and essentially booing Cal Am. The Pure Water project is designed to convert wastewater into drinking water, satisfying the Peninsula’s water needs without the far more expensive desalination venture, according to officials of various agencies involved in the process.
“A recent water supply and demand report from the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District has shown that the demand for water has dramatically declined over the past 20 years,” the letter says. “The report clearly shows that the expansion of Pure Water Monterey can meet our water supply needs for several decades. There is no need for this desal plant.”
Public Water Now, the group founded by George Riley and headed by Melodie Chrislock, estimates that the desalination plant would cost Cal Am customers $1.2 billion over the next three decades while an expanded Pure Water Monterey project would cost just $190 million.
“Monterey Peninsula Cal Am customers already pay the highest cost in the nation for water and this desal project would double residents’ water bills.” says the letter.
The Coastal Commission is scheduled to take up the issue at its Nov. 14 meeting in Half Moon Bay. Public Water Now representatives have been lobbying the commission staff in advance of that meeting, as has Cal Am.
Among the issues of concern to the commission staff, Chrislock said, is rising sea levels, which could put some of the desalination plant’s apparatus underwater.
Coastal Commission approval is critical if the project is to continue. Other obstacles facing Cal Am include the Marina Coast Water District’s position that its pipes don’t have the capacity to accommodate the project as Cal Am intends and the position shared by numerous landowners that Cal Am doesn’t have the legal right to pump groundwater as it plans to do at the plant’s designated location on the shore in Marina.
Also signing the letter were:
- Seaside City Council members Jason Campbell, Jon Wizard and Dave Pacheco.
- Monterey City Council members Alan Haffa and Tyller Williamson
- Marina City Council members Gail Morton, Lisa A. Berkley and Adam Urrutia.
- Carmel City Council member Jeff Baron.
- Alvin Edwards and George Riley of the Peninsula water management district board.
- Wendy Root Askew, Debra Gramespacher and Alana Myles of the Monterey Peninsula school district board.
- Rosalyn Green of the Monterey Peninsula College board.
- Anthony Rocha of the Salinas Union High School District board.
- Regina Gage of the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital board.
Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters of Monterey County also sent a letter to the Coastal Commission last week urging commissioners to deny the permit. The letter notes that the league generally “supports desalination as a long range water planning option, but it must be pursued only after all efforts for a low impact project are exhausted.”
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