The recent editorial by Public Water Now managing director Melodie Chrislock, “More water? Or just more politics?” was inaccurate, misleading, and frankly, insulting to the people of Castroville and our elected representatives.
Chrislock leads the charge for a takeover of Cal Am and, not coincidentally, is also against the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project — Cal Am’s desal project. Her preferred solution to the Peninsula’s water shortage is expansion of Monterey One Water’s Pure Water Monterey recycled water project, which would provide far less water to the Peninsula than desal. Pure Water Monterey expansion gets all its water from the Salinas Valley without providing any benefit to it. The desal project is the only solution that provides a benefit to Castroville and the Salinas Valley and which results in the Cease and Desist Order being lifted. But instead of confronting this reality, Chrislock labels the Salinas Valley and Castroville as bad neighbors seeking subsidies from Cal Am customers.
The water Castroville will receive from the desal project equates to the amount of fresh water incidentally captured in the desal process. This water must remain in the Salinas basin and could no more be supplied to the Peninsula than the brine the desal produces. The negotiations that led to an agreement for Castroville to buy this water were open, inclusive and collaborative, and resulted in Castroville agreeing to pay for a $2.8 million pipeline. For a small disadvantaged community, this is hardly a sweetheart deal. In the failed Regional Desalination Project, Marina Coast Water District was to be supplied this water at a much-reduced cost and could have potentially received some of the return water from the current project, but it chose to litigate rather than collaborate.
Both the desalination project’s coastal pumping and its plan to return fresh water to Castroville will benefit the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin by retarding seawater intrusion. The Pure Water Monterey expansion project, on the other hand, damages the Salinas Valley by taking 750 acre-feet of water away from the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project, putting Castroville’s water supply in serious jeopardy. The Monterey County Water Resources Agency and the City of Salinas objected to Pure Water Monterey’s purported claims to this additional source water and were ignored in the project’s environmental review.
Elected officials on the Monterey One Water Board of Directors who represent Castroville and the Salinas Valley approved the Phase One Pure Water Monterey project to help the Peninsula. Now they are being vilified for not giving even more water for an expansion at the expense of their own communities.
The Phase One Pure Water Monterey project has already encountered numerous delays, operational failures and significant cost overruns. The project aims to provide 3,500 acre-feet of water to Cal Am customers including those in Carmel and Carmel Valley, which are not ratepayers of Monterey One Water. Castroville and Salinas, which are Monterey One Water ratepayers, get no benefit from the initial or expansion project, yet paid the upfront costs for Pure Water Monterey and will incur the liabilities should the project faulter.
The Salinas Valley has worked hard to solve its water supply challenges without ever turning to the Monterey Peninsula for a drop of water. Conversely, the Monterey Peninsula has for decades failed to come up with a viable long-term solution, instead using its water shortage to deny affordable housing and leave disadvantaged communities like Castroville to take on that burden.
The Pure Water Monterey Expansion promoted by Public Water Now is a smoke screen to try and give the Coastal Commission a “viable alternative” to desal, allowing them to deny needed permits to construct the plant. We have been down this road before. There will always be last minute “alternatives” suggested, which inevitably do nothing but cause delay. This water supply issue has been studied, debated and fought over for decades. The State Water Board order concerning the Peninsula’s water supply is 25 years old and there has been little progress to report. Only desalinated water will provide a secure, long term, sustainable and drought proof water supply, which is critical for both the Peninsula and the Salinas Valley.
Public Water Now should support Monterey One Water denying the Environmental Impact Report for PWM expansion and instead look toward a fair, regional solution, like the desal project combined with Pure Water Monterey Phase One and continued support of the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project. Castroville Community Services District urges Public Water Now and all those engaged in local water issues to support the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, which provides an equitable solution for both water basins.
J Eric Tynan
Castroville Community Services District