Chrislock: Time to move forward with the Pure Water Monterey Expansion

After stalling for almost a year, Cal Am walked away the day before the scheduled Coastal Commission hearing rather than face a no vote on its proposed desal project. The Commission looked at the facts and recommended the Pure Water Monterey Expansion as the best alternative environmentally and economically. They also noted serious environmental justice issues for Marina. Even the Los Angeles Times reported on our local fight.

Cal Am’s lie repeated a thousand times campaign collided with the truth at the Coastal Commission. There has been major opposition to this desal project from both the Peninsula and Marina. Over 25 elected leaders, including State Senator Bill Monning, Assemblymember Mark Stone and supervisors Mary Adams and Jane Parker, dozens of local organizations, and the public all opposed the project.

The reason for this project in the first place was the Carmel River. But now Cal Am’s desal is no longer needed to stop illegal pumping from the River. With the additional 3,500 acre-feet now available from Pure Water Monterey, we will be able to stop relying on the River. Cal Am can meet the CDO by December 2021 without any new water supply. 

And yes, Pure Water Monterey can deliver the promised 3,500 acre-feet by next year. Two new deep injection wells have been authorized and are underway to solve the initial injection problem.

Defying all reason, Cal Am is still claiming we need another 6,000 acre-feet of water supply. The Coastal Commission agreed with the Water Management District’s assessment that 2,250 acre-feet from the expansion of Pure Water Monterey would give us plenty of water for 30 years of growth.

Castroville lost on this, and there’s no glory in that. But Eric Tynan is certainly not generating much empathy for the people of Castroville in his angry rants. The people of Marina and the Peninsula had no say in this desal project until the Coastal Commission heard us. 

Castroville would have received 700 acre-feet of desal water annually from the proposed project. Cal Am customers on the Peninsula would have had to subsidize this water for Castroville with millions of dollars added to Peninsula water bills every year. 

Will those who caused Castroville’s seawater intrusion problem step up to help Castroville? The Peninsula has enough water challenges without being asked to pay to solve Castroville’s. 

Eric Tynan has made many blatantly false claims in arguing his case for Castroville. The Pure Water Monterey Expansion does NOT get all its water from the Salinas Valley and Castroville, and they DO benefit from Pure Water Monterey with more water that could go to CSIP.

Tynan says, “The Salinas Valley has worked hard to solve its water supply challenges without ever turning to the Monterey Peninsula for a drop of water.”

That’s false. Castroville, Salinas, and County Ag interests have pretended they were doing the Peninsula a big favor in letting us have wastewater for Pure Water Monterey. You won’t hear them admit that 40% of the wastewater flows that go to the Monterey One Plant come from Marina and the Peninsula. This water feeds the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project (CSIP), irrigating 12,000 acres of farmland every year. This Peninsula wastewater has created approximately 80,000 acre-feet of CSIP water for irrigation over the past 20 years. Now Tynan wants to argue over 750 acre-feet that CSIP has no legal right to. 

Cal Am claims it will go back to the Coastal Commission. Why would the outcome be any different? It claims it will negotiate with Marina. I doubt Marina is interested in anything Cal Am has to offer.

Hopefully, we’re done here and Cal Am will finally agree to move forward with the Pure Water Monterey Expansion. Time and elections will tell.

On behalf of Public Water Now, thank you to everyone who contributed to this victory.

Melodie Chrislock
Managing Director
Public Water Now


About VOMB

Voices of Monterey Bay is a nonprofit online news source serving California's Central Coast.