• PUC conducts hearings on water plans

    By Joe Fabeets

    The California Public Utilities Commission held four public hearings this week – two in Monterey and two in Seaside – with the purpose of gathering public input to help select the best plan for solving the Peninsula’s water shortages. The last of the hearings took place at the Oldemeyer Center with nearly 100 people in attendance.

    Representatives of California-American Water and the Marina Coast Water District greeted the audience. “California-American Water’s objective in this process is to secure a new, reliable source of supply that’s sensitive to the environment and reasonably priced for the customers,” according to Cal-Am Vice President of Operations Tom Binowski.

    Cal-Am’s plan is called the Coastal Water Project. It would be a combination seawater desalination plant and underground storage facility at Moss Landing. Cal-Am regards this as “an environmentally preferable alternative to a new dam and reservoir on the Carmel River.” In November 2008, Cal-Am launched a one-year testing program of a pilot desalination plant located on the Moss Landing power generation station in cooperation with the power station’s owner, Dynegy, Inc. The pilot plant recycles intake seawater from the cooling system at the power station, operates around-the-clock and produces approximately 22,000 gallons of desalinated water per day. After samples are drawn for testing, the desalinated water, as well as its brine by-product, is returned to the power plant’s cooling system for discharge to Monterey Bay.

    The second choice is for Cal-Am to operate a slant-well desal plant in Marina, named the North Marina Coast Alternative. The third, called the “Regional Water Project” suggests a joint public venture between the Marina Coast Water District and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use vertical wells to supply a desalination plant in North Marina that would also use recycled water and other sources.

    Twenty-seven people spoke to the judge. Among those, attorney Michael Stamp urged a close look at water rights and who is legally able to grant them.

    Area realtor Kim DiBenedetto read a letter from the Monterey County Association of Realtors endorsing the Regional Water Project.

    Carmel Valley resident Roger Dolan expressed concern over the Regional Plan. “The Regional Plan has a couple of problems with it. One is the governance problem of having the Marina Coast Water District be the owner of the desal facility. The second problem is some uncertainty about the appropriate size of the facility.” Mr. Dolan said the MCWD, while very well intentioned, lacked “the depth” to run a quarter-billion dollar operation.

    Area resident Dan Presser pulled no punches in his views on Cal-Am. “You can’t trust these people,” he said. “We cannot allow more water to be produced than is really needed for the people who live here at the moment. Our job should not be to pay for people in the future to go out and build new housing developments.”

    In response to purported flaws in the other plans, LandWatch, League of Women Voters of the Monterey Peninsula the Prunedale Neighbors Group and the Ventana chapter of the Sierra Club developed a “Hybrid Regional Project” that borrows ideas from the other plans and adds a few. It centers on a smaller desalination plant coupled with conservation, storm water reclamation and repair of leaky pipes.

    The crowd at Oldemeyer seemed mostly in support of either the Regional Plan or the Hybrid Plan.

    Administrative Law Judge Angela Minkin said the transcripts of the hearings will be available at libraries next week. She hopes the CPUC will make its choice by March of next year, but added that supplemental testimony could delay that decision until May.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 18, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News, Cameron Douglas


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