Thursday, May 22, 2003
The controversial plan to dam the Carmel River--declared dead for more than a year--may be brought back to life.
Voters shot down the proposed dam in 1995, and have since elected a slate of anti-dam activists to the board of the water district. But California-American Water Co. (Cal-Am) kept the idea alive. Former Assemblyman Fred Keeley, who authored a bill directing the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to develop an alternative to the dam project in 1998. Keeley has said repeatedly "the dam is dead."
In February, Cal-Am amended its application to build the dam and announced its intention to build the Moss Landing de-sal plant.
However, reports of the dam''s demise may be premature. According to the transcript of a May 14 proceeding, Cal-Am officials still prefer the dam proposal over a plan to build a seawater desalination plant in Moss Landing--known as the Coastal Water Project, or "Plan B."
The hearing took place before the PUC. A transcript relates a conversation between Cal-Am''s attorney, Leonard Weiss, and the Water Management District''s attorney, David Laredo:
Weiss: "This, by the way, is verified by the company''s president, who was here this morning. That this is the company''s position: that is, that the company continues to believe the dam is the better project overall because it''s cheaper to ratepayers but has recognized that it is probably not going to fly in today''s environment. Now, that''s a change from a few years ago, and it could change again. The dam is clearly a reasonable alternative to the Coastal Water Project, and so that fact is driving a lot of the decisions here.
"Secondly, we have no other projects yet in a stage where we can proceed. The Coastal Water Project is not yet even beyond the first step in front of the Commission. Our only project as we sit here today is the dam project."
Laredo: "I''ve heard the words, but I don''t understand them."
Laredo then asks "whether or not the Carmel River Dam is an ongoing project or has it been abandoned."
Weiss: "It clearly has not been abandoned."
Water board chair Zan Henson says something''s fishy.
He points out that the abandoned National Refractories plant next to the Moss Landing power plant--identified in Plan B as the project site for the de-sal--is still for sale.
"If Cal-Am has adopted the Coastal Water project, why is the National Refractories plant still on the market?" Henson asks.
Henson also points to state Sen. Bruce McPherson''s recently proposed Senate Bill 149, which would replace the district''s elected board of directors with a panel of Peninsula mayors and a county supervisor. McPherson''s proposal would also cut voters out of the approval process on proposed water projects.
"When you take vacant National Refractories plant, together with this PUC testimony, together with the fact that if you wanted to get a dam approved for the Monterey Peninsula, you would certainly know that the people of the Monterey Peninsula will not vote for a dam, what do you do? You seek to take away the vote.
"And look at who is supporting SB 149, and who supported the dam. Isn''t it amazing? It''s all the same people. With the exception of Dave Potter."
Supervisor Potter opposed the Carmel River dam, but supports SB 149.
Cal-Am spokesman Kevin Tilden disputes Henson''s charges, and says the water company "is firmly committed to building a de-sal plant in Moss Landing."
"We''re certainly behind Plan B," he says. "The dam is economically preferable, the dam is less expensive, but we certainly understand that it is not politically viable."
He adds that the empty National Refractories plant isn''t the only potential site for the water project.
"Certainly a site close to, adjacent to, or on the Duke Energy site would be preferable, but the National Refractories plant is not the only place we would look at.
"We have no change in direction at all. We''re absolutely committed to building a de-sal plan in Moss Landing."