Thursday, April 30, 2009
“It seems simple to me, that all we’re trying to do is work together and – god forbid – get along,” said Supervisor Dave Potter at the Tuesday meeting.
But when it comes to water politics in Monterey County, nothing is simple and folks rarely get along.
For the first time in a great many years, it appeared various groups and agencies – including California American Water Company, Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, Marina Coast Water District, Monterey County Water Resource Agency, Peninsula mayors and now, County Supervisors – were willing to work together and move forward on a water-supply project for the Monterey Peninsula.
The so-called regional project, an alternative to Cal Am’s proposed Moss Landing desalination plant, would include a desal plant near the dunes in North Marina and recycled water. The public agencies – save the supes – have signed off on a memorandum of understanding, and on April 28, Supervisors were slated to approve the Monterey Regional Water Projects Planning MOU (publicagendas.co.monterey.ca.us/).
After being threatened with lawsuits and harshly criticized – by LandWatch and the Farm Bureau, North County water watchdogs and Salinas Valley growers, groups that normally find themselves on opposing sides of political fights – Supervisors agreed to hold off on signing any MOUs, and return to the issue at the May 19 meeting. But they’re not necessarily happy about it.
Supervisor Lou Calcagno – who represents North County and chairs the water pollution control agency, where he played a critical role in encouraging elected officials and agencies to agree to work together on the regional project – said the Marina desal option was the best alternative for North County residents (worried about existing seawater intrusion into groundwater wells), farmers (wary of Peninsula customers taking any Salinas Basin agricultural water for urban needs) and environmentalists (who oppose the Moss Landing desal option because it would suck tiny sea critters through its pipes). Community leaders have got to do something, Calcagno said. The state has ordered Cal Am to stop overpumping the Carmel River and the Seaside Basin, which provide water to the Monterey Peninsula. And the California Public Utilities Commission’s analysis of the potential environmental impacts of a new water supply project for the Monterey Peninsula says the North Marina desalination alternative – using seawater vertical wells instead of slant wells – is the environmentally superior alternative.
“The number one issue is, the train was coming down the track – that was the PUC,” Calcagno said. “All indication was that support was behind the brackish water option in Marina. Brackish wells along the dunes, close to the ocean, the majority [85 percent] is going to be ocean water, 15 percent freshwater – no more freshwater will be pumped out of those wells. That’s why we specifically said on the west side of Highway 1.”
The water agencies also agreed not to take any water from the Salinas River for the Peninsula, he said: “We wanted to protect farmers all the way.”
Currently, Marina Coast provides recycled water to farmers for irrigation. But in the winter, the water is pumped back out to the ocean. Instead, it could be used to supply water to the Peninsula, Calcagno said. “That’s 6,000, 7,000 acre-feet of water going out to the ocean. Why not keep it?”