Thursday, June 3, 2010
The tides are shifting on the Regional Water Project, as watchdog group Citizens for Public Water moves from opponent to supporter of the desalination agreements - joining its historic adversary, California American Water.
Under the agreement released two months ago, Marina Coast Water District will own and operate a new desalination plant, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency will supply the brackish water from beach wells, and Cal Am will buy and distribute the plant's de-salted water. The project is intended to end Cal Am's illegal overpumping of the Carmel River and supply water for development of the former Fort Ord.
Until now, CPW has been in opposition to the agreements along with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, an arm of the state Public Utilities Commission.
CPW co-founder George Riley says his group is still concerned with the lack of representation for Peninsula ratepayers who will foot the project's hefty bill. CPW wants the Peninsula water district to have a non-voting seat on the project advisory council, and also an independent public oversight committee for the project.
“We still have issues with the settlement agreement,” he says. “But we’re optimistic some key issues will be resolved after litigation and during PUC deliberations…We prefer to be inside the tent rather than outside.”
Ultimately, Riley says, his group is convinced the project is workable because the desal plant would be publicly owned. He says the latest calculations show the Marina Coast-owned desal project will cost $200-$3,500 per acre-foot less than the runner-up alternative, a Cal Am desal plant in North Marina.