August 13, 2012
The first concrete steps toward dismantling the San Clemente Dam are taking place, as ads for construction crews to build access roads were finalized Monday.
Pending permit approval by the County Planning Commission (a decision is expected at the Commission's Sept. 12 meeting), road construction is expected to begin in late September.
Funding is also coming through: On August 2, the California Coastal Conservancy authorized a grant to California American Water of up to $32 million of state, federal and private funds for the project, which is intended to improve Carmel River flow and steelhead habitat. The Conservancy still needs to raise approximately $5.5 million of the pledged contribution.
"The partnership we have with Coastal Conservancy really does provide a tremendous benefit to our ratepayers in reducing the cost of the project," Cal Am spokeswoman Catherine Bowie says. "Their support is just further evidence of the widespread support we have from government agencies and conservation groups."
The Conservancy's grant accounts for about 40 percent of the total project costs. Cal Am will cover $49 million, and plans to pass that along to ratepayers who will see an average $2.94 monthly bill increase.
The California Public Utilities Commission approved Cal Am's plan to bill ratepayers with a 4-1 decision in June.
The PUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates filed a request on July 27 asking the PUC to hold a rehearing on the matter, arguing ratepayers shouldn't have to foot Cal Am's portion of the bill.
"Ratepayers may never see the benefit of this potential emergency water source nor recoup the money expended," according to DRA's rehearing request. "Therefore, ratepayers should not be expected to provide a rate of return when they are already paying for alternative water supplies (and could potentially be paying for more in the near future) that adequately address these concerns."
Cal Am is preparing a formal response to DRA, but Bowie says the utility's position is that the commissioners already weighed the issues in their June ruling.