December 18, 2012
If Monterey County's coastal cities are the Joneses, Salinas just wants to keep up.
A coalition of six Peninsula cities, along with the city of Marina, have long been discussing their options for a seawater desalination facility. Now, the city of Salinas is piling on. Tonight, the City Council approved a five-year deal with DeepWater Desal to explore buying its de-salted seawater and wholesale power. (Above, City Manager Ray Corpuz and new Mayor Joe Gunter share a laugh on the dais.)
DeepWater Desal proposes to build a desal plant and a power generator at the Dynegy power plant site in Moss Landing (a recent relocation from the nearby Capurro Ranch). The five-year agreement approved 4-2 tonight only authorizes the city to continue talks with DeepWater Desal, with no commitment to purchase water or power. Any expenditures will have to be separately approved by the City Council.
But not all residents think it's a good idea. In a Dec. 17 email to the mayor and council, Salinas attorney Matthew Spiegl points out that two other private desal proposals are competing for business—and a recently released consultant's report compares the three.
"If I were a member of the Salinas City Council I think I would like to have this type of information presented to me before I was asked to pick a horse in a race sight unseen," he writes.
In a departure from an earlier draft, which put the price tags for the three regional desal proposals within several hundred dollars per acre-foot of one another, the final Separation Processes, Inc. report finds much bigger disparities:
-California American Water's desal would cost $3,300 per annual acre-foot, -People's Moss Landing water would cost $2,320 per annual acre-foot, and -DeepWater Desal water would cost $2,205 per annual acre-foot.
These numbers assume the desal plant is built to a capacity of 9,000 acre-feet per year. The per-unit water costs are higher for a 5,500 acre-foot plant.
Although the revision puts Cal Am at a financial disadvantage, it maintains its lead on speed. A Cal Am desal plant could be online by mid-2016, the SPI report finds. The DeepWater Desal and People's Moss Landing plants would not operate until early 2018.
Until recently, that water seemed destined to flow to Monterey County's coastal cities. In addition to the three private proposals, Marina Coast Water District and Monterey Peninsula Water Management District have also discussed building their own desal facilities.
But as the Weekly reported last week, Salinas is looking at its own steep water rate hikes, too. The DeepWater Desal agreement aims to provide options for long-term growth, particularly for the energy-intensive tech industry.