January 16, 2012
UPDATED JAN. 17: Cal Am has torpedoed the Regional Desalination Project, the water company confirmed this morning.
“Desalination will be part of the Monterey Peninsula’s future water supply, but the Regional Desalination Project will not be the vehicle to deliver it,” California American Water President Rob MacLean stated in a press release. “Recognizing the severity of the state’s cutback order, we must now move forward on an alternative water supply project as quickly as possible."
Cal Am claims mediation with the other two Regional Project partners, Monterey County Water Resources Agency and Marina Coast Water District, has not been successful in resolving various hurdles. The project has been encumbered by accusations of unmet financial obligations, conflict-of-interest charges filed against former MCWRA Director Steve Collins, and a recent ruling in favor of Ag Land Trust invalidating the current environmental impact report.
Marina Coast has apparently been demoted in the process. Cal Am plans to keep working with the county on a water supply solution, the press release states, while Marina Coast is "encouraged to participate" in the talks.
County Supervisor Dave Potter, who also chairs the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board, views the decision as an opportunity to move forward with a retooled water-supply solution for the Peninsula, which is facing a 70 percent cutback on its primary water source, the Carmel River, in 2016. “With mediation ending and the [EIR] stalled, we have an opportunity to more broadly engage the public and fix the Peninsula’s water problem," he stated.
On Jan. 24, the California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to consider Cal Am's request to keep working on a pipeline and water-storage facilities, which Cal Am claims will be necessary components in any of 11 water-supply alternative projects analyzed last fall.
The death of the Regional Project also breathes new life into water-project joint powers authority proposed by the mayors of six Peninsula cities, approved by the Carmel City Council and currently under consideration by the remaining five councils.
A new water project will need to start over with permitting from the CPUC, county and California Coastal Commission, among other agencies.