June 21, 2012
The PUC, by a 4-1 vote, sanctioned Commissioner Catherine Sandoval's proposed alternative decision to let Cal Am recover more than a decade of related planning costs from Monterey-area ratepayers. Carmel River Steelhead Association had backed this option, would that Cal Am would appeal or scrap the environmentally lauded project if it had to absorb $26 million in pre-construction costs.
Cal Am spokeswoman Catherine Bowie says Trout Unlimited, Pelican Network and Carmel River Watershed Conservancy also spoke in support of Sandoval's alternative. "There was a lot of public support," she says.
But Citizens for Public Water, another local group, had backed PUC Administrative Judge Christine Walwyn's proposed decision, which would have shunted those costs onto Cal Am shareholders. The PUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates also preferred Walwyn's version.
A revision offered late in the game by Cal Am puts the heaviest share of the costs on its biggest water users. The project will result in an estimated 5.6 percent bill increase—about $2.54 per month—for the average residential customer, effective July 1, according to a Cal Am press release.
Bowie says the roadwork on the dam removal project is scheduled to begin this fall.