May 22, 2012
A heated question of who pays for (and who profits from) the removal of the Carmel River's San Clemente Dam is headed to the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday.
Last fall, PUC administrative law judge Christine Walwyn proposed to limit California American Water's cost recovery of the dam removal project to its $49 million share, rather than the $70 million Cal Am had requested. The decision, if approved, will stick Cal Am with the costs of a decade's worth of fruitless planning work for scrapped alternatives like thickening the dam, and blocks shareholders from profiting on the project.
But in late April, PUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval submitted an alternative proposed decision that would double the ratepayer hike, allowing Cal Am to profit. Her reasoning: The obsolete dam, which has been out of use since 2003, is still useful because it holds back silt that could otherwise do damage downstream.
Cal Am supports Sandoval's proposal alternative; the PUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates backs Walwyn's.
George Riley of Citizens for Public Water, a local advocacy group, is leading a protest of Sandoval's proposal. "Sandoval's last minute change is an attack on ratepayers, a gift to Cal Am and a potential bailout for state and federal funds," he wrote in a May 19 email to supporters.
May 24 UPDATE: The PUC has postponed its scheduled agenda item on the San Clemente Dam removal, originally slated for today in San Francisco. It will likely resurface at the commission's next meeting, June 21.
Advance public comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.