Keeping in Touch
“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” --Part I
These poignant words were penned in the late 1700s by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge to describe the suffering of sailors becalmed for weeks and running out of supplies in the middle of an ocean.
Ironically, the people of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Monterey Peninsula could soon be facing just such a situation if we do not have a new source of water to replace most of what California American Water has been pumping from the Carmel River.
Last year, the State Water Resources Control Board set a mandatory reduction schedule for Cal Am customers in a Cease and Desist Order. If a new water supply is not promptly brought on line to offset these reductions in Carmel River withdrawals, we will surely see a dramatic impact on our way of life and revenues. Residents and businesses could be subject to significant water rationing, making everyday life uncomfortable, reducing tourism and other local commercial activity, and adversely impacting revenues for local governments. Over the next two or three weeks more of this water story will be described in this column.
Through the end of the calendar year, there are a number of issues pending at the California Public Utilities Commission (the agency that regulates Cal Am) in San Francisco which will shape the water supply for the Monterey Peninsula. Cal Am is seeking approval from the CPUC to join two other “Settling Parties” in a series of agreements that would provide for the development of the Regional Water Project, the primary feature of which would be a large desalination facility to desalinate seawater that has intruded into the groundwater basin located immediately north of the City of Marina. Since you cannot tell the players without a program, here is the cast of characters:
a. The three Settling Parties developing the Regional Water Project are Cal Am, the Marina Coast Water District and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA).
b. The keystone of the Regional Project is the desalination facility, to be run by Marina Coast, which in turn will sell the resulting potable water to Cal Am. The MCWRA will own the wells, which will draw the brackish water to be processed by Marina Coast at the desalination facility. The formal agreement to build and operate the plant, lasting almost 100 years, was negotiated among the three principal players. The six Peninsula cities generally support the Regional Water Project as the source of a replacement water supply and do not wish to see it delayed.
c. The ratepayers (Cal Am customers) will pay for the project through their water bills.
d. Governance: When the formal agreement was unveiled to the Mayors this past April, it was clear there was no role for the cities or their constituents (the Cal Am ratepayer) in how the Regional Water Project would be governed. The Mayors felt strongly that they needed a clearly defined role in order to ensure that over the years the needs of the Peninsula communities will be met as economically as possible. This project will be expensive.
My next column will discuss the timeline for the Regional Water Project and provide further information about how a refined “governance” proposal is intended to function.
Please do not hesitate to call me at (831) 624-7310 or City Administrator Rich Guillen, (831) 620-2058, if you have questions or comments.
Sue McCloud, Former Mayor