CCSD, Army Corps mull jurisdiction

April 15, 2010 

Directors of Cambria’s services district will try again soon to decide about a report that says some proposed water-supply tests beneath the beach near Shamel Park won’t have any significant effect on the environment.

The Cambria Community Services District board will meet at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.

The geotechnical and hydrogeologic testing project is designed to prove if desalination- plant pumps could pull enough seawater from under the sandy shore near the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek to supply a proposed desal plant.

The water would be piped to the plant located elsewhere, possibly near San Simeon Creek east of the state-park campground. To meet federal and state standards, building that plant would require a full environmental impact report.

Several times since January, the district board has considered the report on environmental effects that could be produced by a series of test drillings and up to three temporary monitoring wells.

The public and public agencies submitted more than 100 pages of comments and questions about the $733,000 testing project, which would be done by the Army Corps of Engineers.

During public meetings of the board in January, February and March, members of the public also spoke out about the report, the testing regime and the desalination project itself.

The Cambrian has requested updated information about the test project from various district officials and members of the Army Corps’ staff, none of whom responded before press deadline.

The California Coastal Commission is likewise unaware of how the district and the Corps will solve what the district’s attorney described in March as a “big jurisdictional issue” over the testing project.

On April 9, Tom Luster of the commission’s Energy, Ocean Resources and Water Quality Division said, “We’re currently planning for a hearing at the May Commission meeting, and will have the agenda and staff report available in a couple of weeks. We’re hoping the CCSD takes some action at its April meeting.”

The commission postponed a previously scheduled April 15 hearing on the Corps’ 17-page, Dec. 21 “Coastal Consistency Determination,” so the district and the corps could hash out their issues.

As a federally funded program, the testing project is subject to National Environmental Policy Act requirements. Luster has said that, if no local permits are involved — as county planner Airlin Singewald said at a North Coast Advisory Council meeting on March 17 — then neither are California Environmental Quality Act requirements for the district to do a state-level environmental report.

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