Cambria plan to OK new water hookups inches ahead

No formal action taken for now, but expected next month

ktanner@thetribunenews.comJune 26, 2013 

Cambria services district directors want to start handing out intent-to- serve letters for new water connections, “on an interim basis” until a supplemental water source is found, they reiterated during an evening “study session” meeting with the public Friday, June 21.

Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors discussed a set of documents that would move the process along. The documents include new administrative procedures and revisions to the district’s municipal code and water conservation-retrofit program.

The board expects to take formal steps toward adopting the changes at its regular meeting in July.
Before the plan can go forward, the district needs to show proof of water savings to convince the county to loosen its growth cap and, after that, take its case to the the California Coastal Commission — all told, a process that will take months if not years.

Friday’s study-session format allowed directors to hold lengthy conversations and share opinions with each other and the 20 or so audience members.

Thoughts shared included some strong sentiments from members of the public against what the board wants to do. Some said the timing is wrong for the district to even consider adding more houses, because rainfall was low, creeks near district wells are running dry earlier in the season than usual, protected creek species are dying and most of California is considered to be in a drought.

Richard Hawley urged the board to implement “a water-rationing measure rather than new intent-to-serve letters” calling the former “a (more) rational action for our community’s health and safety.”
Later in the meeting, he said, “You are creating a train wreck if you go down this path” of retrofitting to build.

Director Jim Bahringer said, even if the plan gets regulatory approval from the county and state easily, “we won’t have anybody coming online for a couple of years.” Of the drought issue, he said,” Yes, this is an interesting time to do it, but if we don’t do it now, then when?”

Several directors also expressed reservations about some aspects of the plan and requested changes to it.

Director Amanda Rice repeatedly expressed concerns, including about how to verify unequivocally that a ramped-up water-conservation plan and stiff retrofit requirements for new projects would actually save water or, at a minimum, produce no increased demand.

Rice said the district’s complex descriptions, such as about how retrofit points will confirm water savings, are difficult to understand and even harder to prove. She “opposes the points program” as a means of verifying those savings, she said.

“I feel like I’m on ice in tennis shoes,” she said, adding that the conserved water they plan to use to supply new residences “is paper water” until that proof is rock solid.

Director Gail Robinette said phrases such as aquifers, units, EDUs, acre feet and 90th percentile make explanations even harder for customers to comprehend.

Eventually, directors agreed the program should translate the water use and savings to gallons, and a retrofitted home’s water use should be tracked before and after new water-saving devices are installed.

The directors took no votes or action on the draft documents, and, because there was only a week’s lag between the study session and the regular meeting, board members don’t expect to review those documents publicly again or vote on them until next month’s monthly meeting on July 25.

Directors meet again today

The Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors meets at 12:30 p.m. today, June 27, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St., Cambria.

While the meeting’s agenda doesn’t include further discussion on the district’s plan to start issuing intent-to-serve letters for new water connections, directors are expected to discuss how to get the county to change its zero growth restriction for Cambria, which has to happen before the county can start approving building permits.

Among other items on the meeting’s agenda, directors could: Approve the district’s 2013-2014 budget with nearly $7.9 million in revenues and $8.2 million in expenses, transferring $516,399 out of reserves; approve a 1.3 percent adjustment in the Fire Suppression Benefit Assessment; and approve paramedic service-provider agreement (for Cambria Fire Department) with County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

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