Reasonable options would allow moderate, restricted growth

April 3, 2014 

My wife and I purchased a lot in Cambria late in 2004. Before you ask “what were you thinking?” I will present the facts as we knew them then.

Cambria had come up with a build-out plan that was reasonable. We are all familiar with coastal towns that have had poor planning. In Cambria 666 water wait positions were issued for a fee. We also know that Cambria had secured $10.3 million towards building a desalination plant. These two things seemed to have the direction of a positive plan.

Once the plan started taking shape we could not have envisioned the anger, vitriol and downright bullying tactics that would be employed by those opposed to any more building in Cambria. Before I address the water issue let me say that I realize there is a very vocal, successful group who wants no growth ever.

Water is the issue but it is being used to further their ultimate goal. I dislike chronic liars almost as much as bullies. Just once I wish they would stand up and tell the truth, “We don’t want any growth.”

They would gain the respect of everyone including themselves. Even if there were a new practically free water option available it would be opposed by this group.

Cambrians have been remarkably accepting of severe water restrictions, living like a third-world country in a sea of expensive homes. The question is, is this the way you want to live forever? Perhaps we should explore other options.

As pointed out by Clyde Warren, there are storage options that haven’t been fully explored. In his example there is a site of from 610 to 704 acre-feet of storage. That is a huge backup storage site for the Cambria water system. This could take tremendous pressure off of the existing well aquifers. Over the years just how much water has flowed through Cambria to the ocean? I don’t know but it has to be a considerable amount.

As to the desal plant, it should be used as a last resort back-up in emergencies. If backup storage is in place the final size of the plant could be downsized.

The whole desal industry is changing rapidly. One of the most promising developments in the field is solar desalinization. There is a current pilot project in Firebaugh that is desalinizing brackish water for about $450 an acre-foot. Solar desal uses much less energy than reverse osmosis and converts 93 percent to fresh water and 7 percent to brine. Reverse osmosis converts 50 percent to fresh and 50 percent to brine discharge.

The brine from solar desalination can be further concentrated on site. These concentrated salts may have commercial value. Even if these salts were allowed to flow back into the ocean the amounts are relatively small compare to the size and salinity of the ocean as to be inconsequential.

Solar desalination works best in drought years when you have many sunny days. As to the final cost, we wouldn’t know until the final size of such a plant is determined. What is known is how much money could be available towards such a plant without current ratepayers spending a dime: $10.3 million form the congressional grant, $14.6 million from new hookups based on $20,000 new hookup fees times 666.

I am an environmentalist. I am appalled at how many towns have gone headlong in to uncontrolled growth. Cambria’s plan is very reasonable, allowing and additional 7 percent new hookups. At the same time the water system could be improved for future use. There are people in this town that would like old guys like me to go away and die off. Hopefully that won’t happen for while. But until that happens I am not going away.

Pete Johnson is a resident of Visalia.

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