The Los Osos sewer project faces a make-or-break decision Tuesday when county supervisors will vote whether to formally commit to building the large infrastructure project.
The project, debated for three decades, has been nearly five years in the making under the county’s control. During that time, supervisors have taken multiple votes to move various aspects of the project forward, but Tuesday’s vote will be crucial, said Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes Los Osos.
“This resolution puts us on the hook to do this project,” he said. “It cements our intention to proceed.”
The $189 million project calls for the construction and installation of an entire sewage collection and treatment system to serve the Los Osos and Baywood Park communities. The treatment plant will be able to handle 1.2 million gallons of wastewater fed to it by 41 miles of collection lines.
The hearing is expected to take the better part of the day, depending on how much public comment is received, Gibson said. At previous hearings, critics of the project said the monthly expense to homeowners — which has been as high as $200 — would force seniors and others with fixed incomes out of the community.
Construction of the project will be financed by a combination of state and federal funds, mostly in the form of low-interest loans. Securing those loans has brought the monthly cost down to about $165, Gibson said.
Later this year, the county will hold an election to include undeveloped properties in Los Osos in the assessment district. If that passes, the cost could go down to about $135 a month because it would spread the cost around to more properties.
“I’ve said publicly many times that the cost of this project is a very big concern,” Gibson said.
The county has already spent $8.2 million in general and road funds to move the sewer forward. Approving the project and its financing will allow the county to recoup those costs.
The Los Osos sewer project is the county’s largest infrastructure project in recent years, eclipsing the recently completed Nacimiento pipeline, which cost $176 million. If approved, the sewer project is scheduled to be complete in 2014.
The sewer faces another important hearing May 5 when it goes before the Regional Water Quality Control Board for adoption of its discharge requirements. These are cleanliness standards the treatment plant’s effluent must meet.
State water officials are requiring the sewer system, saying thousands of septic systems and leach fields in the seaside community are polluting ground and surface water with bacteria and nitrates.