The Oceano Community Services District took the first steps on Wednesday toward approving a partnership with Pismo Beach that would provide the Five Cities with a new source of water via Pismo's recycled wastewater project.
District general manager Paavo Ogren said the district board of directors voted 4-1, with director Matthew Guerrero dissenting, to direct staff to work with Pismo Beach on a possible interagency partnership.
This is just a first step, Ogren cautioned, allowing the district to help in the support and preliminary planning stages of Pismo's proposed project, which would add a tertiary level of filtration and disinfection at the city's sewage treatment plant. The upgrades would allow the water to be injected back into the Santa Maria groundwater basin, where much of the South County draws its water from.
Once completed, the updated plant could recycle up to 950 acre-feet a year, or 309.6 million gallons.
Pismo Beach has proposed working in tandem with the other South County agencies to establish the project, which would cost an estimated $29.7 million. They are pursuing several state and federal grants to help pay for the water treatment updates. Other funding would come from a combination of low-interest loans and cost-sharing contributions from Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the Oceano CSD.
The Oceano board will still be able to vote against the project after the preliminary planning stages, if it decides that the project does not serve the best interests of the district, Ogren said.
"Stage one will be considering how this is going to work as a whole," he said. "And then stage two would be where actual decisions are made on the implementation and whether the board wants to actually participate in this."
One major consideration for the board was how this project would impact another local proposed recycled water project from the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District, Ogren said.
The sanitation district is conducting a feasibility study for building a satellite plant to treat wastewater for groundwater recharge or irrigation, similar to the Pismo recycling project, though both are in the early stages of planning.
To remedy some of the concerns, the board named Guerrero — who serves as the district's representative on the sanitation district board as well — and board President Mary Lucey as members of an ad hoc committee to monitor the project's progress.
The Pismo Beach water project has yet to go before the Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach city councils for approval.