Five San Luis Obispo County drought-related projects — including Cambria’s $9 million emergency water-reclamation project and a $3.5 million “purple pipe” distribution system for recycled water in San Simeon — will divvy up about $6.3 million in state drought grant money.
That’s nearly of half what county officials sought from the Proposition 84 funds, in terms of the nearly $13 million estimated project cost when the grant application was submitted, according to Dave Flynn, deputy director of Public Works.
Some of those estimates have changed since the applications were submitted, including Cambria Community Services District’s water-reclamation project, which was then listed at $5 million.
Flynn said the next step is figuring out how much of the $6.3 million each project should get, based on “project readiness and viability”: whether a project can meet the grant’s series of deadlines and whether the agency in charge can provide the local funding “match” of 25 percent of the total project cost shown on the applications.
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The county now must determine the viability of each project if each grant request is reduced proportionally, Flynn said. That, too, will factor into the final recommendations, which county staff expects to take to county supervisors on Nov. 25.
County Supervisor Bruce Gibson said another factor in the decision will be whether a project can get funding elsewhere. The county will “get a lump sum for all five of the projects we put forward,” he said. “We think all of them are worth pursuing.”
Under Flynn’s criteria, the Cambria project appears to be ahead of the game. The plant is under construction and due to be complete by mid-November, and the district has contracted for and received a loan of nearly $9 million to pay for the project.
It has yet to be determined yet how or whether the district’s loan will affect the funding factor Gibson mentioned.
Community Services District staff declined to comment on the $6.3 million grant. Spokesman Tom Gray said Tuesday night, “We haven’t received any direct notification from Public Works of the award or what recommendations they may have in mind for the allocation, so we’ll have to hold off on comment at this time until we see the details.”
However, CSD Director Amanda Rice said, “Frankly, it’s good news, just not as good as we’d wanted. I am really glad that the county, as the applicant, was able to turn it around and has at least gotten half of what they asked for. Initially, the state had made recommendations for how much each applicant was going to get, and we got zilch. The county, the consultants and district staff really worked their tails off … to get something instead of nothing.”
The county’s application initially was misidentified by the state as being incomplete or “not compliant.” Once that was resolved, the state had to determine how much the county should get for its projects.
After more than a month of receiving evidence that the application was indeed compliant, the state reversed its classification. Then it had to determine how much of the county’s original request should be granted.
But there was another problem: The state already had published a tentative list of winning applicants, minus San Luis Obispo County.
The total Central Coast area — including San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and the Pajaro River Watershed between Monterey and Santa Cruz — had been allocated $19 million.
The revised total released Tuesday, which included San Luis Obispo County, dropped the Central Coast total to $14.8 million.
In a touch of prescience, Flynn had estimated in mid-October that the county might get about a third of that $19 million, or $6.3 million.
According to the Regional Water Management Group’s final summary of the approved suite of projects, included in the $9.6 million in original grant-funding requests from the county (for projects estimated then to cost more than $12.9 million) were:
• $3.75 million toward Cambria’s emergency water-reclamation project, then estimated at $5 million (costs have risen to nearly $9 million).
• $1.3 million for a $3.5 million “purple pipe” to distribute recycled water in San Simeon (estimated cost in the application was more than $1.7 million).
• $112,500 for a $150,000 Heritage Ranch project to draw emergency water from Nacimiento Lake’s pipeline.
• $3 million for a $4 million intertie between Salinas and Nacimiento pipelines.
• $1.5 million for a nearly $2 million intertie to provide emergency water from Atascadero to Santa Margarita and Garden Farms.