Have you noticed the number of pelicans the last few days? One day, we saw cormorants sitting on their favorite large rock at Sea Otter Cove and pelicans floating in the water. The next day, pelicans occupied that large rock and cormorants were nowhere to be seen. The third day, cormorants and pelicans shared the same rock side by side.
Fellow Cambrians, at the risk of being too simplistic, can we take a lesson from our marine life visitors?
Our mostly perfect Cambria paradise is under attack from our imperfect human reactions on both sides of the water issue. I have witnessed public comments at CCSD meetings that were both contentious and condescending to the directors and staff, who looked as if they were waiting for a root canal. I also understand that interested citizens were barred from attending a presentation by a CDM representative who was there to talk on the project that we will all pay for. Both behaviors need to be checked in our (mostly) perfect Cambria paradise.
We all know that our water situation is precarious, and that an emergency source of water is needed. Why, then, are some Cambrians opposing this project with such vehemence? One reason, of course, is the confusing series of changes in Cambria’s water policy in the past year. We have gone from deciding to issue more water permits to cutting our usage by 40 percent. From providing free landscape water to shutting it off. From a temporary desal unit for $1.5 million by July 1 to a permanent facility for $9 million to $13 million that cannot be available until the rainy season.
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A major concern involves the financing of the project. Although the loan is for a definite amount, the loan contract requires us to finish the project regardless of its eventual cost. At the same time, five agencies that must approve the permanent facility have all listed serious reservations that could well involve many expensive mitigations. Since we are likely to get winter rain before we get any water from this project, it seems prudent to proceed deliberately in deciding our future, rather than accepting an “act now on this limited offer” mentality when deciding on loans and contracts.
But it has been claimed that 80 percent of Cambrians already endorse the project (because only 20 percent filed a formal protest). A more accurate statement is that at least 20 percent were aware of the problematic nature of the current project and sufficiently motivated to jump through the hoops required to file a protest.
It took me two trips to the Cambria Community Services District office (once in the required presence of my husband) to meet their criteria for a valid protest.
When a major project affecting the future of Cambria is moving and changing so rapidly, we can only offer support if we all understand what is happening. This requires an open and polite discussion. I know that such a thing is possible in Cambria, because I attended meetings moderated by director Amanda Rice and hosted by the Unitarian Universalist church. They were publicly announced, and there was no bouncer at the door checking points of view. Cambrians on all sides of the issue were present, and the discussion, although sometimes heated, was civilized. This is what is needed to build broad support for an emergency water supply.
Our water problems can only be solved if we include everyone in the discussion, provide full disclosure of the project and its changes, ensure that it has a good chance of approval by the agencies, and allow the citizens and directors ample time to consider the pros and cons before a final decision is made. A rush to judgment runs the real risk of losing our opportunity to survive future droughts.
Let’s start now to follow the lead of the cormorants and pelicans. This can be a more perfect paradise as long as we concentrate on the happiness and joy of living in such a bucolic area and sharing it with our fellow Cambrians and visitors.