When I was still in office, my legislative assistant and I, along with some excellent work by the staffs of our county Public Works Department, San Luis Obispo Council of Governments and Caltrans, managed to work out an agreement for a passing lane just south of the community of Harmony. All systems were go, the funding was secured, but in stepped the staff of the Coastal Commission, and some of their friends from a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit concerned with environmental issues.
Concerns were raised by both organizations on the basis that all the passing lane was intended to do was to provide for traffic to the vast developments that had been proposed on the Hearst Ranch in the past. The process to establish the eventual Hearst Ranch Conservation Easement was already well on its way, but coastal staff refused to believe that. Further, they contended that the northbound passing lane was growth-inducing. As a result, as all who drive on Highway 1 behind a really slow driver can attest, there still is no passing lane.
These same negative voices are being raised regarding the Advanced Water Treatment Plant. There may be problems with the plant that are factual, but the recent September 2014 issue of the Santa Lucian, newsletter of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, makes some statements that are either irrelevant or simply innuendo. Fully more than half of the issue of the Santa Lucian dealt with problems that have occurred in the past with prior Cambria Community Services District boards.
These issues have not a thing to do with the present efforts of this CCSD board to obtain a water source for the community. This is a tactic used by many, many people, organizations and some government agencies. We used to call it a red herring, which simply describes an effort to distract from the real issue. The last column and a half, of six columns, does not report any factual information, but picks and chooses various comments from our local paper and coastal staff to attempt to make the point that the district is not playing fair with the community.
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The most offensive point in this document is the picture on the second page. It is in color and is a picture of some dead fish in an algae bloom in a puddle of water. The caption beneath the picture reads, “Not a good sign. Dead fish were turning up in large algae blooms in San Simeon Creek in August. Highly toxic methyl-mercury thrives in these conditions, where the Cambria CSD proposes to put its emergency desal facility and then make it permanent, no matter what future environmental review may find.”
The important point I want to make is that the methyl-mercury has been in the biology of the bed of the creek for years! It has nothing whatsoever to do with the fish dying, and it is reprehensible to infer that it is. The fish are dying in the algae bloom simply because the algae takes up all of the oxygen in the water, and the fish die as a result. The methyl-mercury can end up in the fish, but it does not kill them. People should not eat the fish on a regular basis, that is true, but that is not what is implied by the caption.
Whether the district and coastal staff can come to an agreement remains to be seen, of course. But tactics that are intended to create fear and/or confusion certainly do not help either coastal staff or the CCSD in their attempts to reconcile these differences. And these differences must be reconciled soon for two reasons.
The first is that the emergency permit runs out on Nov. 15, which may be what the opponents in their disruptive tactics are counting on, but the second reason is that unless there is at the very least 10 to 12 inches of rain coming in a pattern that will allow it to soak in, the community of Cambria will be in a great big world of hurt because timely significant recharge of the groundwater aquifer over time will not happen.