Los Osos sewer struggles may be ending

The county’s Los Osos sewer project will face what could be its final regulatory hurdle when the state Coastal Commission meets Jan. 14 in Huntington Beach.

The commission will hear two separate sets of appeals of the project.

One set of appeals is about the overall $165 million project. The other is about some last-minute modifications to the project approved by county supervisors right before Thanksgiving.

The meeting begins at 10 a.m. in the Huntington Beach City Council Chambers, 2000 Main St. The Los Osos sewer appeals are toward the beginning of the agenda.

The Los Osos sewer project, devised by the county Public Works Department, has already been approved by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

The commission has wide latitude in dealing with appeals.

It can approve the project as proposed or send the county back to the drawing board.

The most likely outcome is that the commission will approve the project while requiring some changes to it.

If approved by the Coastal Commission, the project would have all the necessary approvals, and the county could begin constructing the system next year.

Lawsuits attempting to stop the project could also be filed.

Twenty-three separate groups and individuals have appealed the project, which calls for installation of an entire wastewater collection, treatment and disposal system.

Two Coastal Commissioners have also appealed the project. They are Sara Wan of Malibu and Mark Stone, a Santa Cruz County supervisor.

Many of the same groups and individuals who appealed the overall project also appealed the pre-Thanksgiving modifications. Eighteen appeals of the modifications were filed.

The modifications limited disposal of the treated effluent to the Los Osos groundwater basin.

The changes were made to address concerns voiced by Coastal Commission staffers.

The agenda for the Jan. 14 meeting can be viewed at the Coastal Commission Web site at www.coastal.ca.gov.

The sewer system is intended to deal with decades-long water quality problems in the Los Oso/Baywood Park area including high nitrate levels in groundwater and high bacteria levels in Morro Bay caused by hundreds of individual septic systems and leach fields.

The project is also intended to stop saltwater intrusion into the Los Osos groundwater basin, which is used as the community’s main drinking water source.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.