Cambria board to continue talk on test drilling for proposed desal plant

Faced with a flurry of questions about test drilling on a Cambria beach related to a proposed desalination plant, services district directors decided at a special meeting Tuesday to continue the discussion at a regular meeting Jan. 21.

The tests are to needed to find out if the Cambria Community Services District’s planned desalination plant could draw enough seawater from wells installed underneath the beach near the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek, near Shamel Park in Cambria. The ocean water would be piped to a desalination plant elsewhere. Construction of the plant would need its own full environmental review.

District directors were considering a report on the proposed test holes from district’s project partner, the Army Corps of Engineers. Corps scientists had determined that the proposed geotechnical testing, which involved drilling core samples, along with drilling and monitoring test wells on the beach, would not have a significant environmental impact.

The Corps has already hired firms to do the tests, and had recommended filing a waiver from the need to do a full study of environmental impacts from the work. The Corps had anticipated that the California Coastal Commission would review that recommendation at its February meeting. It’s not known if the delay will affect that schedule.

District directors received a flurry of comments Tuesday from about half the two dozen people in the audience. A few people endorsed having the board approve the Corps’ recommendation.

Most other comments covered such topics as the hazards of stirring up mercury residue from a long-closed mercury mine upstream, impacts to steelhead and other protected species that use the creek mouth area, the short notice about the meeting and possible other negative impacts.

Based on those statements, plus others submitted in writing, the board told district staffers to prepare an initial environmental study to address those concerns.

The agenda packet for Tuesday’s meeting is available at http://bit.ly/ccsddesal0105.