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Group: Los Osos sewer approval based on misleading info

A group of Los Osos residents has taken the highly unusual step of petitioning the state Coastal Commission to revoke its permit for the Los Osos sewer project, alleging that the approval is based on willfully submitted inaccurate information.

The request was submitted by the Los Osos Sustainability Group and signed by Keith Wimer, Elaine Watson, Larry Raio and Chuck Cesena. No date has been set for the commission to hear the request.

“Basically, the information we present shows that the Los Osos Wastewater Project could have disastrous adverse consequences on the Los Osos area, including the water basin and vital sensitive habitat, and agencies intentionally provided inaccurate, erroneous and incomplete information that failed to disclose these impacts,” they wrote in their request.

The $189 million construction project is expected to begin this summer. There is a possibility that the request could cause construction to be delayed, depending on how long it takes to settle the matter, said Dan Carl, the commission’s Central Coast district manager.

However, county officials think a delay pending a vote by the commission is unlikely because the commission’s executive director, Charles Lester, would have to determine there was intent to mislead.

“We have no reason to believe that inaccurate, erroneous or incomplete information was provided to the commission,” said Tim McNulty of the County Counsel’s Office. “We are absolutely certain that there was no intent on anyone’s part to provide that type of information. Under these circumstances, a projectdelaying suspension is quite improbable.”

Such requests are very rare because a high bar must be met to prove the allegation, he said. The petitioners must prove that information was inaccurate, that it was knowingly submitted and that the information changed the outcome of the commission’s decision.

“This is a pretty serious accusation,” Carl said. “I can’t even think of the last time one of these came up.”

There is also the question of whether the request was made in atimely manner, given that the commission approved the project in June 2010, he said.

The request consists of a 6-inch-tall stack of documents that allege false information was provided by the county and the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in order to obtain the coastal development permit needed to build the sewer. It touches upon many of the familiar controversies surrounding the sewer project.

These include whether nitrates from the town’s septic systems pollute the Morro Bay estuary; whether disposing of effluent would cause liquefaction of nearby soils; whether the project would worsen saltwater intrusion into underground aquifers; and whether the project would cause unsustainable growth to occur in Los Osos.

The request states in summary: “The decision to allow this project to go forward cannot be based on popular opinion, political expediency, or on information that might otherwise fail to meet Coastal Commission standards for accurate and complete information or (state law) standards for substantial evidence.”

A majority of the Coastal Commission would be needed to revoke the permit.

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