The Cambrian

Cambria water grant hinges on groundwater plan, a 3-step process

Before Cambria’s services district gets a $4.3 million state drought-related grant it has been awarded toward the cost of an emergency water supply project, the agency must draft, get input from stakeholders and the public on, and get governmental approval of a groundwater management plan.

The Cambria Community Services District is in the process of preparing that plan.

The district’s current plan was approved in 1980, soon after the CSD got rights to water from the San Simeon Creek watershed by purchasing the Bonomi Ranch. 

To put it mildly, there have been changes to the district’s water-supply situation since then.

So, circling back to the grant, having an updated, approved groundwater management plan is a big deal for the Cambria Community Services District, which has been strapped for cash by the construction of its $13 million project on San Simeon Creek Road. 

EWS plant

The emergency water supply (EWS) plant, which reclaims a brackish blend of salty, fresh and waste water and treats it to be reinjected back into the aquifer, was built under an emergency permit from the county earlier this year. 

It had a test run of nearly three months, then was idled until Sept. 15, and now is producing water, CSD General Manager Jerry Gruber said in an email interview Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Gruber said the emergency permit allows the district to operate the EWS plant as long as the district is under a Stage 3 emergency declaration. In parallel to the emergency permit, “the district last year applied through the county for a regular coastal development permit. 

“Certain conditions within the application process need to be completed and addressed, such as environmental requirements. This is why the district chose to do a comprehensive environmental impact report.” 

Supervisor Bruce Gibson said in a separate Sept. 29 email interview, “I think it’s possible that the EWS could eventually become part of the regular water supply for Cambria, but that will take a great deal of further effort. First, the CCSD will have to secure the permit to operate it as an emergency supply. Then there would be further environmental analysis to see what impacts regular ongoing use would have. I won’t speculate on what consequences that might have,” and “As I’ve said before, all those decisions are the CCSD’s, of course.”

When asked about the county’s recently released Desalination Opportunities Summary Report, which mentions in passing the possibility of expanding Cambria’s EWS, perhaps to help other communities, Gruber replied, “I do not anticipate the EWS at this time being utilized for … alternative sources of water for other communities.”

The report states, “Expansion of the existing EWS project to meet other water needs elsewhere in the county may not be appropriate until completion of the CCSD’s environmental analyses and longer-term Coastal Development Permit” efforts. 

Groundwater management plan

The CSD board took its first step in the public process for the groundwater management plan’s public and approval process when directors voted unanimously on Sept. 24 to set an Oct. 15 public hearing to adopt a resolution about its intention to draft such a plan. The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. 

Gruber said a second meeting, for which no date has yet been set, will be held at which public comments would be taken on the plan. 

Another hearing, at which the board could introduce an ordinance to adopt the plan, is set for 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12. If all goes as planned, the board could then adopt the plan at its regular monthly meeting Nov. 19 (a week earlier in the month than usual because of Thanksgiving). 

All the meetings would be at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.

Gruber said Sept. 24 he has county assurance that, as soon as the CSD board approves the groundwater management plan, county officials will forward to the state paperwork that would allow the latter to release the $4.3 million in grant funds.