The Cambrian

Decision postponed on desalination test environmental report

A decision on taking the next step in desalination plant planning was postponed Feb. 25 by Cambria Community Services District directors. More time is needed, they decided, to review detailed, technical comments about the district’s finding that there would be no significant environmental impact caused by drilling a series of holes on the beach near a popular public park and the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek.

The report said such impacts from the $733,000 geotechnical and hydrogeologic tests would not significantly affect the surrounding coastal habitat.

The holes are intended to provide an in-depth view of the area’s geologic makeup, to see how deep the layer of sand and clay is atop bedrock, helping to determine how much sea water could be drawn through those materials and pumped to a desalination plant.

Test wells would be installed in as many as three of those holes, and regular readings recorded about the amount and quality of the water.

Each of the questions and comments on the environmental report requires an equally detailed answer, board President Greg Sanders said, and those were not available in time for Thursday’s meeting.

The Army Corps of Engineers is partnering with the district on the desalination project because Congress has approved spending $10.3 million in federal money on a plant that could ultimately cost more than $20 million.

Two public speakers said they’re in favor of the geotech tests and desalination plant plans. Eight speakers questioned the testing regime environmental report.

Catherine Ryan Hyde of Cambria said she used to walk her dog on the beach area near the test site, but may no longer do so. Among reasons dogs, even on leash, are banned from most state beaches is that they can “disturb and frighten wildlife nearby,” according to a State Parks brochure.

“I am happy to keep my dogs off the beach to protect that wildlife,” Ryan Hyde said. She urged district directors not to approve the report “until someone can give me and other concerned Cambrians a common-sense explanation as to how 14-pound Ella can do damage on that beach that your drilling equipment cannot.”

Directors are expected to again consider the environmental report on the geotechnical testing at their March 25 meeting.