The Cambrian

Desal test report incomplete, agencies say

A number of agencies that have commented on the Cambria Community Services District’s environmental review of proposed tests needed to make desalination plans are asking for more information. More than 100 pages of comments and concerns about the plan have been received by the district.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is recommending that the study include impacts of building the permanent seawater intake and the desalination plant it would provide.

District directors are expected to review the status of the study at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting March 25.

The $733,000 testing project, done in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers, could determine if pumps can pull enough seawater from under the sandy shoreline near the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek to supply the proposed desalination

plant, which would likely be located elsewhere.

“I can't predict what will happen at the meeting,” Greg Sanders, district board president, said in an e-mail Tuesday, March 16. “The staff, including the general counsel, are reviewing the material.”

In addition to the agencies, some comments about the proposed tests came from property owners and residents who have questions about the district’s proposed tests, which would require taking up to 10 core samples near Shamel Park. Three of those sites would be converted into monitoring test wells for a period not to exceed two years.

The district’s environmental report on the project, filed Jan. 4, said, “the proposed project would not have a significant effect on the environment.”

The federal wildlife service, however, recommends that, because the project has potential to impact fish and wildlife resources, the district’s consultant hasn’t gone far enough.

“The department is concerned that the project description has not been adequately characterized and excludes project details needed to assess whether potential significant effects may occur to wildlife species and habitat,” Jeffrey Single, USFW regional manager, said in his comment letter.

He said CCSD should dig more deeply into each possible environmental impact and recommend specific mitigations for each.

Single adds that, “Because the proposed project is also tied to the proposed Cambria desalinization plant, we recommend that impacts arising from the activities related to the full build-out of the water diversion and desalinization infrastructure also be evaluated.”

Other comments came from such agencies and groups from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Game, the county’s Air Pollution Control District and the Native American Commission.

NOAA said some information is “unclear or missing,” including possible impact on fish migration due to test well pumping. It also said the report should make clear whether the study is part of “a larger project or if it is strictly for the purpose of preliminary information gathering.”

The state Department of Fish & Game said the district’s report “is not appropriate for this project due to the potential for fish and wildlife impacts” and that “this project does not qualify for the no effect determination.”

The California Coastal Commission on Jan. 11 asked the district to report on what steps have been taken to determine the prospecting level of mercury contamination at the site, and how any such contamination would be handled, if found.

Cambrian Editor Bert Etling contributed to this report.