The Cambrian

Viewpoint: Mixed messages on impact of desal intake at creek mouth

Like many people in town, I have been trying to understand some of the issues regarding desalination and the proposed use of Santa Rosa Creek as an intake site. I seem to get different answers depending on where I look, for example:

What will the impact of drilling be on the Santa Rosa Creek lagoon?

“A distinct limitation on the use of beach wells is their potential to impact surface water levels in the coastal lagoons which are found at the mouth of both Santa Rosa and San Simeon Creek. The goal is to construct a beach well that would not influence ... the natural water levels in these coastal lagoons. Initial computer models indicate that beach wells should be constructed more than 500 feet from the lagoons ….” (Nov. 2, 1993, Desalination Facility Preliminary Site Analysis.)

“Unless (Santa Rosa) creek is flowing at a rate greater than the estimated test flow, hydraulic testing will not be conducted from wells within 50 feet of the lagoon ... The proposed study will not result in a drawdown of water in Santa Rosa Creek.” (Coastal Consistency Determination filing by the Army Corps of Engineers, Dec. 21, 2009, Pg. 11.)

Will drilling impact wildlife at Santa Rosa Creek and beach?

“The site is not a major migration corridor for wildlife ... Large numbers of birds were observed congregating in the Santa Rosa Creek lagoon adjacent to the Study site ... Birds that use the upper beach will be monitored by an on-site biologist ...” (CCSD Initial Environmental Study, filed Jan. 14, 2010, Pgs. 8-9.)

“Construction of wells could also have adverse effects on water quality, channel stability and aquatic life forms. Negative impacts could result from sediments and debris entering Santa Rosa Creek, and increased siltation due to construction activities. If construction activities occur during breeding season, this construction could have a significant effect on the steelhead run. The construction would also impede the movement of animals. Construction would also temporarily disturb wildlife species in the vicinity.” (Pg. 22-23, 1994 Desalination Project Environmental Impact Report, Santa Rosa Creek Multiple Intake Well Alternative.)

Is Santa Rosa Creek a good site for a desalination plant and intake wells?

“The study site and activities will be limited to previously disturbed parking and service vehicle access ways within Shamel Park and the beach areas that are above the mean high tide line. The study activities will avoid disturbance to Central Foredune vegetation located immediately to the east of the site and areas of Freshwater Marsh and Willow Woodland east of the Santa Rosa Creek.” (Initial Environmental Study, Pg. 3.)

“Operation of the Ranney Collector may alter Santa Rosa Creek lagoon levels as compared to the proposed site (San Simeon Creek). Increases in pumping rates at the Ranney Collector site could result in a drawdown of groundwater thus possibly affecting Santa Rosa Creek lagoon levels.” (Pg. 16, 1994 Desalination Project Environmental Impact Report.)

“Significant concerns and greater impacts have been cited for Drainage, Land Use compatibility, Aesthetics, Transportation and Noise.” (Pg. 21, 1994 Desal Environmental Impact Report.)

“The Santa Rosa Creek alternatives offer both the least costly projects coupled with the most uncertainty of overcoming obstacles. Fundamentally, this area appears too cramped for a full sized desalination facility.” (Pg. 47, 1993 Site Analysis.)

I guess I’ll keep looking.

Cambria resident Jim Webb is a past-president of the Cambria Fishing Club.