The Cambrian

Window for work looms, but Corps just now seeks right to pass

T he Army Corps of Engineers plans to drill test wells in September or October at the shoreline near the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek, but doesn’t yet have permission to work on the county’s Shamel Park property and beach where the wells would go, or on State Park land that it must enter to complete the project.

The test wells are needed to determine if the subsurface geology will allow enough seawater flow to supply a proposed $20 million desalination plant. Work on installation of the test wells must be done in September or October, according to a condition imposed by the California Coastal Commission, to minimize impact on wildlife in the nearby Santa Rosa Creek estuary.

The Corps estimates it will take at least two weeks to install the wells. Once initial borings are done for the test project, two or three of

the wells would be covered with several feet of sand and monitored for up to two years. However, initial reports could give the Corps and its client, the Cambria Community Services District, some solid preliminary data, according to district officials.

The beach where the test wells are to be installed is adjacent to Shamel Park, owned by the county, and Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve (part of Hearst San Simeon State Park), owned by State Parks.

Neither has issued a “right of entry” permit for project workers to cross their property. Issuance hasn’t been stalled — it hasn’t yet been requested, officials at both agencies say.

Ingrid Warren in the county’s Real Property Division said July 30 that she’d received no paperwork or even any notice from the Corps about the proposed work on county property.

State Parks district Superintendent Nick Franco said that as of mid-July, he, too, hadn’t received a request from the Corps. Franco read about the project in The Tribune on July 14.

“I didn’t want to be reading in the paper that some-one’s planning on being on State Park property next week, and me having to say ‘You haven’t even talked to us yet,’” He said. “I try to avoid conflict,” so he took matters into his own hands.

Not wanting to hold up the project by waiting for the normal chain of events to transpire, Franco e-mailed ser vices district board President Greg Sanders, who replied that Franco should contact the Corps. Franco did and requested details.

As of July 30, Franco said he still hadn’t received completed paperwork for a project review that customarily would take two or three months to complete.

Corps spokesperson Jennie Ayala said Tuesday, Aug. 3, that the district is “working right now with San Luis Obispo County Parks and the State Parks and Recreation Department, providing them with the information they need for right-of-way entry.”

Sanders said July 31 that the paperwork or lack of it is under Corps’ control, as is the test project itself. “If they want our help, they’ll call us,” he said.

He also said that work on the test project could begin as late as October and still make the deadline.