The Cambrian

Army Corps awards contract for desal plant environmental review

The Army Corps of Engineers recently awarded two contracts related to building a desalination plant, which is to be designed to augment Cambria’s water supply.

Work covered by the two agreements is to help define various project alternatives and include preliminary plant designs. Those tasks are expected to take at least 18 months to complete, according to Greg Sanders, outgoing president of the Cambria Community Services District, which initiated the project.

The Corps is to pay $543,650 to The Chambers Group of Santa Ana to prepare federal- and state-level reports documenting environmental impacts that could result from building the plant (or any alternative projects) for the Cambria Community Services District. Those reports also would list any mitigation measures that contractors would take to offset damage caused by the project.

The contract was awarded Sept. 22.

The federal engineering agency also has a contract with CDM Technologies to profile project alternatives and prepare a more complete design for the proposed desalination plant.

The Corps will use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds — so-called “stimulus funds” — for the contracts.

Geotech testing update

At the district’s Nov. 10 meeting, Sanders said the design and environmental work is such a lengthy process that the desalination project’s progress shouldn’t be drastically affected by recent delays in completing tests at the expected intake and outfall areas near the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek. The California Coastal Commission requires that those tests can only be done during September and October, to protect steelhead and other federally listed species.

District Engineer Bob Gresens said at the same meeting that the geotechnical testing “has hit a snag,” because State Parks hasn’t yet allowed the Corps to do the tests in a natural preserve area near the creek mouth. The exact boundaries of the preserve weren’t known at the May 13 meeting when coastal commissioners approved the test project.

The commission likely would have to approve any changes to the testing plans.

The Corps wants to drill a hole and test the water and soil conditions below ground there. State Park rules apparently prohibit using motorized vehicles in natural preserves and, possibly, removing a core sample of subterranean material.

Sanders said “there appears to be will on the part of Leonard Snow, secretary of the state’s Natural Resources Agency,” to grant “right of entry” permission for tests on State Park-owned beach near the creek.

The resources agency oversees State Parks and other departments. However, leadership of that agency could change in 2011 due to the election of incoming Governor Jerry Brown.