The solution to Cambria’s search for new fresh water may come in several small packages rather than one large “silver bullet” solution, such as desalination. In comments made at the end of a facilitated workshop meeting held by the Cambria Community Services District Thursday, June 14, district directors appeared increasingly to favor a piece-meal approach to providing water supply supplements for future years.
“We don’t necessarily need a solution today for 30 years from now,” Director Muril Clift fairly fumed.
Increased conservation measures and high-level grey-water filtration might free up enough of the district’s current water supply to allow the release of “intent- to-serve letters” for some meters — a move that directors maintain could jumpstart local construction trades, North Coast economy in general and provide much-needed revenue for the district.
But various regulating agencies, such as the county and California Coastal Commission, would have to sign off on that concept. And desalination is, so far, the sole project on which the district’s partner, the Army Corps of Engineers, has been authorized by Congress to spend federal money that could total $10.3 million, depending on legislation that would appropriate those previously allocated funds.
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A project team reviewed some 30 other major projects being considered, including some that would be alternatives to desalination, as required by law.
Some projects that made the next cut of a dozen ideas included: different desalination scenarios, including sharing an existing facility at Morro Bay and pulling water through an on-shore shale formation north of San Simeon; getting water from Whale Rock Reservoir (with or without exchanging water from the Lake Nacimiento water project); using the Estero Bay marine terminal; wells at San Simeon Creek Road for brackish water; and no project at all.
At the June 14 meeting, Army Corps engineering consultants from CDM Smith spelled out criteria guiding that weeding-out process, such as: reliability of the source water, water hardness/salinity, erosion and storm impacts, constructability and permitability, cost effectiveness and proven technology.
After some of the four dozen people in the audience gave their opinions, the consultants added other criteria to the list, such as integration with local systems.
That didn’t appear to alleviate the obvious displeasure expressed by many of the public speakers who said a crucial criterion was missing from that list: the project’s environmental impact.
Organizers explained (to not much success) that ecological impacts of any of the possible projects are such an important issue, they’re considered separately in formal environmental studies to meet state and federal requirements.
Attendees were asked to “vote” for the two criteria they considered the most important in the process, by placing blue or yellow dots on large sheets of paper.
Some in the audience said they were so angry about the lack of information available, especially on environmental concerns, that they planned to boycott the vote. However, it appeared that most people did participate.
According to district Engineer Bob Gresens, there’s to be another workshop meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 19, at which participants are expected to review the “final outcome of this process,” according to the facilitator, including criteria weighting, costs of different concepts, operating and maintenance expenses and additional details.
He said that by the district board’s meeting on July 26, he expects to have details on a reasonable range of alternatives to be investigated further in those environmental studies.