The Cambrian

Cambria CSD solicits comments for EIR on water plant

Members of the public and various agencies now can comment officially on the next phase of permits for Cambria’s water-supply project on San Simeon Creek Road. 

The Cambria Community Services District application process, which seeks a permanent permit to operate the plant, includes preparing a report of the project’s effects on the environment, especially in the area of San Simeon Creek Road where the plant is located.

The district is preparing a draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the project that is located on 96 acres of land. 

Comments about an outline of those possible/probable effects — a “Project Information Packet” that’s available on the Cambria Community Services District’s website — are due by April 6 from agency representatives and members of the public. 

The packet includes seven pages of explanation and maps, plus a seven-page environmental checklist of areas that could be affected by the plant and its operation.

Among the items on that list are aesthetics; agriculture and forest resources; air quality; biological and cultural resources; geology and soils; greenhouse gas emissions; hazards and hazardous materials; hydrology and water quality; land use and planning; mineral resources; noise; population and housing; public services; recreation; transportation/traffic; utilities and service systems; and mandatory findings of significance.  

According to district staff, the draft version of the full environmental impact report won’t be completed until after initial comments are received, compiled and answered by district staff and the RBF Consulting firm. Then the draft report will be released, more comments taken, and a final report prepared and filed.

District Engineer Bob Gresens estimated March 9 that the EIR process could take another six months or more.

Such a report is required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but the process for getting the project’s permanent permit has been a little skewed from the norm, because such an application, if required, is usually submitted before a project is built. 

The plant was constructed last year under an emergency permit, based on the governor’s drought declaration, a situation that the district maintains delayed the need for the CEQA document. 

It is going through a 3-month test period that has not been trouble free, and some of those problems and concerns are sure to surface in comments being filed.

For instance, district staff must reply by March 27 to a notice of violations from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Those violation citations focus on operations of a large holding pond for the brine left over from the treatment process, including blowers that disperse and hasten evaporation of the brine; not allowing chlorine and other elements in “mitigation” water sent to San Simeon Creek lagoon to increase dry-season water levels there; how and where that mitigation water is delivered to the lagoon and erosion at the discharge location; having blower mist drifting away from the pond area, where it’s not supposed to be; and monitoring record-keeping and reports due to the water board.

The district maintains the operational glitches are exactly what the test period was designed to catch, so the problems could be fixed.

There also have been issues raised by others about noise, a concern particularly to neighbors and nearby campers at the State Park. District officials say they’re addressing those concerns, in part by only operating one of five blowers at a time, and not running any of them at night. The blowers currently operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jerry Gruber, district general manager, said March 9 that the plant is operating only about eight hours a day, five days a week, which reduces the production from the expected 450 gallons per minute. 

But that’s not a problem, because current operations are for testing only, and the region’s aquifers are close to full. 

Public meeting and input

The Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors will hold a scoping session about the “Project Information Packet” on the draft environmental impact report for the emergency water supply project. The session will be during the board’s monthly meeting at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. During the session, people will be able to comment on the packet.

  • Address written comments about the CCSD pre-EIR to Ms. Rita Garcia, technical manager, RBF Consulting, 14725 Alton Parkway, Irvine CA 92618 or email to rgarcia@mbakerintl.com.
  • The document can be found at the district office, 1316 Tamson Drive, Suite 201, at the library (900 Main St.) or online at www.cambriacsd.org/cm/Home.html.
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