Cambrian: Opinion

Solution for water supply saga needs support of Cambrians

It is often said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and Cambria is no exception. The history of water supply planning in Cambria goes something like this:

  1. Make a list of possible projects.
  2. Conduct studies and comparative analysis.
  3. Pick a project.
  4. Spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on planning and design on the project.
  5. Project opponents block the project.
  6. Return to Step No. 1.

This is what we call the study merry-go-round. If you don’t like that metaphor, then compare it to Bill Murray’s movie “Groundhog Day.” This re-living the same series of events over and over goes all the way back to pre-Cambria Community Services District times.

Back when the county of San Luis Obispo managed the Cambria water system, they had a master plan that envisioned a pipeline from Lake Nacimiento. Some Cambrians didn’t like that idea so they formed CCSD, took control of Cambria’s water supply and promptly quashed any talk about bringing water from Lake Nacimiento.

Every CCSD Board of Directors since 2000 has been focused on obtaining approval for a water project that would end the building moratorium. They have made a lot of mistakes along the way, but their biggest failure has been the inability to overcome opposition from Cambria’s own citizens to anything they try to do that would lead to lifting the moratorium.

This is a minority, one that has been unable to get even a single candidate elected to the CCSD board over the course of seven straight elections, frustrating the will of the majority. They have accomplished this by leveraging the influence of outside groups and lobbying statewide agencies that have the power to block CCSD’s plans.

After watching this same movie numerous times, CCSD and the Army Corps of Engineers have an Environmental Impact Report in the works that is focused on a downscaled desalination plant that does not draw from the ocean. According to the California Environmental Quality Act, an EIR must include analysis of project alternatives, so the EIR is also considering three alternatives, including a “no project” alternative.

The alternatives being studied were chosen from a long list of potential water supply projects that were offered up by community members. Projects included in the EIR were chosen based on several measures of feasibility. The EIR process is very deliberative and structured by statute. This isn’t something that CCSD and the Army Corps can make up as they go along.

After the EIR is published there will be ample opportunity for the public to challenge its contents via a prescribed process. Such challenges are expected with EIRs of this nature, and it is the job of the authors and lead agency to address all potential concerns in the document so that it will be able to withstand any challenges.

The mission of Cambrians for Change has been published in the pages of The Cambrian, and the group’s approach has been on display in the behavior of its leadership at most CCSD meetings. There’s no mystery here. It is all right out of the textbooks on how to stop growth and development.

The CEQA process leads to the most stringent environmental protection of any law in the nation. But if it doesn’t give the results that someone wants, the only thing left is to attack the process.

All we have to do is look at all the other California communities that have had water-driven moratoria to see how this will play out. Cambria will be able to continue to enforce its moratorium as long as its citizens are willing to live under perennial threat of water rationing, or until the resulting lack of economic growth and opportunity becomes too crippling.

Instead of supporting yet another campaign to block CCSD’s efforts, it would be more productive for Cambrians who want the water supply problem solved expeditiously to support the process of getting it done.