I was interested to read Lou Blanck’s version of Cambria Community Services District business in the mid-1990s (March 6, “Set record straight”). I was a CCSD director in 1996 when the board, with their very able manager Dave Andres, had designed and permitted an ocean desalination (desal) plant with possible capacity to supply the town in time of drought.
This was our mandate from the voters to find a reliable, drought-proof water source. The three incoming directors came into office in 1996 with a stated mission to develop a comprehensive water master plan (as mentioned by former Director Blanck) with no mention of shutting down the current desal project.
However, their first move was to fire the general manager (with mine being the only no vote) and put the ongoing desal project in limbo. Visits were still made to existing desal plants to assure the public of their mission but no progress was made while a new Water Master Plan was developed. Naturally, time limits on permits were allowed to elapse and the project disappeared along with it.
Lou’s four-pronged approach of water development has been here a long time and I have debated each point with him in The Cambrian in the previous century.
What everyone who comes up with a new approach misses is that any new serious project can have a price tag starting in the $10 million just to get it designed — whether it be a pipeline, reclamation project or a reservoir. Successive boards and the public have always expressed reluctance to underwrite such ventures from being launched simultaneously.
The opposition to any serious water project has come from the potential for growth in the community. Previous boards approached this on two fronts.
The first (approved by the voters) was to confirm the town borders to prevent urban creep or annexations.
The second was to close the water wait list to existing listings for a maximum build-out to 4,650 homes (an addition of 650 to our existing 4,000 customers). With these safeguards in place, the town should have been ready to embrace a water project. However, opposition from a vociferous minority has frequently silenced the majority.
Locally, I admire the interest and originality that citizens continue to show in saving water (as we always do at home). Every little bit does help, but our original source has still to be developed. Reverse osmosis of salt or brackish water taps into an almost infinite source which can save the district and its customers during drought.
If at least 500 of you support this idea, we will form a small committee and develop the process and rules.
Some ideas are:
1. Water saved will be based on household size. Restaurants and businesses could also participate and be judged on water saved as it compares to table settings.
2. Business and restaurants could provide gift certificates to a few winners.
3. We, as participants, will promise to patronize local restaurants and businesses so our money and taxes will stay in town and benefit our schools and CCSD.
4. Those participating could be given a community dinner for showing their support.
If you support this idea, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Part of the solution’
Like a deer in the headlights, Cambria is frozen and can’t get out of the way when it comes to the water issue.
I was revisiting my August 2013 opinion in the The Cambrian and realized that my declaration about how Cambria’s unanimous approval to begin releasing intent-to-serve letters in July was in essence “business as usual.” That reality came to roost when the CCSD halted the issuance of these letters in September. It appears that my criticism in that letter was pretty accurate and once again, no forward movement for the wait list was achieved, despite the conversation.
Over the past 20-plus years, Cambria has used the water issue as a political football, developed an alternative commerce (water meter wait list) and has discussed the need to find an alternative source of water ad nauseam. Doing so has paralyzed this community in such a disastrous way, it will now take almost a miracle to fix the water issue.
That miracle will have to come in the form of community development and cooperation, compromise and, yes, GROWTH. That nasty “growth” word is necessary because it means allowing the 660 lot owners to build. Why? Because we will all be required to help pay for the costly desalination solution.
Each time this issue rears its ugly head, Cambria falls further behind while it denies culpability and ignores the real issue: Cambria needs an alternative water source. The problem is not going away. Eventually businesses move on to more fertile ground. Tourism diminishes. Ghost towns are made this way.
All of these wasted years, shelving a solution to the problem that could have been far less expensive if dealt with 10-plus years ago and would be essential to the drought situation we currently face throughout the state of California. Please don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the water issues in Cambria, along with the rest of the state, facing a drought of historic proportions.
I am also cognizant of the fact that global climate research has shown that it is likely that extreme weather will be felt worldwide in our future, so it would seem prudent for Cambria to get on with the path they started down with the desalination plant.
I have read about the current resource restrictions on the community and the increasing costs associated with conservation. I realize the hardship that Cambrians are faced with. All of us here in California must be mindful of conserving water in this dire situation. I get it! But still the problem in Cambria will continue and it will take “a village to fix that problem.” This means ALL of us, the residents in Cambria and all of the lot owners have to work together to get this done.
Yes, a desalination plant will be expensive, but perhaps cheaper now than doing nothing. Cambrians seem to be “frozen in fear” that allowing the 660 lot owners to build homes on their lots might become part of the solution.