Environment

3 years after a bitter sewer split with Morro Bay, Cayucos is building a new plant

Cayucos breaks ground on $25 million sewer project

Fly over the site where SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson praised Cayucos officials for their efficiency in getting their sewer project started as ground was broken for the new plant.
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Fly over the site where SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson praised Cayucos officials for their efficiency in getting their sewer project started as ground was broken for the new plant.

The Cayucos Sanitary District broke ground on a new water reclamation facility on Friday, three years after a dispute with the city of Morro Bay led the CSD to pursue its own wastewater treatment project.

The $25 million project at 800 Toro Creek Road is expected to be finished by the summer of 2020, and it will use a membrane bioreactor and ultraviolet light to treat and disinfect 340,000 gallons Cayucos residents’ sewage every day.

Currently, Cayucos wastewater is treated at the aging Morro Bay plant.

A recycled water tank will provide water for on-site irrigation and fire protection, with excess water discharged in an ocean outfall “until off-site uses are finalized and potable reuse plans are carried out,” according to a CSD statement.

The Cayucos plant is the result of an acrimonious split with Morro Bay, with the CSD board in 2015 arguing that Morro Bay was not giving Cayucos enough of an ownership share of a planned wastewater treatment plant that would replace Morro Bay’s existing plant.

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But at Friday’s groundbreaking, there was no acrimony, only praise for the project’s supporters, including San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson and chairman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Fred Collins.

“The term ‘It takes a village’ comes to mind,” said CSD Board President Robert Enns.

In addressing the dozens who turned up Friday on a warm and pleasantly breezy morning, Gibson praised the speed at which the Cayucos project moved, as compared to “a certain other sewer project” in Los Osos, which dragged on for years and left sewer customers with a growing bill.

“(The Cayucos project) moved with remarkable speed and remarkable efficiency,” Gibson said, adding that there was “no drama, just head down, get the job done.”

Collins praised the CSD for working with the Northern Chumash Tribal Council to address concerns about the construction project; by contrast, Collins has criticized Morro Bay’s proposed wastewater treatment project for threatening possible tribal burial grounds.

“As an indigenous people, we believe that all things are connected,” Collins said.

Enns also credited District Manager Rick Koon, whom Enns called “our secret weapon” in getting the project done.

The plant will be built on land purchased from Chevron Corp. It is funded by a $2.8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and a $22 million long-term low-interest loan.

Morro Bay, California, needs to replace its aging wastewater treatment plant, which was built in 1953. The California Coastal Commission has denied a permit to build a new plant near the Pacific Ocean.

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