Attempt to halt construction of Los Osos sewer fails


Construction has officially begun on the Los Osos sewer, which has survived an attempt to stop it from proceeding.

Crews are at work restoring a midtown lot as well as preparing streets in town for installation of the collection system, which will begin by the end of July. The midtown lot, also known as the Tri-W site, is where a previous failed sewer plant broke ground and must be restored.

Starting work this month was necessary in order to satisfy a requirement by the state Coastal Commission that construction begin within two years of the commission approving the project in June 2010, said Paavo Ogren, county Public Works director.

On Friday, the sewer project survived a key regulatory challenge when the commission rejected a request to revoke the project’s permit. A group of four Los Osos residents filed the request in February, alleging that the commission’s approval was based on false information from the county and state water officials.

Dan Carl, the commission’s Central Coast regional director, said he could find no evidence that the commission was intentionally misled, which is the necessary basis for a revocation. The commission agreed and voted unanimously to reject the revocation at a hearing in Huntington Beach.

Commissioner Jana Zimmer of Santa Barbara said the revocation request was an attempt to rehash the sewer project, which has been in the works in various forms for 30 years.

“I think it’s really inappropriate to infer that the staff was bamboozled in any way,” she said.

With that obstacle out of the way, the Board of Supervisors will hold two hearings Tuesday that will move separate components of the project forward.

One hearing will be to award a $28.8 million contract to the construction company ARB Inc. of Lake Forest for the installation of the project’s collection system pipes in Baywood Park and north Los Osos. Contracts for installing the collection system in the other half of the town will be awarded in mid-July.

The project requires that more than 100 miles of collection pipeline be laid over a period of two years. The total budget for the project is $173.4 million.

County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes Los Osos, said he hopes the total cost for the project will go down once all the bids have been opened for construction of the collection system. The first batch of bids came in under the county’s original conservative projections. If the second round of bids also comes in low, some $20 million could be taken off the price of the project, Gibson said.

Tuesday’s second hearing will be to begin the process of acquiring from the John Giacomazzi family 24.5 acres of land behind the Los Osos Valley Memorial Park cemetery where the sewer project’s treatment plant will be located.

The Giacomazzis are willing sellers, but supervisors must pass a resolution of necessity to acquire the land in order to arrive at a fair purchase price, Ogren said. The current appraisal for the land is $583,500. Construction of the treatment plant is scheduled to begin next year.

Also on Tuesday, county Public Works personnel will hold a community meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. at Los Osos Middle School to discuss the project’s public outreach effort, Gibson said. Los Osos residents will be told how they can find out which streets will be impacted by construction activity and when, as well as how to connect individual properties to the sewer system once it is operational.