Desal health and safety – Voices of Monterey Bay
Monterey Bay | Photo by Joe Livernois
By Marc Del Piero
I have received numerous calls from concerned Monterey County residents about the current Supervisory Board’s proposed removal of the Health and Safety Protection Ordinance which requires public ownership of desalination plants. .
This senseless proposal to dismantle public protections of our water supply will be discussed by the Supervisory Board on Tuesday.
The 1989 ordinance was passed unanimously by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. It was adopted to protect the health and safety of the public from polluted water supplied by private parties. It was passed to ensure that any desalination plant would be owned by a public not-for-profit body, operated without political patronage or cronyism, be independently regulated by the county environmental health official, and ensure redundancy in the office. supply. It would also comply with all public health codes, water use rights laws, and coastal zone regulations that have been promulgated to protect the health and safety of the public while protecting the bay. Monterey from pollution caused by private drains.
Contrary to the fictions reported in the press, the 30-year-old ordinance was drafted by county attorneys working for county attorney Ralph Kuchler, with substantial input from environmental health official Walter Wong and supervisor Sam Karas. from Monterey and myself.
I was the North County, North Salinas and Marina Supervisor when I was first elected. The artificial suggestion that county council attorneys drafted a poorly worded and ambiguous ordinance is an invention because some private parties have a financial interest in trying to get the current council to eliminate the ordinance that protected the public health and safety for more than three decades.
These private parties want to exploit the county’s groundwater resources, even though the proposed private developers have no groundwater rights.
The truth is, the 1989 ordinance was not written to favor someone’s political friends or major campaign donors. The ordinance was written to protect the public.
It has been reviewed by multiple lawyers and public health professionals, publicly noticed, submitted to a public hearing and unanimously adopted by the Supervisory Board. And contrary to statements quoted in the press, we all had a very good grasp of the English language and the express meaning and intent of the ordinance.
In addition, no representative of the private utilities – all of whom were present when the order was approved – objected to the wording of the order. Cal Am did not object, neither Alco Water nor California Water. They knew the action had been taken to protect the health and safety of the public.
Importantly, Cal Am has been lobbying the board to remove these protections from public health and safety for over a decade. Now a foreign company is doing the same.
The ordinance was passed because the then Supervisory Board was fed up with public complaints and wrongdoing and failures of private water services, which were doing a poor job of protecting the public interest.
More than 30 years later, Cal Am is still in direct violation of a “cease and desist order” and Order 95-10 of the State Water Resources Control Board for its activities. on the Carmel River. Ten years after the order was passed, Alco Water was sued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Health Department in federal court and was ordered to cede several systems because the court found it was delivering polluted water to Alisal and Moss Landing customers. .
The Board of Supervisors took action in 1989 to protect the future health and safety of our residents from private utilities that repeatedly violated California laws governing public health and innocent homeowners’ water rights.
The results of illegal acts committed by private public services have led to a decade of actions by elected officials to “restrict” illegal water withdrawals by these public services. The actions of the supervisory board were reinforced by a series of actions from other regulators who recognized the need for the ordinance. And all of these actions have continued to protect the health and safety of Monterey County residents while protecting Monterey Bay and scarce local water resources. They were not produced by the unproven “snake oil” and “voodoo hydrology” scams that have been launched over the years by for-profit foreign private companies and their PR merchants. hired.
Now a supervisor appears to want to declare an “emergency,” breaching the county’s well-documented fiduciary obligations to landowners and appraisers, and handing over the area’s groundwater resources to a billion-dollar foreign company that does not. has no rights over water of any kind. The excuse, apparently, “is because no public body has offered to build a desalination plant.”
It’s almost embarrassing because the statutory responsibility and burden of the Oversight Board, as the board of directors of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, is to build and operate water supply projects. public water for the benefit of their constituents. Saying “no one stepped in and did our job for us” is not an “emergency”, nor does it justify overturning a 30-year-old health and safety protection order. for the benefit of a for-profit foreign company.
It should be noted that since no real emergency exists, full and comprehensive environmental impact reports must be prepared by Monterey County to comply with federal and state laws. And RARs must be written and approved before supervisors can even consider rescinding the order.
“Cancel order” is a “project” under the California Environmental Quality Act. The CEQA doctrine – requiring the preparation of an EIR once “the whole project” has been identified – applies unequivocally in this case.
A supervisor has publicly told reporters that the proposed repeal of the ordinance is for the exclusive benefit of one company. This company, Liberty Water, a Canadian company, wants to build a private desalination plant that will pump groundwater to produce 30,000 acre feet of desalinated water without an identified outlet for the brackish waste it will produce. Not surprisingly, its proposed disposal site is said to be a secret. Why is the board helping a private company that hides secrets from the public?
In addition, the repeal of the 1989 ordinance would have a negative impact on coastal groundwater resources, decrease protected coastal agricultural production, lead to an unmitigated loss of agriculture-related jobs and lead to inducing effects. unmitigated growth directly affecting the conversion of North County coastal protected agricultural land and coastal protected areas. natural resources. It would also use massive amounts of energy from unidentified sources, cause massive potential displacement of soil and land and subsidence (due to unlimited pumping) of residential and commercial properties in Moss Landing, decrease water source for the unique freshwater seeps and their rare aquatic ecosystems on the walls of the Monterey Bay marine canyon, and illegally induce the intrusion of seawater into drinking aquifers used for domestic consumption by communities economically affected and housing of agricultural workers.
The action proposed to supervisors on Tuesday would also remove any regulatory control held by the county to protect its constituents in the event unenforceable promises made by Liberty’s “cheerleaders” prove to be empty and broken. A full EIR must be prepared before the order can be considered for rescission.
Finally, Liberty’s proposed pumping of an additional 60,000 acre-feet of groundwater from wells (to produce 30,000 acre-feet of desalinated water) will require judicial arbitration of the Valley Groundwater Basin. Salinas. Farm owners and landowners should be made aware of this and be allowed to read a full RIA that has fully assessed this likely negative consequence before supervisors can even begin to consider cancellation.
The need for the existing ordinance requiring desalination plants to be public is greater today than it was in 1989.
Handing over control of all future water supplies to a private foreign company – a company that would not be accountable to the county’s environmental health official – is as insane as giving PG&E a monopoly and wondering why your electricity is. is cut off in the middle of the day listening to a voice recorded on the company’s complaint line.
Board members should review “Plan B”. He discussed the possibility for MCWRA to build a regional public desalination facility to serve two counties, Monterey and Santa Cruz. The board must reject foolish and illegal private “quick fixes” that lack legal and hydrogeological gravity and waste money.
The Oversight Board must demonstrate the leadership, vision and innovation that has long been necessary to provide the county and its residents with a future with safe, clean and public water supplies.
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