Water groups grapple with service boundaries - regional solution requires a definition of 'region'
[Note: Here are three definitions of "region." Region - An administrative unit within the National Forest System, which includes national grasslands. The United States is divided into nine geographic regions. Each region has a headquarter office and is supervised by a regional forester. Each region contains national forests, and sometimes national grasslands or other lands administered by the Forest Service. - Appendix H (Biological Assessment and Evaluation for Revised Land and Resource Management Plans and Associated Oil and Gas Leasing Decisions) http://www.fs.fed.us/ngp/final/pdf_feis/Appendix_H.pdf 2. An area of the Earth having a distinctive plant or animal life. http://biology.usgs.gov/s+t/SNT/noframe/zy198.htm 3. A Forest Service administrative unit. The two regions affected by this proposed action are the Pacific Northwest (Region 6), which includes National Forests in Oregon and Washington, and the Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5), which includes National Forests in California. - The Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team (FEMAT) http://pnwin.nbii.gov/nwfp/FEMAT/ Chapter 9 Glossary http://pnwin.nbii.gov/nwfp/FEMAT/Chapter_9.htm]
March 1, 2007
By Kevin Howe, Herald staff writer [email protected] or 831-646-4416
The Monterey County Herald
8 Ragsdale
Monterey, California 93940
Fax: 831-372-8401
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If Monterey Bay water officials are looking for alternatives to ensuring a regional water supply, they might start by deciding just what the "region" is.

Proposals fielded Wednesday at a Monterey Regional Water Supply Collaboration meeting, called by the state Public Utilities Commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates, ranged from including all of Monterey County to tying Salinas and southern Santa Cruz County to a regional system. The meeting was held in Marina.

Self-described "facilitator/autocrat" Steve Kasower of the University of California-Santa Cruz urban and regional water research team, who chaired the meeting, said all interested communities are free to attend the sessions.

While the water collaborators are "not a water management group," he said, "we're not just a touchy-feely group." Since the meetings have been called by the PUC and its ratepayer advocate division, "it has teeth, and can bite you."

Kasower is serving as a consultant to the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, which has called the series of meetings to determine which water agencies would be on board for a regional approach. The event has drawn dozens of representatives from area water agencies, private companies and citizen organizations.

North County's Pajaro Sunny Mesa Community Services District has not sent representatives to the meetings.

A report on future water demands outside California American Water's Monterey service area listed North County, including Moss Landing and Castroville, but not Salinas or Watsonville. Curtis Weeks, general manager of the county Water Management Agency, said demands outside Cal Am's service area should be addressed.

The report shows a current water demand in North County of 4,970 acre-feet and a potential future demand for 11,400 acre-feet per year.

Determining which "region" should be served should "focus on where the people are," said George Riley of Citizens for Public Water, who contended that "85 percent of Monterey County lives within 15 miles of Ryan Ranch" business park in Monterey.

"But the majority of the water is in South County," responded Madeleine Clark, president of the Elkhorn Slough Coalition.

Riley also took issue with the water demand figures submitted to the group, saying different agencies have different management patterns and demands. The group, he said, should adopt a standardized approach to quantifying water management.

David Pendergrass, chairman of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, and Howard Gustafson of the Marina Coast Water District said the group shouldn't get bogged down arguing about the numbers.

Future demand projections are based on "very detailed information," said David Berger, general manager of the Peninsula Water District. Marc Lucca, general manager of Marina Coast Water District, said differences in climate and water usage drive differences in demand between areas.

Cal Am and Pajaro Sunny Mesa have proposed building pilot seawater desalination plants, followed by regional-size plants.

Sand City and Marina have small desalination plants, and the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency provides recycled water for agricultural areas.

Seawater desalination is being studied as a water supply alternative by the Peninsula Water District.

The candidates include land-based plants based in the Moss Landing area of ocean-going desalination ships proposed by Water Standard Co., which holds patents for turning seawater into fresh water, and PBS&J Engineering, a company specializing in program management, process design and construction supervision of large water purification and wastewater facilities.

A seagoing water desalination plant would solve environmental problems posed by land-based plants over intake of seawater and discharge of brine, said Charles "Skip" Griffin, senior vice president for PBS&J.

Using seawater from once-through power plant cooling systems, such as that at Moss Landing, as a desalination intake source is a technology that's "dead in the water," Clark said, since a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 25 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can't allow power plants to kill fish through their cooling seawater intakes.

Steve Leonard, vice president and Monterey service area manager of Cal Am, said the water company must move forward to comply with an order by the state to cease overpumping the Carmel River aquifer.

"We need agreement on how big the (demand) numbers are and what the region ought to be," he said, or else "it's a nonstarter to build a desal plant." As for standardizing water demand statistics, Leonard said, "we should talk about policy issues, and the little numbers will take care of themselves.

"Our projects are policy based," he said: comply with the state Water Resources Board, replenish the aquifers and meet water needs.

In 1995, the state Water Resources Control Board advised Cal Am that it was taking an extra 10,730 acre-feet per year from the Carmel River aquifer -- more than was legally allowed.

The river is the major source of water for Cal Am customers on the Monterey Peninsula as well as the Monterey Peninsula Airport District, Pebble Beach and other unincorporated areas of the county.

The water resources board ordered Cal Am to develop another source for water it takes beyond the 3,376 acre-feet per year from the river aquifer, and until then, to reduce annual pumping by 20 percent. In 1998, the state Legislature required the Public Utilities Commission to develop a long-term water supply contingency plan to meet the needs of Peninsula residents.

Defining the water alternative supply "region" will be included on the water supply collaboration group's agenda when it next meets March 28.

Recent Comments
Mr. Kasower needs to understand that it, is in fact, Monterey County Supervisors that are the reason why sea water intrusion continues and existing urban demands aren't met. They purposely divide the region of MC to create confusion and conflict, forcing an environmentally unsound future for all of us. The SVWP was a sham. The south MC landowner/investors benifited the most from this project. They are currently growing wine grapes; however they will soon demand a landuse change to residential from agricultural. What is more important -- meeting current needs or crafting the death of the agricultural productivity of the most profitable agricultural land in America for investors that want the highest return for their land that was arid 20 years ago? Honesty and integrity are completely absent in Monterey County political leadership. - Posted by Douglas Fay
Copyright 2007, Monterey County Herald.