By Marge Ann Jameson
There’s an old adage which says “The water won’t run clear ’til you get the pigs out of the creek upstream.” A similar one says “The boat won’t go straight ’til everyone rows in the same direction.” With the potential of public ownership reaching the ballot this November, the water just got a lot more muddy. And it’s unclear whether everyone is rowing in the same direction or not.
It’s not going to get better anytime soon. The deadline for the cease-and-desist order – under which we have been operating for nearly 20 years without making much progress toward alternative sources – will pass without a project, let alone a completed project. It is unknown if missing that deadline, combined with the current lack of rainwater, will result in water rationing. Rationing could kill the tourist industry on which the Monterey Peninsula depends for income, not to mention local businesses and residences.
Tom McMahon, president of the Business Improvement District and owner of Monterey Bay Laundry, told the City Council Dec. 18 that his business water bill had increased some 300 percent to more than $1500 per month. Water usage affects revenue as taxes and surcharges are added onto water usage.
A drought situation as we are currently in keeps development and business revenue at bay. Second bathrooms, permits for restaurants and other uses await changes, and even if projects come to fruition, it may not result in enough new water to see some of these applications through, and some have been on the wish list for more than a decade. Irrigation costs for parks, the cemetery and golf course are skyrocketing as the City scrambles to find ways around using potable water for watering grass and green areas.
At the Dec. 18, 2013 City Council Meeting, Mike Zimmer, Director of Public Works, gave a succinct update on water issues as they affect Pacific Grove. We have relied heavily on his statements in this report, which we hope will help our readers understand the current state of affairs.
and Forks in the Stream
Cal-Am Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project
The Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project has already seen a number of twists and turns, from a publicly-owned desalination plant proposal by Marina Coast Water district (which failed after questions of impropriety) through the County Board of Supervisors reversing their stand on the necessity of a public agency being involved to last week’s accusation of violations of the Brown Act on the part of the Supervisors in their negotiations with Salinas water stakeholders.
Recently, Administrative Law Judge Weatherford, who had been the presiding officer over the matter on the part of the Califoria Public Utilities Commission, suffered a debilitating stroke. As a result, the CPUC assigned ALJ Angela K. Minkin as co-ALJ.
A majority of the parties to the action (including Cal-Am, Citizens for Public Water, City of Pacific Grove, Coalition of Peninsula Businesses, County of Monterey, Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), Landwatch Monterey County, Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) , Monterey Peninsula Regional Water Authority (Water Authority) MPWMD, Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (MRWPCA), Planning and Conservation League Foundation, Sierra Club, and Surfrider Foundation) reached settlement and lodged several settlement agreements on July 31, 2013.
Since that time, non-settling parties lodged comments and objections to those settlement agreements. A majority of the settling parties then requested that Cal-Am’s Application before the CPUC be separated into parts; the purpose of this is to establish a separate phase of this CPUC proceeding and a procedural schedule leading to a Commission decision whether to authorize Cal-Am to build a smaller desalination plant combined with a water purchase agreement for water produced from the joint MRWPCA/MPWMD Groundwater Replenishment Project, a project which provides for enhanced tratment of wastewater for use as drinking water.
ALJ Minkin held a special hearing on December 2, 2013, during which she posed clarifying questions to panels of witness that previously provided testimony in this proceeding.
Rocks Create Hazards Mid-Stream
Cal-Am 2013 Request for Rate Increase
Cal-Am filed its 2013 General Rate Case Application on July 1, 2013. This is a statewide application for all Cal-Am water and wastewater districts, including Monterey, for the period 2015 – 2017. Customers may see a rate increase of 9.22 percent in 2015, 3.39 percent in 2016, and 2.27 percent in 2017 if the CPUC approves the Application as proposed. The Application contains 33 Special Requests that could also increase water costs.
The City of Pacific Grove has been granted party status, together with others. Specific issues related to Pacific Grove are proposed Main System Improvements, Well Rehabilitation Improvements, Satellite System Interconnections, and the City’s Local Water Project. Specifically included in the scope are the following issues:
1. Whether Cal-Am’s proposed revenue rate increases are reasonable and justified;
2. Whether Cal-Am’s estimates for O & M and general expenses are reasonable;
3. Whether Cal-Am’s proposed additions to the plant are reasonable and justified;
4. Whether Cal-Am’s estimates for its General Office expenses are reasonable;
5. How to address any related safety impacts; and
6. Whether any or all of Cal-Am’s 33 “Special Requests” are justified.
Local testimony will be accepted by the CPUC at Participation Hearings sometime in March or April 2014. The formal hearing will be held from June 16 to June 30, 2014. A proposed decision is scheduled for August 14, 2014. The CPUC will then take action on this on December 18, 2014, and the new Cal-Am rates are set to take effect on January 1, 2015.
Potential Small-Scale Lifeboat
Pacific Grove’s Local Water Project
The City has undertaken site investigations at Pt. Pinos, including a Topographic Survey, Preliminary Biology survey, and Cultural & Historic Resource inventories.
An assessment has been completed as to the condition of existing structures and as to the local geotechnical setting.
The City has also refined plans related to the wastewater diversion at Asilomar Ave. This includes proposed conveyance to Pt. Pinos, a new treatment and disinfection process, and plans for the refurbished clarifier and digester for temporary storage. Plans for transmitting waste solids to MRWPCA for have been refined. An examination has been made of the irrigation service area, and several demand groups have been identified. Preliminary permit applications have been prepared for the California Coastal Commission, Monterey County Public Health, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. These efforts also include the Recycled Water Permit, and the Air Quality Construct & Discharge permit.
A draft Facility Plan Report will soon be complete which will facilitate City eligibility for a low-interest state revolving fund loan.