• State Water Board issues CDO but delays harsher measures 1 year

    By Marge Ann Jameson

    Water customers on the Monterey Peninsula have won a brief reprieve from the State Water Resources Control Board, which has imposed a cease and desist order (CDO) against California-American Water. The Board has enjoined Cal-Am, the water utility for Pacific Grove and most of the Monterey Peninsula, from exceeding pumping limits on the Carmel River of 10,496 acre-feet per year effective immediately, but extended the effective date of further reductions to October 1, 2011.

    “They met us halfway and let us take ownership of the problem,” said Aengus Jeffers, a local attorney who was asked by several of his Pebble Beach water entitlement clients to become involved.

    Pebble Beach was perhaps the biggest winner of the day. The CDO allows Pebble Beach water entitlements to remain valid until 2016.

    Peninsula projects that had all permits as of Oct. 20 will be “grandfathered.” Owners of vacant lots with no permits as of Oct. 20 are probably out of luck, barring the development of new water sources, though developed parcels outside of Pebble Beach may have some room to maneuver. Pacific Grove itself is essentially out of water.

    As of October 1, 2011, no additional water from the Carmel River can be used by the utility for new service connections or increased use of water at existing service addresses. An additional 121 acre-foot reduction in pumping will also be required at that time.

    Clarifications are forthcoming. “Are they going to credit water brought online from the aquifer storage project and the Sand City desalination plant?” asked Jeffers.

    Jeffers was among two busloads of Peninsula people who went to Sacramento on Oct. 20 to attend the hearing and make presentations; Peninsula business and community members formed a loose coalition they called “Our Water, Our Lives.” Among those who testified were Richard Stillwell, former Pacific Grove volunteer fire chief, and Moe Ammar, president of the Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce. A number of associations and elected officials also testified, including Pacific Grove Mayor Carmelita Garcia and Councilmember Ken Cuneo.

    State Senator Abel Maldonado pointed out that “finding a balance isn’t easy,” but finding a balance has become a distinct possibility with area-wide cooperation among state agencies, citizen groups and utilities over the past few years. The California Public Utilities Commission was represented by Cynthia Truelove, who drew applause when she said, “The PUC proposes a formal process to . . . manage the situation without having to enforce the CDO.”

    A Regional Water Project is under development to work toward a goal of providing up to 15,200 acre-feet of potable water per year for the Monterey Peninsula, the former Fort Ord and Marina. A number of projects are already under way and approved, including conservation efforts, a desalination plant in Sand City and a regional desalination plant, which is likely to be built south of the Salinas River and pump seawater and brackish groundwater. Also in the works is aquifer storage and recovery in Seaside and a system to deliver recycled water for urban irrigation.

    An additional 10,400 acre-feet are sought in the second phase of the project which includes water catchment and percolation ponds for stormwater, additional wells in north Monterey County and expansion of projects developed in the first phase.

    Cal-Am provides some 89 percent of its customers’ water by directly diverting water from 21 wells downstream of the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River.

    Many who testified on Oct. 20 cited efforts at conservation already undertaken by area users and asked the Board not to “punish” Peninsula residents by imposing the CDO. Peninsula water users are among the most conservative in the state, having reduced usage 30 percent to an average of 70 gallons per person per day as compared to 300 for the rest of the state.

    While many were satisfied with the one-year extension, believing that it offers the Peninsula enough time to get projects completed, others were not as happy.

    “This was really a minimum,” said Brian LaNeve of the Carmel River Steelhead Association – and a building contractor – “A lot of people wanted more strict guidelines.”

    The CDO makes Cal-Am subject to immediate reduction of 549 acre-feet per year. The cutbacks amount to three gallons per person, LaNeve said, and opined “That’s not a lot.”

    The Carmel River Steelhead Association was instrumental in bringing the overdraft problems in the Carmel River to the attention of the State Water Resources Control Board. LaNeve, speaking for the Association, he said, “We’re not anti-growth, but you have to control it.”

    LaNeve cited estimates that 10 percent of the customers use 40 percent of the water. “Those are the people we need to find” and convince to retrofit for water conservation and to use more conservative practices in water usage.

    A building moratorium hurts people in his business, he said, but he pointed out that a retrofit to more water-conservative appliances and fixtures is only required locally when there is a remodel.

    “Could there be an incentive for retrofitting?” he asked.

    Catherine Bowie, Public Information Officer for Cal-Am, was also among those who went to Sacramento for the hearing and stands with the Steelhead Association in underlining the importance of finding new sources of water.

    “It was very important to note how many people went to Sacramento, to show the Board how important this issue is to us. Water is our most vital resource and cutting back water allocations is really hurtful all the way around,” she said. “New water projects are the main thing. We hope the state and other agencies will not stand in our way but will help us get these projects approved and under way as soon as possible.”

    Customers have been asking Cal-Am about the potential of rationing in Pacific Grove, she says. Cal-Am will soon meet with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District about ways to impose rationing, said Bowie. “We’re hoping to put it off as long as possible,” she points out. She also stated that if and when rationing is placed into effect, it would likely be a per capita reduction rather than a percentage of current use. A per capita reduction, she feels, would be more equitable to those who already conserve.



    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 21, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News

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