Coastal conservation in Morro Bay

October 8, 2012


The city of Morro Bay has two years to build a new sewage treatment plant, and local authorities are very close to making the wrong decision — against the will of local citizens.

They want to build their new sewage plant near Morro Rock again – one of California’s natural wonders and a popular beach and surfing spot. The outdated facility is also near Morro Bay High School and upwind from three mobile home parks and two hotels. Building on the proposed site will degrade invaluable coastal lands and limit future opportunities to draw more tourism or recreation to the area.

To see a detailed map and to send a letter to the California Coastal Commission (regardless of where you live in California), please click.

Morro Bay residents, including our important farming community, support the preferred alternative recommended by the Coastal Commission staff – that is, to move the treatment plant off the beach and re-build it into a water recycling facility that will provide long-term financial returns to the city. We can conserve our limited freshwater supplies, start adapting to inevitable sea level rise and threats to coastal infrastructure, as well as eliminate a source of pollution in our ocean – so this is a “win/win/win” proposal. Simply replacing an outdated facility in the wrong place is money down the drain – literally and figuratively.

This small community has the chance to set the trend for multi-benefit change in water management. We can stand as an example to others in California, and across the country, in how to get “the most bang for the buck” by building a new state-of-the-art water recycling facility — off the coast where it belongs.

Joe Geever is the Surfrider Foundation Water Programs Manager

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In Monterey County, they have made water recycling cost effective for many varieties of crops.

Many communities have… All over California. This is just one example.

With the reduction of ocean outfall, the loop is closed and imported water does not escape the system after being used once. It’s practical resource planning to maximize reuse.

It’s practical coastal planning to move the sewage plant away from the coast. Morro Bay competes with other coastal towns for the tourist dollar. It’s a practical decision for them to help differentiate themselves from the competition by offering visitors more options.

Lets see, the city will need right of way permits from Cal trans to go to and from the Righetti property, then more permits to go to farmers, as stated before the outfall line will need to be kept to get rid of water as needed.

If a tsanmui should hit the area of the sewer plant now it would only be a drop in the bucket as to contanimation to the ocean, we’ll have bigger things to worry about than a little crap in the water.

The arguement of more vistor serving areas is bull, you people and the coastal commision will fight any and all developenet no matter where its at, you people should have stood up and kept PG$E here producing but oh no your worried about an ecosystem that ha sbeen changed by 50 years of use already, you could have helped keep Chevron going with the ship loading facilities and the shore plant, now some wacked out enviromental company is running the show there and putting road base and grading all the surrounding ranch roads in case of a tsunami so they have an escape route, the problem is is that the only route out is Toro Creek and it only is open to the west, back to the ocean. The city of Morro Bay has no money for this kind of stuff, rebuilding the plant where its at is the only solution, I don’t know any people here in town that want to move it, unless you count the people that rent here in town and don’t own anything,or pay taxes.

I am so sick and tired of some wacked out group pushing their way into our lives, pack up and go play in the surf someplace else.

Just another person from outside the area telling the people who will have to pay for it what to do. It must be nice to make pronouncements about things that you won’t have to pay for. Anything to shake out some new contributions to Surfrider. The people of Morro Bay, who will be on the hook for whatever plan is chosen, are waking up to the costs of the lies and half truths that are being told by these people. They’re out to turn Morro Bay into a city where only the wealthy can live. They don’t care what it costs because they can always pay it or move. Seniors and others on fixed incomes are not their concern. If the homeowners don’t stand up against this it’s going to cost many of them their homes.

Are you talking about Los Osos or Morro Bay?

If Morro Bay property owners allow a bunch of carpetbaggers to move the sewer I will be talking about both. History is repeating itself but I think the rate payers of Cayucos and Morro Bay have learned from watching Los Osos. Anyone who owns property in either one of the those communities had better stand up and be counted before they lose their homes because the “visionaries” have decided they know better. Stand up and be counted.

John Diodatti works in SLO County Public Works, the Planning Dept. is separate from the Public works Dept. and would only provide permits for Rights of Way and grading if the plant were moved into the County jurisdiction. John Diodatti was a celebrated Morro Bay city Planning Commissioner who is a dedicated community member and I believe a member of Surfrider.

The industrial uses you mention in the surrounding area are on their way out. The power plant is barely producing, the oil storage tanks are already gone and the RV storage city owned and should be redeveloped it with the redevelopment of the current WWTF.

The concrete plant may be the last industrial use left standing, but if zoning all around it changes it would be more desirable for its owner to apply for visitor serving zoning and join the redevelopment movement for the waterfront.

The City of Morro Bay had a citizen committee that looked at the redevelopment of the power plant in 2006 “New Futures” was its name. The principals should be applied to the entire waterfront area. Sure it will take years, but look how long it took to make a mess out there. Start now and in 50+/- years it could be a world class waterfront with all the things the community has asked for.

There’s just one problem with your grandiose redevelopment idea — it’s still a tsunami zone, a flood plain and would impact the view from scenic Hwy 1. So if a vital public facility can’t possibly be built there (even though it’s already there for more than 50 years), how in the world can a private development overcome these issues, which the Coastal Commission has identified?

Do you really believe some company is going to come here and build a multi-million dollar motel/spa/resort if they can only build it one story high?

The only thing that can easily (i.e. legally) be built in that area is more RV parks. And that’s because Rvs can pull up stakes and drive off when a tsunami is coming.

The visitor serving area in Morro Bay is the Embarcadero. I don’t think residents in Cloisters or the Atascadero Beach Tract would take too kindly to seeing the tourist traps moving towards their neighborhoods.

There’s already one councilman (George Leage) who thinks they ought to tear down Morro Bay High and build a new school outside of town (on Chevron’s property by Torro Creek), and then redevelop the MBHS property into more tourism-visitor serving uses.

Who knows might make a hell of a golf course.

Building in a tsunamis zone is not forbidden. It’s building a public facility, like a sewage treatment plant, that needs to keep working after a tsunami that is problematic. Hotels and shops can all be evacuated should a tsunami hit, sure there’ll be property damage, but it’s not infrastructure for thousands.

Morro Bay doesn’t have the water for another golf course, unless of course they want to use wastewater, but then where’s the beneficial use? Evaporated on grass.

What will the Righetti-located plant do with their discharge water in Dec/Jan/Feb/Mar when the ag users cannot use the water? Can they they dump it in the creek, or do they have a plan to store it? How much water are we talking about?

They HAVE to KEEP the ocean outfall pipe and the discharge permit because there is no way the small amount of agricultural operations out there can take all 1.2 million gallons a day of waste water, 365 days a year.

And the waste water is full of salts, which must be filtered out before being used for irrigation otherwise you’ll poison the ground.

So if the plant moves to Righetti Ranch they will need 1 pipe to carry all the raw sewage out, a second pipe to carry the waste water back to the desal plant for treatment and/or carry brine to the ocean outfall for discharge, and then a pipe to carry the usable water out to the farmers. And all these pipes have to be in separate trenches and have to fit within the Highway 41 right of way or through easements purchased form private property owners (in places where the road is too close to the creek to fit the pipes in).

You can’t put sewer water on row crops like cabbage, peppers or celery (which is what they grow out in Morro Valley) but you can use it to irrigate trees.

The city’s analysis said it would cost up to $4,000 an acre foot to treat the waste water to a usable level and there is no way in hell any avocado rancher is going to pay that kind of money to irrigate his trees. The only way this works is if residents subsidize the costs of treaitng the waste water and that would require a true finding of public benefit that could withstand a court challenge, because I guarantee you someone in this town will sue over a “gift of public funds” like this would be (hell I might do that myself).

The Coastal Commission staff said moving to Righetti Ranch would add $28 million to the cost of the project (but then deducted $8 million as what the city could get for the old site) and city staff (on the city website) agrees with that $28 million number.

The city says it’ll also take another 10 years to get to the point of seeking another coastal development permit.

In the meantime, the city staff said the existing plant will need about $30 million worth of repairs and maintenance to make it last another 10-12 years, so add $28 million and $30 million and you nearly double the price of the current project, estimated at $34 million.

Of course these numbers are if you could pay cash for the project. Having to finance it with interest, means the pay-off amount will be double the amount you borrow. So borrow $34 million for a new plant, $28 million to move it to Righetti Ranch and $30 million to make sure the existing plant lasts another 10 years, and the project goes from $34 million to $92 million — plus interest.

So if the “Move the Sewer” fans get their way, the citizens will see their bills at least double or maybe even triple, and we’ll all spend the next 10 years fighting over this crap.

And that’s why the plant SHOULD NOT be moved.

3,400 feet to the rock; 1,000 feet to the ocean (almost 1/4-mile).

I note the Surfrider map uses labels like “Teen Center” and “Community Park”, but doesn’t bother to label the huge “Concrete Plant” and “RV Storage Lot” directly adjacent to the water treatment plant. Don’t forget to add “Power Plant Smokestacks” and “Former Oil Storage Tank Farm”. No mention of cost for moving the plant. Come on, Mr. Geever. Play honest with the public.

Also very interesting: the map graphic credit is to Mr. John Diodatti, who works for County Planning which would be directly handling the permitting of a relocated plant.