Clearing up misinformation about Cambria’s water supply
September 16, 2014
OPINION By AMANDA RICE
I am a regular reader of Cal Coast News, a Cambrian and a current elected board member of Cambria CSD. And I respect the role of journalism as the fourth branch of government. A strong, free and curious press is critical for good government and a well-informed citizenry.
I say all of that as a preface to the corrections and my own understanding of the project that is the subject Mr Blanck’s opinion piece.
Blanck said, “Did you ever wonder why your due process rights were usurped by the Cambria CSD (CCSD) when you were not asked whether you preferred “toilet-to-tap” water for $15 million or 300 acre-feet of fresh well water from an existing well for the cost of a postage stamp and a water rights application the CCSD has known about since 2010 — and not acted on?”
The community did have an opportunity to have a say on the project. The Board proposed a rate increase (under prop 218) that will be used only to pay for this emergency project. There were 800 Cambrians who protested the rate increase, but not the 50 percent plus one (1,971 protests in 45 day window) required to prohibit the Board from enacting the rate increase.
The dollars brought in by the increase are restricted to paying off the indebtedness incurred for this project.
And the financial instrument for the “emergency” project takes the CCSD assets as collateral, including the bank’s ability to repossess the Fiscilini East-West ranch and develop it.
The financial instrument (installment sale agreement) does have a term that encumbers the District’s ad valorum property tax revenues as collateral the event that the additional rates and charges recently approved by the Board do not cover the payment amount. This was described as a “standard” term on all District loans over at least the past decade. The Fiscalini Ranch is not in danger of being re-possessed.
The principal amount borrowed was $8,939,000 dollars. The lender offered the District a fixed 4.11 percent over 20 years. The estimated total debt service when amortized over the full term of the agreement is $13,170,000.
Blanck said, “This is just more of the “pave paradise and put up a parking lot” mentality exemplified by the massacre of healthy trees, except the CCSD wants you to pay for developer’s profits with the fake ‘emergency’ project. And even the county is in on it, improperly issuing an “emergency” permit for a project in a coastal tidal wetland without authority.”
This is not a false emergency. It is being designed to meet the needs of the current residents, not for developers or any possible profits. The county had limited options under its own policies and ordinances when the district applied for an emergency permit. Understanding the limitation of their authority under an emergency permit, the county placed important conditions on that permit. Most importantly, the district must apply for a regular coastal development permit within 30 days of the emergency permit approval, which we did. All the usual requirements that a project like this must meet (like environmental review, county planning process, etc) apply. No new development can be served by this project.
Blanck said, “Those Aug. 15, San Simeon Creek well levels are above the average for all years measured which proves there is currently no water emergency in Cambria, especially if the CCSD stops wasting water.”
The Aug 15 well levels likely reflect the fact that water that would have been sent through our pipes and into homes is instead being re-injected into the basin in a manner similar to how the project is eventually expected to operate.
Blanck said, “Then there is the actual health and safety risk to you from a “Toilet-to-Tap” project, not permitted like any other similar project in California, but rushed through the permitting process under the scam of being an “emergency.”
Mr Blanck is entitled to his opinion, of course. But this project is not being rushed through the department of drinking water’s (née public health department) process. Our contractor (CDM Smith) is currently conducting a 67 day tracer test that is meant to confirm the hydrological model developed earlier in the process.
The department of drinking water policies currently require a minimum of 60 days “travel time” between when water that has been filtered and purified is injected into the basin and when it is pumped back out for use. This travel time requirement was chosen out of an abundance of caution to ensure high quality water and the public health and safety of the users of that water.
Many in the water industry seem to be of the opinion that this is a far too strict regulatory policy. The department is currently in the process of drafting revisions to that policy and is expected to be available for public comment within the next 12-18 months.
Blanck said, “When was the change of the project from “brackish seawater” to a “Toilet-to-Tap” project ever discussed at a public meeting? So without any permits except the “emergency” permit, the CCSD is spending your money and risking your future.”
“Future Cambria tourists will quip, is that something swimming in your ice tea? Or, tourists will ask, do you think it is safe to breathe the water in the shower with worries about inhaling brain-eating amoebas? Local residents will wake up to the real danger and decide to move out, in mass to protect both their health and wallets,” Blanck added.
These paragraphs are simply intended to be inflammatory and raises fears that Blanck should know, as a professional hydrologist, have no basis in reality. We do not live in a third world country and we should be above this kind of fear-mongering.