Yes, it’s the Department of “There Is No Hope.”
I had a chance to sit in on Day One of the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s hearing regarding FINES!FINES!WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE IN THE STREETS LIKE DAWGS and observed two scary things:
1. Matt Thompson of the staff of the RWQCB presented a sort of “History of the World, Part I” to the Board. (Keep in mind, that the Board, made up of all sorts of people from all over, rely on staff for a great deal of their facts, upon which they make their decisions – decisions that can have profound impacts on whole communities.) So, Mr. Thompson puts up on the screen nitrate level charts that look strangely familiar. Then I realized why they looked familiar. I had seen them before, YEARS AGO, because they were the OLD, OUT-DATED CHARTS AND NUMBERS, all of which had been changed and superceded by the 2005 Cleath & Associates Water Basin Study.
Yet, there was The Staff, with a presentation, under oath, purporting to be factual and true, and given to The Board so they could have a “true picture” of the long history of this project for the new members who may not be familiar with it.
Luckily, a bit later, Rob Miller, the CSD’s Engineer, testified with the New! Improved! Updated! True Facts! from the newest water studies. Some of the Board members seemed to “get it.” So, I hope they will privately ask their staff, “Uh, can you please tell us, why YOU don’t have this Cleath & Assoc study and all the nice info on a CD, complete with waaaaay cool color overlays & etc so that YOU could have presented it as “true facts”?”
2. Creepiest of all, something that, alas, is to be found in Boards everywhere, is something that I’ll call “The Mike Drake Syndrome,” in honor of our former Public Information Officer who came to Los Osos and soon was using the term “We,” as in, WE have suffered THIRTY YEARS with these delays, How much longer should WE suffer? & etc. when, in reality, he’d only been in town a few weeks.
What some of the Board members appeared to be running in their heads were loops of old, false memory tapes, as in, For thirty years, YOU PEOPLE, have been . . . or YOU PEOPLE out there are ALL anti-sewer . . . or For THIRTY YEARS WE have watched as Los Osos has caused ALL of these problems (forgetting, conveniently, the RWQCB’s long history in this whole mess, a history of curiously spotty or non-existent “enforcement” coupled with hurry-up-and-do-anything, even the wrong thing, or we’ll shoot your dog lurches.) We? WE?
Why that all gets creepy is when you’re running old tape loops of false memory (or fragments of somebody else’s “history” – after all, most of these Board members, like Mr. Drake, are newly appointed and haven’t been dealing with this issue for very long at all) what happens is that you fail to see the REAL hoof prints on the ground in front of you. And you fail to understand that this project has been an ongoing process. Luckily, one of the Board members seemed to acknowledge that history has changed, that this has been a public educational process as well as a technically evolving one, and that new data and new approaches are sitting at the CSD table in front of him, right now – not 30 years ago.
It remains to be seen if that critical difference is shared by the rest of the Board. Or whether the Board wishes to understand the broader issues regarding WATER, rather than the narrowly focused issue of a wastewater plant that will not solve some of those critical WATER issues or whether there actually are options that would offer more flexibility for the future. Or even understand that sometimes the only way forward IS a step back.
Or whether this whole mess has now derailed into a personal matter involving egos, power, irritations, personality clashes and other human frailties.
In any case, the Board will meet again at 11 today, Dec 2nd., with public comment and renewed requests from the CSD for a continuance likely, and, in any event, I presume that whatever “verdict” is rendered, it will be appealed first to the State Water Board and from there, into court, because, so far, the CSD’s defense seems to rest on the RWQCB’s own long (30 years?)history of not fining the County (originally) and then not fining the various CSD Boards , for delays beyond the control of the CSDs. That is, until this CSD. And the evidence submitted by the CSD’s attorney(s) was that this CSD took no action, as a Board, to stop (delay) this project.
Instead, they voted on three things: (1) a stand-down allowed by the construction contract to reassess everything and rework the collection system to prepare for the possibility that Measure B would force them to build anywhere else but the Tri-W site, and (2 & 3) a vote to accept the “negotiated” “deal” with the State Water Board, which was then rejected by the State Water Board. Since none of those votes involved the CSD stopping this project, whatever happened outside the scope of those three votes, was beyond the control of the CSD.
And so the dance continues.