Friday, June 23, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons The Bay News, Morro Bay CA for June 21

Lone Ranger or Trojan Horse

The devil, as they say, is always in the details. And that will certainly hold true regarding the “Blakeslee Breakthrough Plan” that calls for a “stand-down” by all the warring parties while a careful series of “negotiations” gets underway.

Some of the first steps in this delicate dance include:

--The CSD Board has voted 5-0 on a resolution expressing its willingness to (among other things) temporarily partner with the County to (in Blakeslee’s words), “establish a structured process to ensure that all feasible and appropriate technologies and treatment locations are considered in a deliberative manner that optimizes overall outcomes with regard to: cost, water quality, and long term sustainability.” The CSD resolution further agrees to seek legislation “that allows the County of San Luis Obispo to assist the [LOCSD], on a temporary basis, by providing the administrative, technical and funding assistance necessary to review, design, construct and initially operate a community wastewater treatment system . “ and “agree to a fair and transparent process that will collaboratively review the District’s anticipated Updated 2001 Wastewater Facilities Report and a site alternative analysis . . .”

--While the BBP calls for the RWQCB to update its existing Time Schedule Order and the CSD resolves to “actively seek support from the state and regional water boards . . . to hold enforcement actions and fines related to this matter in abeyance. . .” it’s not known if the RWQCB will take this “stand-down” opportunity to suspend their misguided CDO prosecution of the hapless “Los Osos 45,” a mad pumping scheme that was a case of unscientific, poorly planned, and unproductive pique.

--And the State Water Board would have to “offer funds from the State Revolving Fund Loan program in accordance with the SRF policy loans,” a loan application that the CSD has already submitted.

Right now, the CSD is engaged in a process that will hopefully end up with a sustainable project that will address critical water overdraft problems, best practices water-use and re-use, and will be a project that will be heading in the right direction from day one, a direction that needs to mesh with a long-overdue Basin Plan update as well as anticipate the coming state regulations for all onsite septic systems outside the Prohibition Zone.

Is the BBP doable? Can the county help it happen? You betcha! So can the CSD, the RWQCB, the State Water Board and the whole community.

One of the many lies that keeps wafting out of Los Osos is that we are all a bunch of “anti-sewer,” Dogpatch swill-rollers who willy-nilly stopped a wonderful, glorious, perfect sewer plant from being built in the middle of town just because we’re stupid and mean. And since perception is reality, that became “The Truth” for many outside the community, including Sacramento regulators, SLO county office-holders and residents.

For many others who bothered to look closer, it was apparent that many serious missteps had been made, including Resolution 83-13’s false conflation of “sewer” with “clean water,” the RWQCB enforcing a timeline that was “unreasonable” from day one with constant threats that drove the wrong project down the wrong road; the State Water Board massively increasing the unsecured SRF loan when they knew that a Prop 218 lawsuit and a recall were in the pipeline; the failure of the Coastal Commission to demand answers to their own “bait and switch” and site-comparison questions; and by the old CSD Board majority that voted to unnecessarily pound millions of taxpayer’s dollars into the ground weeks before a recall election. All these things were avoidable and/or unnecessary. The community is paying dearly for these governmental failures.

Now, we have a chance to take a deep breath, learn from the mistakes, and seriously consider a truthful oxymoron that sometimes the fastest, easiest way forward is to step back until you find the right path and the right direction. That’s the opportunity the “Blakeslee Breakthrough Plan” offers. Add in the knowledge from all parties that failure is not an option, toss in a guaranteed Prop 218 vote from the people who are going to be “buying” whatever project results from the proposal’s “structured process” of a fair and collaborative evaluation of solutions, then stand back and see just how “anti-sewer” Los Osos really is.


Anonymous said...


Unless its a centralized montrosity ala' Tri-W (and the failed, polluting, section 301h refugee Morro Bay) Briggs,
Bleskey, Wilcox and company won't even consider it.

Dr. Wickham's ideas won't even see the light of day.

Anonymous said...

To use your analogy there will only be on course: " "Use the rock and kill the character and unique facets of your little town."

Shark Inlet said...


Have you ever spent some time considering the question of why typical thoughtful people outside Los Osos consider our community Anti-sewer? This perception is held by the general population of newspaper readers as well as with staffers at the SWRCB and professionals who have worked in the wastewater area.

The reason is our community has taken actions that are consistent with an anti-sewer attitude at many many junctures. We turned down grant money to get it done in the 80s. We fought a few County led projects. Even when we said "hey, we'll do it ourselves" a group of people in our community fought and successfully stopped the one project that was pretty far along the road to getting a sewer. Now the folks in charge of the CSD have made even more choices (like bankrupting our CSD) that make it difficult to accomplish the goal of getting a sewer built.

Why do people view us as anti-sewer? Because we act just like anti-sewer people act!

The BBP will be capable of doing something far better than what the CSD can do ... we could possibly get good financing for the project and the County would have the trust of the homeowners far more than the CSD does, so it is more likely that any bond to finance the thing would pass. The trade-off is that the County has to have final decision rights, not the CSD.

A good trade-off, I say. It preserves the CSD to allow for local government on other issues, but it keeps the project possible.

Sewertoons said...

So, the BIG question then is: Will the 218 vote pass now?

PublicWorks said...

That's the key, will a 218 vote pass.

The CSD resolution is so 'vague' and loosey-goosey as to be almost meaningless. Bottom line is that a consideration and comparison of the updated report with the old project be made, and then have a 218 vote - beyond that whether it's the CSD or the County to administer it becomes the question.

History has proven the CSD, as Shark says, to be unreliable (whatever the reason) to complete anything. Not true for the County, so to assure that the people assessing themselves don't get burned again, having the decision with the County is more stable. It comes with a price tag of some overhead, while the CSD comes with the price of being unstable with lousy credit.

It seems the fairest way to 'get it on' would be for the County to simply agree to see the Ripley report through, the RWQCB to hold off on a 'new' time schedule until it sees the report.

You'd think Ann would have bothered to read the RWQCB letter. It says it will consider the project status in regards to individual enforcement. That's about all you can expect from a regulator, which simply can't guarantee it will look the other way on compliance issues - otherwise why have regulation?

Since the SRF loan has been fumbled away, there will a 218 vote sometime, and if it doesn't pass the next time around, god help us.

It's all about the cost, the lower the cost, the greater the chance of passing - simple.

*PG-13 said...

Carrying over a snippet from yesterday's blog about Mr. Barrow's meltdown because they are so closely related:

Anon> With all due respect PG, I wonder just how much "negotiating" there can be, ...

Ann (from today's blog)> ... regarding the “Blakeslee Breakthrough Plan” that calls for a “stand-down” by all the warring parties while a careful series of “negotiations” gets underway.

Like these two posters I think it important to be careful how we perceive the BPP. This isn't really a negotiating table. Calling these negotiations implies there are positions, there is room for some give & take, and players are willing to give some in order to get some. Some negotiations seem more negotiable than others. For example, the negotiated peace with Japan at the end of WW II was pretty one-sided. There wasn't a lot of compromise and negotiated give & take. Calling that negotiation is a bit of a stretch. I question whether this BPP is really a negotiaition. In my mind negotiation implies there is negotiable wiggle room through which parties deal and bargain to reach an agreement. This might be splitting semantic hairs but this is more a last ditch effort to save something from nothing. A drowning person does not negotiate with the life preserver nor with whomever tossed it. Some probably feel they have something to give. Others might feel they have nothing to give, cannot legally give, or are simply not willing to give. So be it. It may look like negotiation, it may sound like negotiation, it might even walk like negotiation. But don't be deceived. It is not negotiation. This is get together and make it work or we all sink. Right down to the bottom. Glug, glug. If this fails there will be no winners - only losers.

I think it important not to think of this as negotiating but as coming together for a common good. A common good called survival. One doesn't negotiate survival unless one is willing to negotiate death. Are we willing to negotiate death? Get real people, this is the last train out of town! When it leaves the station if everybody - and I do mean EVERY BODY - isn't onboard with their tickets punched the train will slip the tracks and won't ever come back through again. And then, and then we will be right back in the ugly-ugly with no way out. Kaputt! Sunk. Completely at the mercy of whatever might happen. Expect whatever that might be to be a huge totally expedient hammer with no regard to any of the things that seem so dear to so many in Los Osos.

We will also be broke with lots of outstanding bills to pay. That is a collective WE. The decisions (read: debts) of the new CSD and the decisions (also read: debts) of the old CSD are one and the same. For better and for worse they will be OUR debts. Similarly, the costs of whatever happens will be our expense regardless who incurs them be it the state or the county or any of the many various agencies. At that point a history of how we got there - no matter how impartial or revisionist - is irrelevant.

PublicWorks said...

Amen PG,

The SWRCB holds 3 kings.

The RWQCB holds 3 jacks.

The County holds 3 aces.

The CSD holds a pair of lousy fives, a two, a three, and an eight, and gets to draw another two cards. As Clint Eastwood sez, 'In all the excitement going down, I kinda lost track. So do you feel lucky, well do you?'.

Better to ante up and stay in the game than walk away from the table.

Anonymous said...

Thanks all for your input into the "negotiating" thing. But why do i still have a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that "negotiating" is gonna be a very big, possibly deal-destroying thing with the current CSD concerning the BBP?
Anon (the "with all due respect" anon)

Sewertoons said...

The word that most circles around in my head in relation to this CSD is OBSTRUCTIONISM. Makes me queasy, Anon., maybe we have the same bug? I hope I am wrong about the word. Nope. I feel even queasier when I say I am wrong.

Shark Inlet said...

The "negotiation" will be between those who have something to give and who want to see real progress in terms of developing a sewer. In other words, the negotiations will be between Blakeslee, the SWRCB, the RWQCB and the County. The CSD has nothing to offer and hasn't convincingly shown they are interested in getting a WWTF online in any reasonable timeframe.

Yes, this really is just a power grab. If it works, the CSD will be stripped of any authority over the project. However, that would happen anyways due to the impending bankruptcy ofi the LOCSD. Simply put, the new board promised all sorts of stuff that they could not reasonable hope to deliver. Furthermore, once in office, their decisions hurt their ability to achieve their goals of moving the WWTF. Simply put, the CSD cannot accomplish the goal of getting a sewer and WWTF ... the County will be taking over.

The beauty of the BBP is that we seem more likely to get a low interest loan than otherwise and that the RWQCB may, indeed, be lenient (yet again) if the County takes over.

The two questions really are:

1 - Where will the County choose to site the plant? (And what sort of collection system and plant would they pick?)

2 - Will property owners assess themselves to pay for the thing.

My answers are that I dunno and don't so much care where they put the thing and if the County is in charge, a 218 vote is very likely to pass.

Folks who are afraid of a TriW plant should be somewhat afraid of this proposal because they won't be able to block that location if it is, indeed, the least expensive and best. However, one must ask the question about such folks ... if someone opposes a site that is cheapest and best, how much more would they be willing to pay for an alternative site?

It all comes down to money and the folks who ran for the recall seats and the folks who promoted Measure B simply don't have a cheaper plan. If they did we would have already seen it.

Even so, the County will be in charge and they'll choose the site that is best overall.

Anonymous said...

Are you really "public works"? then when you say,

"History has proven the CSD, as Shark says, to be unreliable (whatever the reason) to complete anything. Not true for the County, so to assure that the people assessing themselves don't get burned again, "

Have you bothered to look at the roads of Los Osos lately. Ah, you must like alternative technology roads? Back-to-Nature dirt, pot holes, sand traps? We understand, you belong to the earth eh public works? The county is worthless when it comes to waste treatment as well. The Morro Bay is a disaster and it was illegal in 1994 not 8 years after it was built. Because the NRDC jumped down their throat they are finally doing something about storm water mitigation.

I am not impressed with county public works as far as Los Osos is concerned. The CSD accomplished much more than either the county or previous CSDs when they installed a "sludgehammer" at the firestation.

Anonymous said...

You are correct Shark. But again, that queasy feeling in my stomach tells me this current CSD just will not give up control of this project. And if they amazingly agreed to give up control, their supporters will go absolutely Al Barrow, and history has shown they can pretty much make life miserable for anyone, the county included, who tries to make sewer-progress that doesn't meet their criteria (ie: not at all; or not at tri-w; or not in town; or not out of town; etc etc etc). Nope....I'm trying to stay positive, but something keeps telling me a sewer ultimately, and painfully, will have to be forced down Los Osos' throat. Most probably by the state. But I'm staying, really, I am.......

Anonymous said...

Mr. Anon it pays to read law ... sometimes its actually interesting ... hmmm well the state could have technically taken over the project when the CSD temporarily took a "time out" to determine the best course of action without jepordizing the 165M loan. But of course as Mr. Le Gros pointed out on Mr. Crawford's blog they had already cashed the first check. So ... prop 218 notwithstanding the SRF rules were activated. The problem is that the clause that allows the state to take over a project assumes that a prop 218 vote had been taken on the entire loan amount. It had not. But they had cashed the check so that could be taken as agreement that the party understood that they would be held to to all stipulations associated with the SRF loan process.

Of course we won't mention the overrun that had already pushed the project to over $200 million.
Can we say $300,000,000 slowly without gagging?
And only $165 millon was a low interest loan. Thank you
MWH for double charging ... and inflating origional estimates.

The state chickened out. They decided not to pursue it without the prop 218 vote. Why would they change their mind this time? If anything it must seem a more repugnant idea now that we have so many astute students of water board regulations ad nauseum here in Los Osos.

So, bottom line: You had damn well better make sure that 1. more than one project is offered by the 218 vote.
2. The Tri-W site with an MBR reactor in tow is not the only choice. Really it should not even be a choice. 3. The project MEETS ALL CRITERIA associated with FEDERAL and STATE law. That means it had damn well better account for the distressed bodies of water that completely surround the town in the basinn plan and the National Marine Estuary. And the EIR had better take into account the sand dunes, the earth quakes, the ground water and aquifers, and the plethora of archaelogical relics.

In other words it MUST be done right in order to get the real sewer looney toons off of Los Ososans back: those reprobates from the "Dukes of Hazard", the water board staff. Lets not build a "sewer" that is illegal to operate right out of the box ... like Morro Bay did in 1983. Gee Roger did you tell them?

Anonymous said...

An install of a "SludgeHammer" is evidence of a great accomplishment? I think it took a couple of hours and was free. Remember the adage, you get what you pay for!

Sewertoons said...

Maybe the county was using optimism about a sewer being built here to not fix the streets?

My steet was torn up in September and re-zipped when the project was stalled - gee, I'm really glad I get to pay for this twice!

Sewertoons said...

Plus, the "SludgeHammer" was just an optimistic calling card toward selling each and every one of us one of those things.

And BTW, only if it fails to work it will be free - and removed in one year. If it works - Los Osos gets to pay $4500 for it.

Looks like if it works we don't "get" anything but one more bill!

Oh, and a BTW to one of the Anons, most of the archeological finds are 4 and 5 feet under the sand, therefore right in line for lateral drilling!

While we are thanking people, it seems right to thank Budd Sanford and his crowd of Barrowites - wonder if they will choose to show their faces to the County's contractors?

Mike Green said...

Sharkey, your characterization of this as being a "power grab" I find hard to follow, here's why.
First, the County Board of Supervisors have made it plain as day that they wanted nothing to do with LO,
Heck, even Grover Beach made that opinion official.
So if you are right (and I'm not questioning this) that the CSD would become bankrupt and therefore they, the co., would get it anyway, with ALL the associated baggage.
It wouldnt be a power grab but a defensive measure.
VERY smart for the county.
The CSD will retain some say over the project.
I'm sure we will spit and whittle over whether its a meaningfull contribution, but the CSD needs to have some success in this, in order to garner the most publick support, This is crucial!
The Water Gods would be well served to assist in this endevor.
Causing smog and bankrupting poor people is not the way to gain favor with the populace. Gods they may be, but they serve at the pleasure of the government, people need to believe that they are a good thing.
Finaly the power here will reside in the 218 vote namely, us.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

Read the Assembly Bill. The LOCSD is cut COMPLETELY out of the process.

Mike Green said...

Publickworks: I know you love gambling
(remember our bet?)
so you say:
The SWRCB holds 3 kings.

The RWQCB holds 3 jacks.

The County holds 3 aces.

The CSD holds a pair of lousy fives, a two, a three, and an eight, and gets to draw another two cards.

I say,
SWRCB-- Two kings and a duece

RCWB-- Three hearts king queen jack

County--a four and a jack and a three
(they got the most to lose and need a good bluff)

CSD-- pair of twos ace high

You pick the next two cards!

Mike Green said...

Anon "the process" I know,
It's politics.
Wait and see.

Anonymous said...

This was my point when I commented about what "negotiation" means early this morning. I can't believe the CSD would give up "authority" of the project,if for any other reason to save face for their supporters. And I've seen way too much of Julie Tacker and especially Gail McPherson to believe otherwise. On the other hand, and I know this is putting the cart way before the horse, but how I vote in a 218 vote is very much dependent on how much "authority" the CSD has and how seriously "community input" is taken. Community input. From Los Osos. C'mon....Been there. Done that. Not going to do it again. So the county prefers a more malleable plan like this rather than having it forced on them. Makes sense. And making political overtures to the CSD and "community" makes sense also. But they also must know that a majority of homeowners might very well dis the 218 if there even is a hint the CSD will have final say, or even too much say. (for many I suspect any say at all!!). It's a tenuous situation, and I for one won't believe anything until the i's are dotted and the t's crossed.

Mike Green said...

To anon,"t's crossed"

Very good points, looks like everyone is paying attetion!
Used to be there was only a few folks sitting around this pickle barrel.
Crimeny, I hope no one drags up my old comments.


This needs to be sold to everyone, not just the property owners (although I'm one)

I see bake sales and icecream socials in our future

We need to win the political battle this time and get it done.

Its like a bunch of shipwrecked pirates pulling all toghether to reach the shore.....

trust? sure! (till we get there)


PublicWorks said...


The County's jack is wild, and they will draw an ace & a two.

The CSD is holding it's cards, standing on a bridge, and threatening everyone at the table that it's going to jump off unless they cooperate.

The question is, can the CSD be talked off the bridge, or will everyone just watch and wait to call the next of kin?

Can't wait for that donut.

Sewertoons said...

We'd better have some law in place on either side of the bridge. I could imagine people clambering up the supports to be first in line to PUSH.... There will be a "encouragement" section below, too, "…jump, jump, jump…"

Anonymous said...

Mike Green,

Dream on dude....The CSD and community input are out of the loop. The County will do whatever is cheapest to get this sewer built. Sorry you do not like Tri-W; but it's coming to Los Osos. Complain all you want. the County doesnot care what the hell Los Osos thinks at this point.

Spectator said...

Time! The Locsd will be bankrupt well before the legislature ever gets to vote on Blakeslee's bill.

The name of the game is drag your ass. Why would a democratic legislature make a republican rep look good? Save the Republican county? Fat chance.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"Have you ever spent some time considering the question of why typical thoughtful people outside Los Osos consider our community Anti-sewer? This perception is held by the general population of newspaper readers as well as with staffers at the SWRCB and professionals who have worked in the wastewater area."

I would have to agree with Dr. Wickham's observation that people have confused "sewer" with "clean water" and conflated one with the other or use one when they mean the other. It's an easy mistake but it has unfortunate consequences since, too often, perception becomes "reality." and "science" becomes "common knowledge or common assumptions," and so forth.

Anonymous said...

Of course if you are "anti sewer" you anti growth and anti
development. That means many folks' investments might
not be worth the septage in a septic tank.

Unfortunately, being pro clean water means carefully, planned, staged development over a longer period of time. There could be a big return on the investment but these people are apparently unwilling to wait any longer ...

Mike Green said...

To anon "this point"
I won't be complainig a bit, and here's why.
It will be over and I'm going to do whatever I have to.
There Isn't much I can do at this point to influence anyone anyhoo.
It seems we are truley on a train now. Hang on and wait and see, when the time comes up that we get any kind of say in what happens, I hope there is a 90% turn out of voters that could pass a social studies test on the subject.

Oh, I resent to no end having the term "Dream" attached to my name!
Stupid, OK
Knucklehead, Ok
Sweet Nocturnal Preambulations to you!

Mike Green

Shark Inlet said...

You have a good point, Ann, when you suggest that sewer and clean water are different things.

Along those lines, however, I would point out that if we had a sewer and WWTF 10 years ago, our groundwater now would be considerably cleaner than now and our saltwater intrusion problem would be less.

Sewers can be part of the solution.