Thursday, August 31, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay New, Morro Bay, for August 30, 06

The Summer Chair

I have always loved Adirondack Chairs. It’s not just their classic beauty and comfortable functionality that draws me, but the ghostly aura they carry of long ago summer afternoons spent under the towering maple trees at the summer cabin, the sound of laughter from the children playing at the edge of Loon Lake, the feel of sweet summer grass on bare feet, the scent of wisteria and always, white cotton dresses with yellow ribbons at the neck, perhaps a straw hat, the taste of lemonade.

Never mind that I’ve never lived near a lake with or without loons and the only white dress I owned was my Italian silk wedding dress which was long ago recycled at a thrift store, the Adirondack’s seductive false dream is still my own. I even have one as pride of place in my living room, a chair designed by a friend and crafted out of old 1940s shipping crates. It is extremely comfortable and, unlike my former couch, it has resisted being turned into Swiss cheese by a succession of Basenji puppies.

So when I saw the Adirondack on sale at the Ace Miners Hardware store, I was flooded with glorious images of sitting out in the back garden on lazy summer afternoons, the dogs lolling in the sand at my feet. All around me I would gaze up at the wild profusion of pink mallow blooms, heavy with bees, while the four o’clocks ran a riot of yellow, pink and white, a tumble of golden nasturtiums at their feet. I would read poetry, perhaps. And there would be lemonade.

There was only one slight impediment; the chair was Made in China and came in a box, some assembly required.

After I got my purchase home, I was soon overwhelmed by all the busyness of life, so the box sat in the garage for a few weeks until I finally found time to lay out all the pieces and realized that the screw points hadn’t been pre-drilled, which led me to discover that my old drill’s rechargeable battery was permanently dead, which meant a few weeks delay until I could get to the store only to find out that one new rechargeable battery alone would cost almost as much as a new drill that came complete with adjustable torque, variable speeds and two rechargeable batteries, so, even though it made economic sense to buy the new drill, I still had to wait a few weeks until the budget would allow for the extra cost.

Then, there was the matter of getting time to find more properly sized screws, followed a few days later by a search for a new drill bit since some of the bolt holes hadn’t been finished properly, and, of course, there was the matter of sanding and priming and should I paint the chair Hunter Green or go with the screaming yellow? What color chair pad should I look for? Did I need to think about an umbrella? Should I put a second coat on this week or next? And what about an end table, for the lemonade.

Then one morning I woke up with a start and sniffed the air. Unmistakably, fall had arrived. I walked glumly out into the yard. The mallow blooms were blown, the towering plants looking dusty, tired and ready for a winter sleep. The four o’clocks were falling over with wilted leaves, their flower heads shriveled to wizened fists filled with black seeds. Even the nasturtiums were a weary tangle of dried vines and bobble-headed pods.

Summer had gone while I was assembling my chair. There would be no lemonade, no bee-loud afternoons. I had frittered away the gold of time on the dross of busyness. The chair was done but so was summer.

Yet such is the Adirondack’s magic that in place of disappointment, I suddenly saw the chair in front of the fireplace, Christmas garlands festooning the mantle, the sound of carols. There would be candlelight and hot chocolate, a red velvet robe with a plaid bow at the neck, perhaps a sleepy rumble from one of the dogs, dreaming.

But first, I had to start my Christmas card list, then there was the matter of . . .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What’s in a Word?

The following “Viewpoint” ran in the SLO Tribune, August 30, 2006

Words, Words, Words. To most people living in or out of Los Osos, the word “sewer” means a system of large, gravity-fed pipes under the ground carrying raw sewage away to a large treatment plant somewhere. The word “STEP” probably draws a blank, yet it’s a “sewer” system as well, one that starts primary treatment of sewage in the septic tank where 90% of the solids can be digested while only the liquid is transported in pressurized pipes to a treatment plant. Both systems are “sewers,” yet in Los Osos, people who wanted a “sewer” but did not want the raw-sewage treatment plant to be put in the middle of their town and/or people who think a STEP system may be a better overall plan for the community are now both called “anti-sewer.”

In an informal discussion, Dr. Wickham, owner of Pirana ABG Inc, an onsite wastewater treatment system, made an interesting but often overlooked observation: Don’t confuse “clean water” with “sewers.” They’re not necessarily one and the same. “Sewers” are installed so a town can grow in size and density. By collecting all the waste you can vastly increase density. “Clean water,” on the other hand, is a separate issue. Morro Bay has “sewers,” but nobody would argue that their sewer outfall pipe is discharging “clean water.”

With little valid science but a lot of political expediency, years ago the Regional Water Quality Control Board drew a line around certain parts of Los Osos and designated it a “prohibition zone” with “zero discharges” allowed. Within those lines, “Resolution No. 83-13 states that all discharges of wastewater from individual and community sewage disposal systems within the Los Osos/Baywood Park area are prohibited. Therefore, a discharge of any concentration of nitrate violates the ‘Basin Plan Prohibition.’”

So, if a homeowner within the PZ installed an onsite system that “discharged” nitrates in the range of 2.5 mg/l that would be prohibited. Yet the RWQCB issued a “discharge permit” that allowed the “community sewage disposal system” known as TRI-W to “discharge” treated wastewater with 7mg/l nitrates in it. Are we then supposed to believe that 7 mg/l by a “community disposal system” is NOT a “discharge,” while 2.5 mg/l by an “individual” is? Clearly, we are now in Alice in Wonderland land.

Most people inside and outside of Los Osos think that “sewers” will “cure” the nitrate problem. It won’t. Since neither the County, the CSD nor the RWQCB ever conducted comprehensive isotope studies, nobody has a scientifically defensible picture of just how many nitrates are naturally present in the soil and so will end up in the upper aquifer no matter how many “sewers” are built. As Dr. Wickham has also testified before the RWQCB, Los Osos could build a $200 million sewer and still end up with high nitrates in the upper aquifer. So what, exactly, is getting “fixed” here? An accurate answer to that question will point to far different “solutions.”

Worse yet, lack of good science too often creates “weasle words,” words that can be used to conflate and confuse and cover up, thereby allowing bad decisions based on false or incomplete assumptions. In a June 10, 2006 letter to Paul Hood of LAFCo (Local Area Formation Commission, the board that will be considering the Dissolution of the LOCSD), RWQCB Executive Officer Roger Briggs states that nitrate contamination can be demonstrated by “a statistically significant correlation . . .” . . . “only plausible explanation” or “a strong correlation. . .” Those are “weasle words” and weasle words always allow for too much “unscientific monkey-wrenching,” all of which could have been avoided by properly conducted scientific studies and an updated Basin Plan.

And so it goes. Words can illuminate, words can obfuscate. They can be used as weapons to bludgeon your “enemies” and terrorize a community. Or they can be used to clarify and understand. Improperly used, words can blind the user to realities on the ground and can conceal any number of hidden agendas and sly thumbs-on-the-scale, all of which can drive a frightened community into making the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons, decisions that can result in civic train wrecks. Or, properly used, clearly defined, honestly applied, words can also allow for the best decisions to result in the best possible solutions.

So, what’s in a word? Here in Los Osos, plenty.

Here’s the candidate statement for Rob Shipe, who’s running for the LOCSD. As noted in my previous blog entry, for those wishing to send them in, I’ll be posting candidate statements for those running for the Los Osos CSD Board in November. The postings are for information purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any kind.

My wife and I moved to Los Osos in 1993 to start our family. Our family enjoys youth track & field, boogie boarding and Raider Football. If elected I will use my family values to serve Los Osos.

Our janitorial company is one of the 10 largest in SLO County. We are invited members of the Better Business Bureau. We established our company on principals of Honesty, Quality and Accountability. If elected I will use these principals to guide my actions.

I have a good working relationship with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and other government agencies. As one of the 45 CDO Defendants, I understand when to negotiate and when to fight. If elected, I will use these relationships to help protect Los Osos.

I am not on any “side". I believe the best solutions come by bringing all parties together, to find answers the vast majority will support.

Elect Rob Shipe for LOCSD Director and I will use my life, business and government experience to bring solid leadership to the LOCSD, improved relations with the other government agencies, and a better future to Los Osos.
I ask for your vote on November 7th.
Thank you,
Rob Shipe

Saturday, August 26, 2006

“ . . . A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes . . .”

This morning’s Tribune carried the news: “Osos CSD files for bankruptcy,” and goes on to state that the District filed on Friday in federal court, thereby becoming “the largest special district in the state to seek such protection from creditors since 1990.”

It was also noted that “Los Osos Board President Lisa Schicker said the board had no choice because of the sheer number of claims pending against the district. In all, fines, claims and debts to contractors add up to an estimated $40 million.” . . . “The board was particularly critical of the group Taxpayers Watch and state and regional water boards, which have fined the district for not building the sewer”

“Given the repeated assaults by Taxpayers Watch and the unwillingness of the water boards to work cooperatively with the district . . . the district simply had no choice,” Schicker said.”

It was noted that both Board members, Tacker & Schicker, stated that the district “needs the breathing room that bankruptcy protection will provide”

Well, not unexpected , but what blew coffee out of my nose was this: Halfway down the story was a quote from Pandora Nash-Karner, who said of the present CSD Board: “They’re like the teenager who got caught stealing the car. It’s not their fault. ‘Gee, officer, the stop sign jumped out in front of the car.’”

Not their fault?

For anyone unfamiliar with Pandora’s role in both the CSD and the CSD/Sewer Link, I suggest you visit Ron Crawford’s blogsite ( for an excellent History of Sewerville, so to speak – just click on the various links and caches and documentation, especially the piece Ron wrote for the Bay News documenting the timing of the CSD’s original formation election and the RWQCB’s decision concerning the Solutions Group’s Sewer Proposal, the $35-a-month Ponding System that the RWQCB had already disapproved of shortly before the election, a fact unknown by the majority of the community, but certainly known to the Solutions Group, a group of which Pandora was a key member and one of the first Board members on the newly created CSD.

For those who love beginnings, [It’s not my fault] it is there that the pebble was pushed off the hill by Pandora, the Solutions Group, the very first CSD, a pebble which became a boulder tumble, which became a landslide, which ultimately became the train wreck we’re dealing with today. Hip bone connected to the thigh bone. . . thigh bone connected to the . . .

And Pandora. as you will remember, was one who sent an email to Regional Water Quality Control Board Executive Officer, Roger Briggs, before last year’s recall was even certified, demanding that he “fine the CSD out of existence,” which he moved rapidly to do, first with an ACL and almost immediately afterwards with CDOs against The Los Osos 45. [It’s not my fault!]

For Pandora to now speak about the present CSD Board as if they were teenagers saying “It’s not my fault,” is genuinely, snort-coffee-through-your-nose, funny.

Next up in the Delight Department is the comment from Paul Hood, EO of LAFCo, the agency that will be considering whether or not to dissolve the CSD next month:” I’m sure everything will become crystal clear in the next five to 10 years. . . . Hopefully sooner.”

Gosh, ya think?

Well, would that it were so. The History of Sewerville, from the formation of the CSD to its possible dissolution, bifurcation, bankruptcy, whatever, would really be something to read. It would have to be written as a Tragic Comedy, or a Comedy of Errors with Tragic Consequences. It certainly would have a wild cast of characters including People Trying To Do The Right Thing, People Being Misled by Incompetent People While Trying To Do The Right Thing, People Pretending To Do The Right Thing So They Can Get Away With Doing The Wrong Thing, People Doing the Wrong Thing.

Toss in Hidden Agendas, Sly Thumbs-On-The-Scale Monkey-Wrenchers, Scientific Illiterates, Apathetic Voters, Media Asleep At The Switch, Absolute Failure of So Many Government Agencies and Regulators To Actually Do Their Jobs, Plain Old Greed, Egos Rampant On A Field of Political Expediency, Arrogance Run Amok, Unenlightened Self Interest, Lawsuits For The Right Reasons, Lawsuits For The Wrong Reasons, The Blind Medean Furies, A Bunch of Cut Down Dead Trees, The Law Of Unintended Consequences, and you have the making of an Epic! Cast of thousands! Call Cecile B. DeMille!

At this point, the list of unknowns is longer than the knowns: What happens to the Blakeslee Proposal? What happens to the Sewer Project? What happens at the LAFCo meeting? What happens to the CSD elections in Nov? What happens, What happens, What happens?

Well, as in all things here in Sewerville, Stay Tuned.
Elections! Elections! Elections! As noted in my previous blog entry, for those wishing to send them in, I’ll be posting candidate statements for those running for the Los Osos CSD Board. The postings are for information purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any kind.



Candidate’s Goal:

The Los Osos community needs to work constructively to insure that water, utilities, fire, and solid waste services are provided without impact from the wastewater project. The focus of the election should be on how to achieve that, regardless of who serves as board members. The wastewater water project needs to be managed by an independent agency, which at this time should be the County of San Luis Obispo Engineering Department.

Candidate Background:

Resident of Los Osos for 10 years

Los Osos CSD Wastewater Committee member – 2006

Volunteer Estero Bay youth basketball coach for 4 years

Past board member of a homeowners association in Southern California for two years

Occupation: Engineer

Graduate of Cal Poly with a degree in Engineering Science

Position Statement on Issues

2006 Election: I make only one promise, if elected:

I will not support hiring any lawyer, staff member, or consultant without a proper public review.

I will not accept contributions exceeding $100. I will limit expenditures to less than $7,500.

I have a great deal of respect for anyone that would offer to serve as a public board member, and I look forward to a discussion of the issues affecting the LOCSD, and the issues only.

I cannot support the re-election of Chuck Cesena and Steve Senet, or the election of Al Barrow. While I believe Chuck & Steve believed in their intentions, the decisions and manner in which they made them exhibited a lack of planning, transparency, and responsibility.

· Specifically, hiring of staff and legal consultants was made hastily and with little or no public input.

· Specifically, the lack of any detailed planning, especially financing, to change the wastewater project has put the community at risk for numerous liabilities.

I will not seek or publicize endorsements from any individual or any organization. I wish voters to select the candidates that they believe will serve the long-term interests of the community.

It is my hope that the election serves as a forum for educating the residents on the enterprise services structure of the LOCSD, and will result in consensus on how best to provide those services.

Wastewater Project & Water Conservation:

The wastewater project needs to be managed by an agency that can act as an ‘arbitrator’ and should be managed by County of San Luis Obispo Engineering. This will remove the partisanship of the divergent philosophies that exist within Los Osos. It is important to recognize that there are such significant divisions and professional disagreement in Los Osos related to collection systems, water re-use, on-site systems, and treatment options.

My position on the Tri-W project and the Ripley report is that all the design, engineering and cost information completed to date should be objectively evaluated by County Engineering and the RWQCB with basin-wide community input to facilitate the best plan for the long-term management of wastewater and water re-use.

The wastewater project will be expensive, and both the Tri-W project and the Ripley plan are not perfect. It is important that the most cost-effective plan be submitted to the property owners for approval in a diligent manner and the sooner a plan is implemented the sooner we will address long-term water sustainability and prevent cost increases due to inflation and enforcement actions against property owners.

Affordability can best be realized by the community working constructively towards grants or special financing programs to help those with limited means, while the County of San Luis Obispo manages the project.

I clearly supported the continuing of construction of the Tri-W project. I opposed the recall, and adamantly opposed Measure B. My reasons for those positions were made publicly.

On-site discharges are clearly prohibited by the RWQCB, so any temporary on-site or septic management district proposal for the prohibition zone should satisfy two criteria:

1) Acceptance or agreement for temporary implementation by the RWQCB.
2) Dedicated service and fees EXCLUSIVELY for such a management district apart from the wastewater fund, with provisions that no revenues be used for borrowing or payment of past liabilities or legal fees.

The stopping of the Tri-W project has had a negative impact on water conservation, since the stopping of the project has prevented the LOCSD from implementing a water conservation program that was to be funded by approximately $1.2 million from the 2001 assessment. I will support the use of 2001 assessment funds, if they can be dedicated for a water conservation program.

The LOCSD needs to address the water use fee structure. The rates, beyond baseline fees for indoor usage, need to provide better incentives to restrict water usage.


I support AB2701. It has been the only specific and constructive plan offered since the recall that had the support of permitting and financing agencies. It is the only real comprehensive plan that exists today. It provides the clearest path to completion of a wastewater project, because it prescribes a plan for a project AND financing of a project.


I believe the LOCSD should offer a plan for continuing services (except wastewater) and a financing plan as an alternate to dissolution for LAFCO to consider. That is the responsibility of the current LOCSD board members and staff, who in 11 months have offered no realistic on-going budget or financing plan.

Fire, water, & solid waste could potentially be managed with the existing fee structure so long as the wastewater expenses or liabilities will not be paid by such services. However, all loans/transfers from those services need to be re-paid with approval of the community property owners, and must be dedicated to fund only those services. The responsibility to propose such a re-payment currently rests with the LOCSD board.

The greatest benefit of continuing the LOCSD, in my opinion, is for the local governance of water utilities. Local governance towards the critical issue of water resource adjudication, water rates, and infrastructure projects can help to protect our water resources. In the long-term, a discussion of a single management authority for providing water service within the URL of Los Osos is needed.
I did not support the formation of the LOCSD in 1998 for many of the same reasons I did not support the recall. Those reasons were a failure to address specific issues and a failure to propose dedicated funding for a compliant wastewater project, as well as the rejection of viable projects which addressed water issues and enforcement concerns.

Measure B:

I believe Measure B was a misguided effort and has been financial failure to the homeowners and property owners of the district who have paid an assessment towards a project. Many property owners could not even vote on it.

Measure B has put the LOCSD into a corner for completing ANY project. It has accomplished nothing except for special interests to receive payments from the property owners of Los Osos. Measure B is anti-sewer, as the language prescribes no realistic means to ‘move a sewer’, ‘build a sewer’, and it provides no commitment to build anything.

Measure B has been ruled illegal TWICE, and a judge also deemed it NON-APPLICABLE to the Tri-W project prior to the last election.

Steve Senet, Chuck Cesena, & Al Barrow signed their names in support of Measure B. For that reason, I cannot support their election to the LOCSD. Furthermore, in 2005 they either made no comment about or supported the partisan presentations by a special interest lawyer (who they later hired or supported hiring) on Measure B prior to the 2005 election.

Emergency Services:

The management by CDF of the LOCSD emergency services has been beneficial, and the reserves for those services need to be restored to June 2005 levels (approximately $500,000) within the next 5 years, and I will support the necessary actions to restore those reserves.

Administration Budget:

The administration budget was approximately $690,000 in 2005, including budgeted expenses for the wastewater project. The administration budget needs to be reduced to approximately $410,000 (2005 dollars) with the wastewater project transferred to the County of San Luis Obispo. This can only be achieved with staff re-structuring. Alternatively, fee and/or tax increases for the separate funds will need to be proposed.


The current legal staff of Burke, Williams, & Sorenson should be terminated by the LOCSD board. I have seen no reason to rely on their advice, and there has never been a clear and full explanation as to the benefit or background of hiring them.

Los Osos currently have a management structure with a General Manager, CDF Emergency Services Management, Utilities Manager, and Administrative Services Manager. The LOCSD needs to consider consolidation of these management functions (except for Emergency Services), and have a separate Accounting Services Manager or similar function for financial and management controls.

Contact Information:Joe Sparks

805-704-2658 / JoeSparksCampaign / PO Box 15504/ SLO, CA 93406

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Elections! Elections! Elections! The elections for Los Osos CSD are now officially off and running. Anyone registered as a candidate and running for the Board who wishes to send me their official Press Release/candidate position statement, please send to, as a WORD attachment, I'll post them on the blogsite as they come in. As information comes in on any candidate forums, I'll post that info here as well. I hope the community will pay close attention to each candidate and then go vote in November.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Saturday, September 02, 2006, from Noon to about 7 pm, there will be a conference – Talk About The Bay (TAB) – at the Morro Bay Veterans Hall. If you care about Morro Bay, the estuary, Los Osos, in short all things bayish, I hope you’ll plan to attend. The agenda follows.

12 – 1: Registration and Reception
1-1:15: Introduction by Christine Mullhonland
1:14 – 1:45: Dan Berman, MBNEP, “Overview of the Biology of Morro Bay”
1:45 – 2:15: Peter Douglas, Calif. Coastal Commission, “Planning in the Coastal Zone”
2:15 – 2-45: Haydee Dabritz, UC Davis Research, Toxoplasma Gondii, “Protecting Southern Sea Otters”
2:30 – 3: Break – Participate in Historic Survey – Toxoplasma Gondii

3:15 – 3:45: Ripley Pacific, “Los Osos Solutions” (if you missed the workshop)
3:45 – 4.15: Keynote Address: Pedro Nava, Ocean Protection Council, “On Coastal Power Plants”
4:15 – 5: Potpourri (Round Table Discussions with Speakers and Participants.

5:30 – 7: Mixer, Inn at Morro Bay

AGP Video for Public Access Television will be covering the event. Refreshments by Vegan Catering by Bob Shanbrom
Missed the Ripley Report WasteWater Update Workshop? If so, has the August 4, 2006 Town Hall Meeting posted via links to the Video of the workshop, (courtesy AGP Video) and a downloadable PDF copy of the power point presentation (7MB) and a Power Point presentation (20 MB). Also, a hard copy of the Ripley Report is available for viewing in the CSD office during business hours.

Monday, August 21, 2006

And You Thought “Stand Down” Actually Meant Stand Down?

Ah, those were the days. Remember when Assemblyman Blakeslee asked all the Sewer Warring parties to “stand down,” i.e stop doing whatever it was they were doing until his Bill could possibly sort things out? And a whole lot of people thought that that meant that the RWQCB would indeed “stand down” and reconsider their Mad Pumping Scheme and Prosecution of The Los Osos 45? Bwahahahahah.

Here’s some of what Chairman Young wrote in his leter to The Los Osos 45:

“Having read the brief submitted by designated parties, and consulted with the Board’s Counsel, I have determined that the Prosecution Team shall be required to present its entire case from the beginning. All previous evidence and testimony prepared or presented by the Prosecution Team, including proposed Cease and Desist Orders, staff technical analysis, agenda materials and supporting documentation shall be stricken from the record. . . . “

In other words, The Los Osos 45 are going to have to start all over again. Only this time, if they’re not able to act on their own behalf, they’ll have to show up with an attorney or give someone full power of attorney in order to help them at the hearing. And if they can’t afford an attorney? Tough. That’s the RWQCB’s version of “standing down.”

One description of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. “Prosecuting” the hapless Los Osos 45 will not clean up so much as one teaspoon of water, will waste huge amounts of time and resources both for this community and for the Board itself.

In addition, here’s a simple alternative to what they’re doing, besides what I’ve suggested in my letter --i.e. formation of a formal Septic Management District --an even easier-to-accomplish proposal: Submit proof of installation of any one of a variety of onsite systems that can meet or exceed the mitigation discharge numbers that the RWQCB thinks (guesses) will result from their destructive, pointless Mad Pumping Scheme, and your name will be put on the CDO reserve list. Every year thereafter, until the community’s wastewater system is built, submit proof of your onsite’s sytems inspection and servicing, and your name remains on the reserve list. Anyone not choosing to do the above will get a CDO order and will be free to waste their time and energy and the time and energy of the RWQCB for a “trial.”

Meantime, mitigation can begin immediately instead of everyone wasting time and energy on what the Bay News is now openly calling a “kangaroo court.”

Or would that proposal be too easy to accomplish and be a faster way to actually start cleaning up wastewater, which I thought was the whole mission of the RWQCB in the first place? I mean, they do have the words “Water Quality” in their title, don’t they?

My Letter to the Chairman. You might want to send one of your own.

August 16, 06

Jeffery Young, Chairman
Regional Water Quality Control Board
895 Aerovista Place Suite 101
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401-7906

Dear Mr. Young and Boardmembers,

I see in your letter of August 4 that the Los Osos 45 are once again in limbo and/or soon to be put in double jeopardy while you and your board reconsider and resubmit whatever procedures your new CDO prosecution team decides on. In this brief window, I would plead with this board to stop and reconsider this path entirely.

So far, I have seen absolutely no evidence that CDOs on individuals do anything to help mitigate nitrates in the Los Osos upper aquifer. The mad pumping scheme that was originally proposed was clear evidence that Mr. Briggs acted in anger and haste and simply didn’t think that thing through. Furthermore, CDOs are simply the wrong method to accomplish mitigation until a wastewater project gets back on track, the process of which is already moving full speed ahead with the Blakeslee bill moving through the Assembly and the Project Update completed and ready to be handed off to the County.

More futilely still, CDOs simply waste your Board’s time, your staff’s time and resources and endless pots of taxpayer’s money to “prosecute” a faux “trial” that results in what? More expensive (real) trials later, all of which unfairly punish individual citizens for the collective failure of their government.

For years, Los Osos residents have been lied to (and about) and misled by their elected government (please see enclosed). As the rescinding of the “2001 Statement of Overriding Considerations” makes clear, the citizens were misled – an environmentally preferred project “out of town” was ALWAYS a reality and could have been built years ago except for the ginned up “misidentified” and “misleading” findings in the SOC. And the misled citizens were not alone -- the SWB, the RWQCB, the SLO Planning Commission, the SLO Board of Supervisors, and the Coastal Commissioners were also given this misleading SOC with a straight face.

But guess which group you’re (again) planning on punishing? That is simply wrong.

You now have a few moments to stop and ask a critical question: Will groundwater mitigation while the new project gets built occur faster with endless show trials or with an immediate turnkey of Resolution 83-12?

Right now, against enormous odds, (deadly kneecapping and monkey wrenching of all kinds) the CSD and Wastewater Committee citizen volunteers are busy putting in place something that citizens have been requesting from the County, from the former CSD and from your Board for 30 years – A Wastewater Management District, one that can collect revenues fairly from the whole community, one that can identify hotspots for immediate treatment with suitable “Pirana-type” onsite systems, one that can identify and replace any failing tanks and so forth. Instead of unfairly singling out hapless citizens, your Board can help create a coherent plan that will actually result in cleaning up groundwater while the new project gets built.

And since you apparently like the whole notion of CDO’s here’s a suggestion: Front page headline’s in the SLO Tribune: “RWQCB Gives Choice To Los Osos: Vote to Assess Yourselves To Form a Wastewater District Now or We’ll Start The Individual CDO’s Again, And No, Being Dissolved Won’t Save You.”

Then please instruct your staff to sit down with the CSD and County staff (so far as I know, they still hold the MOU and need to be on board) to get that measure on the ballot so we can start work to actually clean up water now instead of continuing on the sickening path that does nothing to water, but instead brings to bear the full might and power of state regulators to force 80 year-old people to live in constant fear that if they can’t afford an attorney and aren’t up to being Perry Mason themselves, you’ll take their homes away from them.

All of you on this Board have been given a second chance here, one brief moment to do the right thing. Please don’t fail.


Ann Calhoun
Los Osos, CA 93402

c.c. SWB, Assmbly Blakeslee, Sen. Maldonado,
Gov. Schwarzenegger, Rep. Capps, LOCSD, blog posted.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Two Questions

Two Questions are being asked by Ron Crawford over at his blogsite:

To get to them, scroll down past his Autum Pledge Drive, or send him a pledge. He's working hard digging stuff up for you, just what investigative journalists are supposed to do.

As for his suggestion that readers send me a donation for my blogsite, I would only ask that anyone wishing to do that should, instead, send their donation to the PZLDF (Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund), a non-profit fund set up at Coast National Bank here in Los Osos to help raise money for an attorney to represent The Los Osos 45, forty-five friends and neighbors and fellow citizens who have been unfairly singled out for CDOs by the Regional Water Board and who are once again facing some really nasty times ahead. (And you thought the RWQCB was "standing down" to help with the Blakeslee Plan? Not a bit of it. )

Which is why, The Los Osos 45 need our help. Checks can be made payable to PZLDF and sent to PZLDF, PO. Box 6095, Los Osos, CA 93412.) Then, please scan through Ron's tracking of the SOC documents. His final question is a serious one. I only wish the Grand Jury would be just as serious, but I won't hold my breath.

When I say that this whole Sewer Mess is a perfect example of governmental failure all the way down the line, looking at what happened with that SOC is exhibit one.


The Local Area Formation Commission voted on August 17th to postpone a vote on whether or not to dissolve the CSD until Sept. 21st at 9 a.m. in the BOS chambers in SLOTown. Katcho Achadjian, who was chairing the meeting, expressed a wish that the Sept 21 meeting would be the final one with an up or down vote, since dragging these dissolution meetings out is costing the CSD money it doesn't have and delaying it’s ability to function, --some of the very reasons for holding the dissolution hearings in the first place (O why is everything here in Sewerville always dripping with snickering irony?)-- not to mention its costing the county staff time and effort and so forth.

The reason for the delay was also to be found in the Commission’s fervent hope that by the Sept 21 date, the Blakeslee Bill would have survive all the behind the scenes monkey-wrenching (and some blood-in-the-eye – or should I say, Dollars in the Wallets? – attempts not to monkey-wrench but to murder it outright) and so get the county off the hook of having to swallow Los Osos whole, line, sinker, debts, lawsuits and all.

Since this is SLOTown and the meeting involved Sewerville, there were some wonderful moments:

-- Former CSD Boardmember, Gordon Hensley, came to the microphone to put up a graph showing Ooooo, Dire Financial Straits, a situation made possible, in large measure, when he voted to gamble with the community’s money and pound millions of its dollars into the ground weeks before he was recalled. His appearance decrying “finances” was akin to the kid who murders his parents then flings himself on the mercy of the court because now he’s a poor orphan.

-- Dave Duggan noted that he was concerned that this Board had the “appearance of bias,” which prompted a comment from Supervisor Bianchi, that “perception is not always reality,” which prompted a snort from my snooter when I recalled the October 20, 2005 letter, on official BOS stationary, written by Supervisor Bianchi and sent to State Water Board Chairman, Arthur Baggett, wherein she noted of the just elected, barely seated new CSD Board, “This is a particularly difficult situation since the current District Board either will not or cannot understand any government processes.” Then goes on to say, “At one point I was asked if the political will exists here in San Luis Obispo County to assume the management of the project if, for whatever reason, the District were unable to continue with it [Tri W] Let me assure you that you have my full support, and I believe that the other Supervisors would give great weight to my position.”

Now, color me a silly donkey, but that comment seems loaded to the gills with the perception that Ms. Bianchi thinks the CSD board is UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND ANY GOVERNMENT PROCESS, and a (wink-nudge) signal to Baggett that she’s ready to work with him to, basically, usurp, behind the back of the duly elected Board, you know, those people who are UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND ANY GOVERNMENT PROCESS, one of the legally constituted responsibilities of the CSD, i.e. the Wastewater component.

Perception of bias on the part of a seated LAFco member who has refused to recuse herself and is about to render judgment on the same people she has already noted in writing are UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND ANY GOVERNMENT PROCESS? Perception of bias when another LAFco member is from the district that recently hired former LOCSD general manager Bruce Buel to be their general manager? Perception of bias? Naw. So, move along, move along. Nothing to see here, folks. No perception of bias here.

But the best public comment came from Eric Greening, as usual. Eric has probably forgotten more about local government than any of us will ever know in the first place. He observed that before the LAFco Board is even ready to vote on dissolution, they (and the taxpayers of the entire county) needed to have in hand a full report from each county department that would be responsible in taking over the duties now performed by the LOCSD, a report that would account for how much it would cost county taxpayers to cover the additional work required to administer Los Osos, including District 2’s Supervisorial staff time needed to deal with all those constituents who, losing their local CSD representatives, would now be required to go to their one Supervisor for help in all the minutia of solving local district problems.

Eric’s comment reminded everyone in the room just how much work the various components of a CSD’s actually do, from water, fire, and all the daily-ness of flak-catching and problem-solving and committee volunteering needed to deal with a community of 15,000 people. Naturally, his comment was met with utter silence. To my knowledge, such a report has NOT been prepared, which should make taxpayers throughout the county nervous.

Oh, and finally, the LAFco attorney noted that they had been asked by Taxpayers’ Watch to waive the Dissolution fee “as a public service,” i.e. anyone starting dissolution proceedings is billed for the staff costs for all the investigations, reports, etc. etc., a not inconsiderable sum. Apparently, Taxpayers Watch thinks their filing was such a great public service that the county taxpayers should eat all the costs themselves. The attorney said he’d be making a recommendation to the board as to that later.

And now, on a different note, the Tribune printed the final list of folks who officially filed their papers to run for the Los Osos Community Services District and it seems Taxpayers Watch spokespersonage, Joyce Albright, who must have taken the papers out, didn’t actually file them after all.

Dang. Philosophically, hers would have been a most interesting candidacy.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ripley’s Reversed View

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, for The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA
August 16, 2006

When I was a kid I used to love to look through the wrong end of the binoculars. Instead of seeing only part of something up close, the reverse view allowed me to see the whole scene, albeit reduced to a very small size. I found something comforting in that as a child; the big, complex world, with its huge fragmented pieces, could suddenly be reduced to a miniature world with all the puzzle pieces in view.

I was thinking about that flipped binocular view as I listened to the Ripley Pacific’s Wastewater Project Update Report at the Community Center on August 4th. For years, regulators, engineers, government officials have confused “sewers” with “clean water.” They’re not the same. And for years, they have been looking through their binoculars and only seeing a sewer plant that spent pots of money to remove something considered a “waste” (nitrates) and in doing so, created a product – treated water and sludge – that had to be “put” someplace. And getting stuff out and putting everything someplace kept getting harder and more expensive to do.

Ripley has reversed the whole thing by looking at a broader but much simpler issue: How much does it cost to produce an acre foot of potable water and get it to your door? The answer can be found by linking WATER with ENERGY.

And that linkage is something that needs serious consideration. Like it or not, deny it as you will, the fact remains that global warming is our future. It is a future that will bring weather changes to a state that is already short of water, while energy costs will do nothing but escalate. From this point forward, no community can afford to continue to do business as usual. Build for the 19th century, and you will not survive the 21st.

Ripley also asked another couple of critical questions: Septic tanks use no energy to work 24/7 to digest 90% of biosolids. Why spend pots of money on expensive energy needed to daily remove, treat and haul away that 90% in for form of sludge, which has to be taken to a “somewhere,” a “somewhere” that keeps getting harder and more expensive to find?

And why spend pots of money on the energy needed to get nitrates out of the wastewater when nitrates left in the water can be sent to farms where it is a valuable resource needed by the plants grown by farmers who then don’t have to spend pots of money buying sacks of increasingly expensive nitrogen fertilizer to put on their crops? And, by receiving nitrate-laden water for their crops, farmers can stop irrigating with lower aquifer water, thereby leaving that water in the ground to use for drinking. (Irrigating crops with drinking water makes about as much ecological and economic sense as watering your lawn with bottles of imported Fiji Water.)

In short, by reversing the view, Ripley’s proposal correctly sees “waste” as a “resource,” views “sewers” as only one component of a flexible basin-wide WATER MANAGEMENT problem, and links water and energy as the key method to determine both long term sustainability and cost.

This being Los Osos, the hidden-agenda monkey wrenchers and Sewer Jihadis on both sides of this issue are out scurrying about in the chaparral, cranking up their various spin machines. So, Caveat lector. The Ripley Report is both online at , with hard copies available for review at the CSD office. I urge all Los Ososians to read the information for themselves.

And then do one simple thing: If/when the county takes over the wastewater project, the Ripley update will end up on the table along with all the other studies. When that happens, if the citizens of this fair burg don’t want to get spun and conned and threatened and bamboozled off another cliff, they’d better let the engineers and regulators sitting at that table know that this time, they’re watching. This time, they want an honest evaluation of the options. No unsupported “over riding considerations,” no “bait and switch,” no phony “strongly held community values,” no personal nose-out-of-joint pique putting sly fingers on the scale. Let’s have the best science, the best engineering, the best long-term sustainability criteria, no hide-the-salami “deferred” costs, no hidden agendas, then a fair vote.

After which we can all go home, pay the piper, and then pick some other topic to argue about.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My, My, So Many Mice For Such a Dead Cat

O.K., What gives? The Saturday Tribune lists the local election races open until Wednesday and lists folks who have, I presume, taken out papers to run for the Los Osos Community Services District Board and it said: “Vote for three” and lists the following:

Joyce Albright, Al Barrow, Chuck Cesena, David Duggan, Jeff Edwards, Maria Kelly, Ed Ochs, Steve Senet, Rob Shipe, Joe Sparks and Lynette Tornatsky.

Joyce Albright? Is this some kind of sick joke? Did somebody take out papers and forge her name on them? Joyce Albright is one of the driving forces behind Taxpayer’s Watch which appeared immediately after the recall election with the sole purpose of DISOLVING the CSD, as in, The CSD must Die!Die!Die!. They even went so far as to petition LAFCO to kill the CSD to death. No CSD. Booo! Hisss! Bad CSD, We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ CSD.

Yet there she is listed as a candidate for . . . the CSD?

Even more interesting, as spokesperson for Taxpayers Watch, Joyce has made it clear that self rule has been a disaster, that the county needs to take over this whole pathetic town, since folks can’t be trusted to elect competent people, we need to get rid of the whole mess entirely, and this board and all its heirs and assigns totally suck, yet here are, count ‘em, eleven people running to serve on the board of this dead cat – a CSD facing bankruptcy, dissolution, lawsuits, more lawsuits, including those brought by Taxpayers Watch. (If Joyce wins the seat will she continue to sue herself?). Eleven people? So far as I know, that’s more people running than when the CSD was golden, happy, fully functioning, fiscally in the black, and problem-free.

So, what gives? Organized Farce has finally come to Los Osos?

Well, the election should be interesting. First Question to be asked of each candidate: Did you support or oppose the recall? Next Question: Are you Pro Tri W or anti Tri W? That’ll divide the sheep from the goats real quick. Baaaaahhhhh.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mirror Image

There is an old saying that when you point a finger at somebody, if you look at your hand, you’ll see 3 fingers pointing back at you.

This folk wisdom came to mind reading the latest issue of the Bay News announcing the “Deadline Approaching for CSD Election,” a story about the “ . . . only political neophyte Maria Kelly [who]has [actually] filed a declaration of candidacy for the Nov 7 election for the Los Osos Community Services District Board of Directors. Four other familiar faces in the town’s sewer wars – none representing CSD opponents – have said they intend to run for the three open seats. Kelley, who has lived in the community for just over a year, . . .” has announced she’s going to run for the CSD seat that may be vacated by John Fouche. So far, Ms. Kelly is the only one whose actually taken out filing papers – for now – although several other folks are planning on running as well (Dave Duggan and Al Barrow, among other possible candidates.)

The story continues with a real howler: “When asked why no one from Taxpayers Watch had come forward, group president Joyce Albright said, ‘Nobody wants to run actually, because they don’t want to put up with the pain, the insults, the slander. Nobody wants to be abused like that. It’s gotten crazy, you’ve got to admit.”

Ah, Joyce, Joyce, truer words have never been spoken. Indeed, I find it “crazy,” for example, that a former recalled Board Member would sue the very CSD he served for “wasting money” on, among other things, frivolous lawsuits and lawyers and court cases, by – filing a lawsuit that did nothing but waste MORE money, paid for by the very citizens this former member irreparably harmed by voting to pound millions of their tax dollars into the ground only weeks before a recall. Crazy stuff all right.

And as for “insults, slander, pain . . .?” Oh, Gosh, Joyce, you’re absolutely right! One of the more interesting performances at the CSD meetings is when Joyce arrives to deliver her previously written, carefully honed and polished 3-minute Smack-Down of the Board and all their heirs and assigns, a carefully delivered, premeditated exercise in the measured infliction of pain, one that leaves the Board members dripping with vitriol. In its sheer measured calculation, it’s always a breathtakingly good performance!

Unfortunately, the skin-crawling, hair raising effect for me is too often obliterated when Joyce returns to her scooter to be greeted by her darling little white dog waiting there in the basket and as she drives away the unbidden image of Margaret Hamilton on her bicycle flies into my mind, complete with a high-pitched cackle ringing in my ears: “Heee-Heee-Heeeee, I’ll get you AND your little dog . . . .”

Suddenly, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Not, I’m sure, what Joyce had in mind.

Well, newcomer Kelly will discover there are many surprises here in Sewerville. But bless her and everyone else who decides to run. If/when the county takes the sewer project over, I can only hope that the Sewer Jihadis on either side will put a sock in it for a while, in order to let the process operate as promised. There will be plenty to do to repair the damage done by previous boards who accidentally and on-purpose ran this train off the tracks. And it will be critical that there are lots of eyes on the proposed project to spot the old sly, finger-on-the-scale manipulation that's going on even as I type.

Which means that besides whoever gets elected, it’s the ultimate responsibility of this community to stay awake during the process to make sure they don’t get fooled . . . again.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ripley’s Night Out

Woa, heck of a party last night at the Community Center here in Sewerville. The team from Ripley Pacific presented the wastewater project update report. An executive summary is now on the Los Osos CSD website ( and the entire project report will be posted, with hard copies available to read in the CSD office.

Some highlights of the meeting and report.

-- Happily, a whole bunch of people came. This is good. The maps and schematic boards will be in the CSD office, so I hope everyone in the community will drop by to see them in more detail.

--In the executive summary, Ripley did a Comparison of Estimated Costs of Tri-W with the recommended STEP system. The numbers were based on the number of lots within the prohibition zone.

Base Capital & Land Cost: $179 million
Base Capital and Land Cost per lot: $37,362
Total Annualized Costs per month: $328.

Total Base Capital and Land Cost: $86 million (phase 1)
$100.25 million (phase 2, including about 800 homes
outside the PZ)
Base Capital and Land Cost per lot: $16,696 -- $16,908
Total annualized costs per month: $154.

The various stranded costs, including the millions of dollars the recalled Board pounded into the ground before the recall, subsequent lawsuits and fines, etc. will all have to be prorated and added to the proposed STEP system, if that becomes the selected project. Or added to any project that is ultimately selected. And, of course, inflation, actual bid versus guestimated costs, “surprise” non-competitive bids like what happened with the 40% over bids on Tri W, and other shockers.

Also not clear on the comparison sheet, is the sludge disposal costs from Tri-W. It doesn’t appear to be broken out separately in either chart and may be included in the general O&M costs. For Tri W, the annual (?) O&M costs are $2.6 million; STEP they’re $1.82 million. Those numbers will become more important later on . . . keep reading.

--Sludge was just one of those long-term costs that didn’t get a whole lot of discussion when Tri-W was being touted. It’s a future huge headache for everyone in the county since sludge disposal sites in the state are shutting down to “outsiders,” and so every county will have to come up with better ways to deal with the stuff onsite or in county.

Which means that people may really want to rethink about that septic tank out in their back yard. Whatever you may think about it, your septic tank is a nifty little sewage treatment plant churning away 24/7 digesting about 90% of all your biosolids. Which means you don’t have to pay big bucks to haul away, treat and dispose of it as you do at a typical, full collection, gravity-fed sewer plant. Big savings there on costs that are just going to keep going up as fuel costs rise.

--The proposed Ripley STEP plan would include replacing about 95% of the septic tanks with new, water-tight, larger tanks (suggested 1,600 – 1,800 gal tanks for an average 3 bedroom house). The tanks, pipes to the street, etc. would all be done as part of the whole package and would be maintained by an official Wastewater Entity, whether the County or CSD or whoever is in charge of the service. Rights of way easements would be the same as homeowners now have for power lines, cable, etc. Each tank would be fitted with a ½ horse power motor costing about $1 a month to run and a monitor that would signal the Systems Operator if there were any problems at any household needing attention or repair. In the case of a power outage, the tanks are designed to give a 24 hour holding capacity time. Longer, if water usage is reduced: i.e. in a power outage you wouldn’t be doing loads of laundry anyway. And since the whole step collection system is set up like a water pipe system, any break in the pipe can be shut off locally while re-routing the rest of the effluent.

-- STEP collection, being a smaller bore pipe, allows for microtunneling (avoiding the traditional deep (expensive) open trenching required of traditional gravity pipes.) It’s also possible that the pipes which the old CSD Board rushed to jam into the ground before the recall, could be reused by simply putting the smaller bore pipe sleeved inside (save digging up the street again) There would also be a fixed yard restoration fee as part of the overall project, to offset the effects of tank replacement. In addition, cluster collections tanks can be used for homes where the lots are too small to make tank replacement feasible or where tanks are simply not accessible for replacement without enormous cost. As with the Tri-W plan, in those cases, the old tanks would be filled and abandoned, the new tank buried in front yards or street rights of way, and the homes hooked up.

-- Since septic tanks are busy digesting solids 24/7, with the proposed STEP system, the liquid would be piped away for treatment and reuse, which means that there would no longer be a leach field to clog and fail, so no need for costly leach field failures and replacements and the tanks would only need to be pumped once every 12 – 15 years. More interesting, tanks sitting in high ground water can be turn-buckled to buried pre-cast beams called a “dead man,” which would hold even an empty, air-filled tank in place even if it were surrounded with high water. (Some folks expressed concern that tanks in high groundwater areas would pop up out of the ground. Not so.)

--The STEP system proposed lists about 4 suggested treatment plant designs, but doesn’t at this point, specify any particular one.

-- In winter, when ag water demand is down, the treated water would be stored in a 500 acre-ft reservoir on the out-of-town site, a sort of big, beautiful pond with ducks and cattail rushes and . . . ponds? . . . Did I say . . . er . . . ponds . . . wait . . . Oh, No. If this plan is accepted by the community, it looks like we’ll have ended up with a Faster! Better! Cheaper! STEP Ponds of Avalon system, pretty much like the one originally proposed by the Solutions Group, complete with water exchange, all at a lower cost than what the original Solutions Group ended up morphing into the hideously expensive, traditional gravity Tri W plant, which means the old CSD board would end up playing the role of the county and the new CSD board and the county would end up playing the role of the original CSD board . . . oh, Lord, now we’re meeting ourselves coming and going in a truly weird case of déjà vu all over again. But, I digress.

--The key ingredient in the Ripley plan is twofold: WATER, not sewage, and ENERGY. Instead of spending pots of money removing the nitrates from water, Ripley views those nitrates as a valuable asset that can be utilized by the farmers east of town. Treated to EPA, Title 22 standards, which are certified for unrestricted irrigation for all food crops, including being certified for use by organic farming, the nitrates left in the water are available for uptake by the plants, thereby saving the growers the expense of buying their usual supply of expensive fertilizer – this nitrogen would arrive for free in the water.

In return for receiving the nitrate-rich water, the farmers would cease pumping “drinking water” from the lower aquifer located under their lands. That water would then be available to be used as drinking water by Los Ososians, which will help lessen the overdraft now being placed on the wells west of town.

At this point, according to Dr. Sheikh, the preliminary report was met with hostility by the staff of the RWQCB. Apparently their point of concern is that they may believe that farmers receiving the nitrate-laden water are stupid enough to get nitrate-water and then go out and spend pots of money to BUY even more expensive nitrogen fertilizer to toss around thereby increasing the nitrate load up the valley. It is to be hoped that the staff will have a chance to talk with farmers both here and in Monterey county (same RWQC Board in both places, same wastewater/ag use, all approved by the same Board. Go figure.) and to take a look at the available nitrate/plant-uptake studies available that should show no appreciable nitrate loading.

-- The benefit of the water exchange is simple: You don’t use drinking water for irrigation. That would be like using bottled water to water your lawn. It’s hideously expensive and silly. You also don’t spend gazillions of dollars removing an expensive resource (nitrates) that is needed and required by plants when you can supply that water to farmers who then don’t have to go out and buy more expensive nitrogen fertilizer.

-- Instead of calling this plan “ag exchange,” what’s really happening is better described as “in lieu recharge.” Instead of spending pots of money removing nitrates in order to put the water back into the lower aquifer to be used as drinking water, you don’t pump the lower aquifer to use for farmland irrigation in the first place, thereby leaving that water to be used for drinking. Instead, you use the nitrate rich water, which crops need anyway, save buying extra fertilizer and save the deep well water for . . . drinking.

--Neither Tri W nor the Ripley Plan will “cure” seawater intrusion on their own. A clear county-coordinated Basin Water Plan has got to be in place, even though the county and/or the CSD can look at shifting well placements east of town and the private water purveyors west of town may have to do some serious re-thinking as well if they want to stay in business – i.e. if you’re suddenly pumping seawater, it’s too late to rethink. And the whole community has to get serious about water conservation measures – low flow toilets, showerheads, etc.

Ironically, while Tri-W was being touted for it’s “recharge” at the Broderson site, in reality only about 10% of that water would have actually reached the lower aquifer (the 90% having stepped down the clay lenses and out into the bay). Worse irony, with the speed of salt water intrusion moving east, it was now estimated by Dr. Sheikh, that the remaining 10% very likely would have ended up arriving at the lower aquifer at the same time the sea water did and so would have been wasted as well -- hence zero “recharge” from a sewer plant expensively sited in-town so as to aid in “recharge. Since the latest Cleath & Assoc. studies came after much of the Tri W plans were already set, it seems to be a perfect example of carts before horses and yet another reason why the proposed Ripley Plan appears to be a smart move: Phase in the plan so that as more information comes in later, you’re flexible enough in your plans, to make critical adjustments.

-- But to me, the most interesting part of the Ripley plan is his focus on ENERGY COSTS to remove nitrates from the upper aquifer and deliver an acre foot of water to your door. It’s been bandied about the media by people professing to know The Facts, that STEP uses more energy than regular gravity systems. The key fallacy of this “fact” can be seen in the comparison chart on kilowatt hour per acre foot to deliver clean water, charts which are in the Report (and noted farther down this blog.)

The focus by Ripley on energy costs is especially interesting when the same day as the Report’s presentation, the L.A. Times reported that PG&E was going to the PUC to ask for a rate increase. That, my fellow Los Ososians, is our future, in a nut shell. Higher and higher energy costs for everything from diesel/gas to power sludge-removing trucks, to electricity costs to remove nitrates from water and to move and treat that water, and to the availability of “state water” in the first place. Like it or not, global warming is here and weather patterns will be shifting in such a way as to make resources throughout the state very iffy indeed. That is why it’s critical that whatever plan this community decides on needs to be energy smart and water smart and resource smart. If it isn’t, this town will be eaten alive with O, M & R costs.

On P. 5 of the Executive Summary are the Approximate Energy Intensities (kWh/af ) i.e. kilowatts needed to deliver an acre foot of water without nitrates and water with nitrates:

MBR technology (Actual Tri W site with nitrates removed) = 3,200 kWh/af
MBR technology (non-ESHA site, no nitrates removed) = 2,500 kWh/af
Hybrid EA (actual Tri-W site, no nitrates removed) = 1,400 kWh/af
And the list continues on down.

In these comparisons, what’s the one resource that’s costing a lot of money to remove? Right, nitrates. And guess what needs and loves yummy nitrates in the form of nitrogen?

Yup, lettuce. And snow peas. And broccoli. And . . .

So, as of now, the report is delivered. It’ll be available to the public, the County engineers, RWQCB staff and Board, State Water Board staff and will go for peer review as part of the update contract. The full report will then go into the mix of whoever/whatever has control of the Wastewater Project. Ultimately, what system gets built will depend on “science” and economics and the public’s selection of the system they’re willing to pay for.

Naturally, being Los Osos, “politics,” is scuttling into the mix. I can already hear the scuttling in the underbrush as the Sewer Jihadis on both sides of the issue start their campaigns of hidden agendas, distortion and disinformation, spin, hype, counter-hype, PR Marketing-Speak, and, uh, “facts” as malleable and changeable as the wind. Ah, busy, busy, busy. As usual.

Which is why citizens, who are going to be footing the bill for whatever project gets built, need to pay attention and connect the dots very carefully.

Speaking of which, at the August 3 CSD meeting, the Board passed – 5 – 0 – a Resolution “Rescinding the Statement of Overriding Considerations Adopted in 2002 for the LOCSD Wastewater Treatment Project.” The resolution is available at the CSD office. I suggest everyone in town read it.

Critical highlights:

In March 2001, the previous Board voted to reject the environmentally superior siting alternative found in the original EIR and adopted a Statement of Overriding Considerations (SOC) that certified that “various benefits of the Project outweighed its unavoidable adverse environmental impacts.”

The Resolution continues that “In the five (5) years since the [previous] Board’s certification of the FEIR, significant new information has been obtained that warrants reconsideration and rescission of the SOC. Such information includes (but is not limited to) that [was] developed and presented by the Ripley Pacific Team and the research firm Cleath and Associates. This information includes but is not limited to, the following: . . . .” and goes on to list, among other things, that the claim that the Tri-W site provided “a cost effective wastewater management solution” was shown to be untrue, that “a Tri-W wastewater treatment facility ‘improves local groundwater quality’ is misleading, therefore, this claim was misidentified as an ‘overriding benefit,’” . . . that “a Tri –W wastewater treatment facility ‘creates a cultural amenity’ has been shown to be untrue . . .”, that “the SOC’s statement that the “Tri-W wastewater treatment facility ‘reduces saltwater intrusion’ is misleading,” and so forth.

The thrust of the document is that newer information (carts before horses?) now indicates “ . . . that substantial changes have occurred with respect to the circumstances under which the District previously rejected the environmentally superior alternatives of STEP/STEG collection, hybrid treatment and the siting of the Project’s wastewater treatment facility outside the Community and instead selected gravity collection terminating at the Tri-W Site and that those changes will require major revisions of the previously certified FEIR as a prerequisite to siting the Project’s wastewater treatment facility at the Tri-W Site. In addition, the alternatives of STEP/STEG collection, hybrid treatment and locating the Project’s wastewater treatment facility outside the Community, identified as the environmentally superior alternatives in the FEIR, are, in fact, feasible.

“As a final point, there are no economic, legal, social, technological, or other beneficial aspects associated with siting the Project’s wastewater treatment facility at the Tri-W Site sufficient to support a rejection of the environmentally superior siting alternatives.”

Why is this an interesting resolution? Because CEQA rules do not allow a public agency to reject “an environmentally superior project alternative unless that agency: A) Makes certain specified findings that are supported by substantial evidence, and B) Adopts a statement of Overriding Considerations (“SOC”)”

And if there really isn’t substantial evidence supporting a SOC, then making such a claim is basically misrepresenting the facts and can, alas, lead to charges of “bait and switch,” or bamboozling government agencies such as the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Dept, the Coastal Commission, and even the Regional Water Quality Control Board, not to mention the State Water Board.

I don’t think much good can come of doing that sort of thing. But then, that’s just my opinion.

And finally, at that same meeting, it was announced that the CSD would retain the services of a law firm expert in Municipal Bankruptcy issues. This is good.

Now, have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Yoo Yoo, SEWERVILLE. Friday, August 4, 6 pm at the Los Osos Community Center, ta-DA, the Wastewater Update Report. The report will be presented by Ripley Pacific, the engineers will be on hand for questions, the various Tech Memos are now posted at site (click on the Wastewater link) so you can read up before the meeting. Time to wake up. Time to show up. Time to listen up. Enough already with people wandering in waaaayyyy after the train's left the station (and fallen off the cliff) saying, "Uh, whaaa?? Huh? " Nope. It's connect the dots time, folks. So, see ya there.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I Do, I Do, Not YOU, Part, Uh...Err...

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News Morro Bay CA, July 19, 2006

The Matt Davies cartoon on the editorial page of the Times was laugh-out-loud funny. It showed a dour judicially robed guy holding a gavel and wearing a badge labeled “State,” holding hands with a guy robed in clerical garb sporting a badge labeled, “Church,” with the State judge saying to the cleric, “Tsk . . . Some people get so squeamish over a marriage like ours . . .”

Yes, it’s that time again. The 1st District Court of Appeals heard arguments as to whether same-sex marriage in California is legal as all the Usual Suspects weighed in. However this district court rules, the case will be appealed to the State Supreme Court.

Clearly, gay marriage is on the national radar and is now a useful base-churning political issue that’s great for fund-raising and the fear-mongering that has generated the panicked rush by various states to write constitutional amendments to prevent the terrifying, catastrophic, nation-destroying horror of . . . OHMYGOD! . . .gay people getting married.

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the arguments for and against gay marriage is that the issue is forcing people to examine just what “marriage” is, and in what manner should the state be involved.. The political cartoon mentioned above had it right: The marriage between church and state has long been unexamined, so a full airing of the many issues “gay marriage” brings up touches directly on just what “marriage” is in the first place. Which, no doubt, accounts for a lot of the fear and fury. Critically examining sacred cows is scary to many people.

The July 11th Times story reported that California Atty. General bill Lockyear is arguing “that California’s marriage laws should be upheld because the state has long viewed marriage as an opposite sex relationship and because gays already enjoy many of the rights of the married under the state’s domestic partner law.” Note the use of the word “many.” Countered Justice J. Anthony Kline, “So we have two kinds of marriage here, one a domestic partnership but isn’t it really the same as the other kind? It’s a second-class one.”

In general, the State certainly has a vested interest in getting involved with domestic arrangements when there are children present because it has a role to play in ensuring the legal rights of all children born within its jurisdiction. But gay couples as well as straight couples are having children, adopting children, raising children. Yet one group gets the full benefits of a state-sanctioned ceremony called “marriage,” while the other group only gets many benefits, which hardly fits a notion of equal justice under law.

In addition, the Times story reported that other courts have “decided against same-sex marriage based in large part on the view that procreation was a basis for marriage and only opposite sex couples can have children without technological assistance or adoption.” Those arguments aren’t part of this particular case, but clearly have ceased to be a valid argument since with vasectomies, birth control pills, senior citizen weddings, in-vitro fertilization and “rent-a-womb” surrogacy, a variety of technologically assisted procreative and non-procreative methods are used by both straight and gay couples.

Ultimately, Justice Joanne C. Parrilli asked two of the most critical questions of all. First, she asked “whether society as a whole has the right to define what marriage is.” The answer to that is a qualified “Yes, of course.” The State [i.e. the voters] now defines the various legal responsibilities marriage entails and what rights it confers. But the legal “definition” must also pass court muster to ensure that the rights and responsibilities are equally available to all citizens.

But it is Parrilli’s second question that gets to the heart of the matter: “whether the state should get out of the business of issuing marriage licenses and instead issue ‘union licenses’.” Indeed. Take the word “holy” out of “matrimony,” and what you have left is: Secular Domestic Partnerships With Full Legal Benefits Equally Applied To All.

In short, the State needs to get a divorce from the Church. All couples wishing to be Domestically Partnered can do so at a State office, then those wishing to make their union “holy,” are absolutely free to go to a church, synagogue, mosque or whatever of their own choosing for whatever religious blessing they wish to have bestowed on their union.

Just like the First Amendment promises.