Friday, July 28, 2006

Less Coal! Switch Tracks! Part Duh!

When we last left the Sewerville Express (see previous posting), the residents were snoozing and reading and watching TV whilst sitting in the club car of a runaway train hurtling straight for the cliff -- again.

Last night, the unconscious engineer, who had been slumped over the wide-open throttle bleeding out on the floor from knives stuck in his back from a variety of Usual Suspects, roused up long enough to vote to send a signal to the trackman up ahead to switch tracks. Within feet of the cliff, the train lurched onto the new track and headed away from the immediate danger.

In the coal car, the battling citizens were strangely subdued, their thrashings at each other distracted and dreamlike. It was a rote slo-mo ballet of tired, muffled waffle-bat thumps instead of the usual vigorous, wood-on-skull thwacks.

Pauline and her Perils would have been proud. Close to death, our CSD Board kept their eye on the main thing and voted 4 -1 to support Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee’s bill – still subject to amendments and revisions and/or sudden death as it makes it way through the Sausage Factory of Sacramento to become law – a bill that will give the County the legal mechanism to separate out the Hideous Sewer project from the CSD’s official responsibility and control. It also sets up a process for inter-agency collaboration, community input and a final citizen’s vote on any project before anyone starts digging holes in the ground.

The bill also originally contained a lot of troubling details that an ad hoc citizen committee, the CSD and others worked hard to amend so as to get the CSD the best deal as possible without having the whole thing collapse. What now happens in Sacramento remains to be seen.

The bill also contained some very unpleasant lumps of coal for Los Osos. But those lumps existed with or without the bill and presented the community with an interesting set of Hobson’s Choices – all about equally bad and limiting in their own way – which is why I believe the CSD made a very difficult but a very smart decision by realizing that sometimes you have to lose a battle in order to say alive long enough to win the war.

Of course, since only about 50 people attended the meeting, it’s possible that the rest of the community is absolutely indifferent to lumps of any kind, even those that will have a direct and profound impact upon their home and pocketbook. Not even train wrecks or avoided train wrecks caused them to look up from their TV.

Which means that the upcoming Ripley Project Report workshop and presentation of the Wastewater Management Plan Update at the Community Center, August 4th at 6 pm, will be a real snoozer.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More Coal! More Speed!

It’s a déjà vu image I can’t get out of my head, a train hurtling through the darkness. The unconscious engineer lies slumped over the wide-open throttle, bleeding out on the floor from a number of knives stuck into his back.

In the club car, the passengers have noticed the increase in speed and are concerned, but they do nothing. Some read or look out the window. Others watch TV. A few tap away on their computers, logging onto a blogsite to spend hours complaining about what a rotten trip this is and how lousy the engineers are, but they don’t get up out of their chairs to go see what the matter could be or whether they could do anything to help the train and so help themselves. They think it’s too much bother, none of their business, whatever. Still others are frightened but do nothing because they think some Superman will swoop down from the sky and save them and the train. They remain unaware, or choose to remain unaware, that unless they get off their duffs and get involved in shaping some key decisions right now, they will be stuck with accepting choices that will be made for them by somebody else. Exactly what happened on the last train trip.

Up in the coal car, a bunch of citizens are doing something. The ones who stabbed the engineer are busy hurling shovels full of coal into the firebox to increase the train’s speed. They want the train smashed to pieces. Others are busy slashing away at each other with knives and chains, hurling cries of, “Is too!” “Is NOT!” “ “You’re and idiot!” “Nuh-huh, YOU ARE!” “Neener-Neener-Neener,” all blissfully unaware that the luxury of debating and evaluating a wide variety of options is closing down rapidly. Like the passengers in the club car, they too seem blissfully unaware that their choices are vanishing as the speed of the train picks up and unless they focus and agree on certain key decisions right now, they too will be forced to accept solutions made for them by somebody else. Exactly what happened on the last train trip.

The dark clouds part and the moonlight suddenly reveals the tracks ahead. They point – again -- straight for the edge of the cliff.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

AB2701 Citizens’ Committee’s request for amendments.

The following was sent to Senator Murray by the [Los Osos]Citzens’ Committee. The suggestions for amending the “Blakeslee Plan”, i.e. AB2701 were formulated by a group of Los Osos residents concerned that certain provisions in the bill, as it now stands, were problematic for the residents of the community. The process of requesting amendments to a bill, on paper at least, seems straightforward: citizens, legislators, lobbyists, whoever, are free to send along suggestions and requests for changes at any time in the process. Bills can morph, change, live or die right up to the moment of the final vote. Whether any requests for changes survive the process or ever get into the mix in the first place remains to be seen. And bills can suddenly and for no reason up and die and when the death is investigated, there are no weapons and no fingerprints to be found anywhere. Very mysterioso. Which is why people are warned that there are two things you should never watch happen: Sausage getting made. . . and legislation.

Fax: (805)544-0741
July 21, 2006

Dear Senator Murray,

Please consider the severe economic impact of AB 2701 due to the significant financial issues not addressed in this bill. The language in the bill shields San Luis Obispo County but does nothing to protect the State or local taxpayers.

Demographics indicate that at least 35-40% of Los Osos residents will be forced to move out of our community if SLO County is allowed to restart the previous wastewater treatment project – the most expensive per capita in the United States. Without the necessary affordability safeguards added to this bill, our most vulnerable population – seniors, the disabled and low-to-moderate income families will be hardest hit. Facing a $200-$300 monthly sewer bill, at least 5,000 people will be forced to leave their homes. This is absolutely unacceptable! This is especially true since there is a viable and affordable alternative project plan ready to be delivered to the Los Osos Community Services District on July 28. Therefore, we strongly recommend that an amendment to AB 2701 include a cap on the total cost of the wastewater treatment project pursuant to the EPA Guidelines for Affordability which is 2% of the median household income.

In order to preserve California air and water quality, AB 2701 also needs to include language specifically requiring the proposed wastewater treatment project follow the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the State Water Board guidelines for sustainability (SWRCB Resolution 2005-0006). These changes will protect the Morro Bay Estuary, assure water quality, and maintain the drinking water supply in the Los Osos groundwater basin.

Finally, in order to protect the property owners’ right to an effective Proposition 218 vote,
language must be added to AB 2701 which guarantees taxpayer rights as written in the
State Constitution. The sequence of required actions outlined in Article XIII D mandates that prior to the establishment of a cost benefit for property owners there must be a detailed cost analysis. Before the Proposition 218 vote, the engineer’s report should contain the project design, operation and maintenance and site acquisition costs.

Our citizen committee strongly supports an affordable, environmentally sustainable wastewater treatment project for Los Osos. The changes we are requesting to AB 2701 are imperative if Los Osos is to remain a vital, economically diverse community. This goal can only be accomplished with your help.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Bo Cooper
AB 2701 Citizens’ Committee Representative

cc: Senate Appropriations Committee Members

Thursday, July 20, 2006

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

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad B-Word?

Well, the spun cat’s out of the bag here in Sewerville: Bankruptcy, The Big Bad B-Word. Before the CSD has even had a chance to officially bring the issue to the public for comment, the Sunday Tribune has already boldly concluded in breathless front-page headlines that “BANKRUPTCY MAY BE A WINNER.” The figures the reporter used to come to that “winning” conclusion had to be “estimated,” since actual figures from the CSD itself were not available and checking actual figures might have delayed the story until, oh, Monday or Tuesday, or changed it all together.

Well, no matter, I can only hope the spin-shaping story didn’t unduly scare heck out of an already shell-shocked community (OhMyGawdWe’reAllGonnaDieTomorow) because there are a number of complex tasks now underway, the success of which depends on everyone getting actual facts instead of “estimated” ones in order to avoid another engineered train wreck.

It is no secret that a certain number of folks here in Sewerville want this particular CSD as dead as a doornail for very personal reasons that have nothing do with their mantra of “simply looking out for the good of the community.” (People who actually care about their community don’t email regulators demanding financial wrack and ruin be brought down on the heads of their neighbors.)

There are also a goodly number of folks here in Sewerville who couldn’t care less whether they ever had or will continue to have a CSD. For them, it was and is, Easy come, Easy go.

Finally, toss in a small group of My Way Or The Highway monkey-wrenchers, and you end up with a pretty large group of disparate players whose various agendas don’t really have room for considering “the best interests of the whole town.”

Right now, a series of delicate, intermeshing possibilities are in play, from the proposed Blakeslee Plan, to the LAFCO Dissolution hearing, several critical lawsuits challenging the breach of contract issues with the state, the speculation about a possible municipal CSD bankruptcy and reorganization, and, most important of all, a sewer update that will be ready for review on July 28th.

All of these complicated issues hinge on the CSD and the community remaining fully engaged, accurately informed with actual facts, and clear-headed about choices and consequences, especially unintended consequences. Hidden agendas, personal vendettas, back-room maneuvering, media spin, and all the monkey-wrenching in the underbrush are nothing but hindrances. It’s time to put the knives away and get everything out on the table.

I read once of an old, battle-scarred veteran who said, “In a war, the main thing is not to take your eye off the main thing.”

In the midst of what may look like the “fog of war,” the first order of business facing this community is to see through to completion a process already started that will result in a sustainable, energy efficient, water-solving, wastewater project that the majority of property owners will support, no matter who’s in charge of the thing. That is the one priority this community can’t lose sight of because a proper process that is heading in the right direction will also allow a number of now hopeless-looking Gordian knots to be untied.

Next, the community has to decide if it wants “local control.” Does a CSD, even one being reorganized under a bankruptcy court, still give the residents a stronger voice in solving their local problems than giving all control back to the county? For example, the Blakeslee Plan could allow for the possibility of the CSD to enter into some sort of MOU/ Inter-Agency Agreement with the County that would allow input on developing the wastewater system. No CSD, no MOU, no input. Ditto for challenging various court cases, like the ACLs, CDOs and the breach of contract suits still in the pipeline. In short, does the community still believe that a CSD (no matter who’s on the Board) inherently has a stronger vested interest in serving and protecting its citizens than does The County?

Those are just two critical choices that require an answer from this community and this CSD board. Your answer and theirs will begin to open a path out of the woods or close it forever. So, what’s it to be, my fellow Ursidaeans: Off another cliff or out into the sunny meadow?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Stop the Presses! The Los Osos CSD is found NOT GUILTY of . . . uh . . . ummm … well, something or other.

Yes, Sewerville was indeed shocked to pick up a copy of the July 12th Bay News to read the stunning front page story that involved former CSD director (recalled) “Gordon Hensley, now of Los Osos Taxpayer’s Watch, a citizen group that opposes the actions of the current board and seeks to have it dissolved." Seems Gordon had accused the new Board of “conducting board business via the Internet on computers owned by the State of California. . . . Rumor was that the four directors who work for Caltrans had been caught in what amounts to a ‘conflict of interest’ under state employee rules . . . “ i.e. doing the CSD’s business during their Caltrans work hours.

After plowing through about 400 emails, the Bay News learned that Caltrans “indicated that no complaints were filed, no investigations were conducted and therefore no reports were available to review. Caltrans also said it had not turned the matter over to headquarters or the Attorney General’s Office, which seems to indicate that the agency discovered nothing to suggest a Brown Act violation.”

But, there were some emails that did indicate a few cases where either the Directors sent out brief replies to whoever had contacted them at work, as well one case where they had emailed each other, and so the Caltrans spokesman told the Bay News that “We’ve made sure that corrective actions were taken to assure that employees aren’t conducting non-state business on state time, or non-Caltrans business on state time,” to which the CSD directors agreed, while noting that most of their emailing consisted of brief replies or replies to give their personal email address and/or forwarding any emails that came into them from their constituents to their personal email accounts.

So, much to the disappointment of Gordon Hensley and Taxpayers Watch, there will be no public hanging after all. But Gordon should certainly pursue this matter, perhaps by filing another lawsuit. I think there’s a few dollars left in the CSD’s bank account, so another lawsuit would certainly take care of that. And since Gordon’s neighbors and fellow citizens will be paying all the legal fees his lawsuits can generate, there’s no need to spare any expense.

On the other hand, the notion that "rumors" may have prompted Hensley's public acts request does contain a certain amount of comic irony. For years, questions have been raised about Gordon’s many tax-paid trips to Sacramento while he was in office and rumors floated around that speculated about the possibility that while he was there schmoozing with water officials on CSD business, was he also, perhaps, taking a few minutes here and there (while still on the tax-nickle-clock) to promote his own consulting business? Perhaps the Bay News should see about a public records request to see who he was emailing ( phone records would be nice or interviewing witnesses to "official-business "cocktail party chatter and such like, lots of time to mix public and private business) and/or what he was doing while in Sacramento.

All of which puts one in mind of the old folk saying, “Only one who has hidden under a bed himself, thinks to look there first.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .

At the July 13th CSD meeting, public input and comments on amending the Blakeslee Proposal went forward, with a cautionary legal analysis offered by the CSD’s attorney, Julie Biggs (copies available at the CSD office). The various concerns and proposed amendment additions and modifications will be taken by the sub-committee (Schicker and Fouche) to their meeting with Blakeslee and representatives of the County and from there any additional changes to the bill will have to make the rounds of all parties to see if the proposed changes improve the bill or are ignored or will be a deal breaker or deal enhancer.

One of the most serious concerns the community should have about this bill is the language that now relieves the County of any liability issues regarding the wastewater project they will be assuming, language that right now is both vague and unprecedented and, if not modified, could result in a public entity building a huge public works project but having no liability for that project? It’s a situation that could result in a variety of bad outcomes for which the district and the citizens would have no legal recourse.

So, it remains to be seen if both the County and perhaps lawmakers in Sacramento will see that such a loophole could have unintended consequences for everyone and so amend or modify it since the intention of the provision is clear, but the language isn’t. And law is all about language and the devil is always in the details.

And so the process moves forward, Plod, Plod.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Oh, Wait A Minute. Now Things Are Really Getting Confusing Here. Open Letters? I Think What We Need Here Is Some Open Questions & Answers?

So, after posting the previous posting, (again, fair warning, this is for hard core Sewerites only) I got an email from CSD Board President Lisa Schicker that said:

“What I forgot to say in the letter [the previous posting] but you can put in your blog if you want, is Richard LeGros signed the checks to contractors, paying them out of SRF [State Revolving Funds] that were not designated for them – the SRF accepts invoices in arrears[?], thus: [1] First disbursement was CSD reimbursement of bond money spent on planning and design – it was to be used for this repayment. [2] Contractors could not legally start billing until one month after notice to proceed – i.e. NTP was August 22, their first bill was for Sept 22, then should not have been paid until Oct 22 [3] Bruce [Buehl, former general manager], Richard signing checks paid MM [Montgomery Mechanical] and Barnard [construction companies] as soon as they got the first check – with not having sent any invoices up to the state as required. They also violated board policy and resolution on first disbursement (which was designated to replenish CSD funds for planning and design) – can be found in July 2005 minutes. This is all documented.”

Uh, O.K. Then this was followed by an email from CSD Boardmember Tacker who forwarded an email she received from Richard LeGros (in response to an email she sent to him about his last “open letter to the CSD” he had sent. Ah, so many open letters whizzing back and forth). In her email to me, Ms. Tacker stated, “The last cashflow analysis I saw before the [recall] election, the wastewater project had right around $100,000 left in it, the old Board was readying to borrow the MTBE money at that time to start the project without the SRF drawdown.”

In his letter to Tacker, Mr. LeGros concluded, “. . . . I claim sooner for if the WWP had not commenced, the LOCSD would not have received the $6.4 million SRF draw nor would you or the new BOD had the 3.9 million in SRF money to use when you and the BOD took control. In short, the LOCSD would have been facing bankruptcy much earlier (around March.) . . . “

Okey-dokey. So, was the pre-recall CSD already dangerously in the red? Were they robbing Peter to cover Paul, so to speak? Or more aptly, juggling accounts while eyeballing the old calendar and the clock was running out? To my knowledge, at that time, the Financial (and other) advisory Committees had been shut down so who was doing the usual advisory committee oversight? Was the rush to get the SRF first draw in hand motivated by a need to plug some looming financial holes that would have opened up had the board voted to delay actual start of the Tri W until the recall election was over? Were there budgetary problems or shortfalls that would have come to light without the first SRF draw? Why would Mr. LeGros think the CSD would have gone kaput in March, if the (old) CSD’s financial house was well in hand and all was in order?

The last auditor’s report noted that there were problems with the way the CSD had originally set up their system, and GM Bleskey has reported that they NOW have put into place a better system of checks and balances, but these emails raise questions that I hope get answered somewhere down the line: What financial shape was the CSD in before the recall and before the very first SRF draw arrived? If the date December 2005 mentioned as the date by which the project could have been delayed without jeopardizing the SRF loan is correct, what was the rush to get funds disbursed to MM & Barnard, payments that appear to have violated normal procedures?

Well, so many questions. Perhaps someone adept at running numbers will send the media another Open Letter, so we’ll learn just what was going on in the Last Days of Pompeii. . . er . . Los Osos. Stay tuned. Varooom, varoom.
Start Yer Engines, Part HUH?

I closed my previous Blog entry noting that the warring factions in Los Osos were starting their engines in a slogging slugfest race to the cliff. Oh, how right I was, if the various folks who add comments here on this blog site are any indication. Jihadi alert! The following is strictly for confirmed “Sewerites.” Vroom! Vroom!

Someone signing himself “Richard LeGros” (one of the recalled CSD Board members) has sent several “Open Letters” to the CSD, among other places. One letter discussed budget matters and projections concerning CSD finances and was apparently prepared and circulated before the auditor’s report had been finished and presented to the community. Another one speculated in great detail on the costs of the proposed Ripley Plan recently presented at the July 7th Community Workshop, again using numbers that were, I guess, also made up –“ for argument’s sake.” (Mr. Ripley refused to present costs at HIS workshop, even for argument’s sake, preferring instead to wait for the final project report date of July 28. The person calling himself “Richard LeGros,” apparently felt no such caution. Well, where angels fear to tread, and so forth .) Speaking of which, like discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, speculation of this sort may or may not be accurate, since the size of angels can be remarkably fluid – Well, I say 700. Nuh-huh, according to my calculations, 695 will fit providing they take off their sandals! -- But the Open Letters sure look “authentic” and certainly must have taken quite some time to compose.

In the comment section of this blog, someone also calling himself “Richard LeGros” has logged on to make statements and offer comments with other Commentors. (We have quite a dedicated band of Sewerites engaging in a computer version of the old country store’s pot bellied stove, around which various town “characters” can gather to jaw and whittle and yak and natter. As with all things posted on the comment section of this blogsite, the authenticity of each poster is entirely open to question. Total Caveats are in order. But all are welcome if they mind their manners. i.e. no spitting tobacco juice on the floor.)

But some of what the person calling himself “Richard LeGros” has to say, especially on the subject of just WHY he voted to start work on TriW weeks before the recall and Measure B election, may have gotten the attention of CSD Board President, Lisa Schicker. Clearly, she has received and read the various “open letters,” and has sent an open letter of her own.

Herewith a copy. I leave it to the reader to compare her observations with those made by the person calling himself “Richard LeGros” in the various comment sections of this site’s different blog entries. It makes for interesting reading but, as I said, is only for dedicated Sewerites.

One item does stand out in Lisa’s letter. A date. December 2005 And a name: Darrin Polhemus. They go to the heart of a question that I have puzzled over, which was, Why on earth did the recalled Board members vote 3 – 2 to start pounding millions of dollars into the ground only weeks before a recall and a Measure B election. Fiscal prudence alone should have dictated waiting so as to – above all – do no or as little [fiscal] harm as possible. The person calling himself “Richard LeGros” has claimed that he had no choice but to move ahead because to do otherwise would have violated [an uncited] law. But there it is, that date . . . December 2005. Add in the $2 million shortfall mentioned as being in the pre-recall budget, the claim that the co-chair (Mr. LeGros, the real one) of the previous Board’s Finance Committee in 2005 failed to get cash flow analyses to the full board prior to the recall, and maybe the person sending the various Open Letters could now write another one ‘splaining a whole lot of things?

As I said, start yer engines and sharpen yer pencils. Vroom! Vroom!

Schicker’s letter is dated 7/10/06

Dear Mr.Legros:

Thank you for your letter. Unfortunately for all of us, and despite my repeated pleadings, no cash analysis of any type was ever done during 2005 – before the Board that you were part of decided on a 3-2 vote to accept construction bids 46-60% above engineers’ estimate and push forward with construction of the most expensive per capital project in the country-- 20 days before a recall election that was set at the latest possible date, setting into motion almost every one of the current cash problems and legal liabilities that exist for the people of Los Osos.

You and I both know that Darrin Polhemus from SWRCB-SRF said that the project could have been amended before we went to construction and that we had until December 2005 to do it – and this evidence was presented at the ACL Hearings – on video tape – why would you have ever approved such a devastating financial scheme upon your community? it appears that you have been extremely busy now, producing, emailing and publishing an array of detailed analyses and spreadsheets without attending one CSD meeting, but as co-chair of the Finance committee in 2005, when repeatedly asked for cash flow analyses, we were all denied such reports.

I would also ask you again to please review last year’s audit which indicated a $2 million shortfall during your watch and an auditor’s management letter that pointed out numerous problems with the way your board was managing the finances of the district even prior to the wastewater fiasco and cascade of poor management decisions made in a series of 3-2 votes during that year.

I would also advise that these kind of analyses and spreadsheets are not based on any reality and do damage to your fellow citizens when you send them out and print them and then the papers publish them – I have not observed your attendance at any CSD business meeting or committee meeting and suggest that if you want to get a taste of reality, please start showing up – this working behind the scenes is not helping your community, nor does it help when you post it on the blog or send it to the agencies and Blakeslee’s office – it only muddies the waters and confuses the issues further. These analyses are also undermining any attempts that Assemblyman Blakeslee and the agencies are making on behalf of the people of Los Osos.

You are cordially invited to participate in all CSD activities and I urge you to please help the community – spreading this kind of information, which is not based in truth, but in speculation in your mind, is not helping anyone.

Hope to see you soon – at a committee or board meeting. Thank you Richard.

Lisa Schicker

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Start Yer Engines!

At the Los Osos Town Hall meeting of 7/7 (attended by about 80 – 100 people out of a community of 15,000??? what’s THAT all about?) Ripley Pacific gave a preliminary presentation of their project update report and shared a little of their thinking and approach to the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project.

Happily, their focus on the matter is all about WATERWATERWATERWATER and SUSTAINIBILITY. That is, how to minimize energy costs per gallon of “product,” in this case, WATERWATERWATERWATER while minimizing an unwanted, expensive byproduct, SLUDGESLUDGESLUDGE.

Which means, their plans are the exact opposite of the Tri-W plant, which focused on sewage treatment and denitrification (a very expensive process) and deferred the water and sludge issues for later (even more expense to be added.) A question I raised to the Ripley team was How it is even possible that two engineering firms could come up with 180’ proposals, both supposedly using “science and engineering” criteria, and the answer was: “Engineering bias,” no doubt a nice word for “Different Focus.” (Sort of like the story of the blind men examining an elephant and describing entirely different critters depending on just what part of its body they were feeling.)

The final update report will be due July 28, and will evaluate various options on collection systems and sites and so forth, but what Ripley will be recommending will be a STEP system which will involve:

Replacing all septic tanks that aren’t watertight. The tanks will be owned and operated by the CSD/County/Septic Management Department with easements just like we have for telephone, power lines, etc. coming into our homes. If the thing “breaks,” call the Sewer Guys! The check valves and access points for maintenance can be located at the lot lines for ease of operation.

The initial high cost of replacing tanks will be offset by the overall lower cost of the collection system (smaller pipes, microtunneling methods, no huge open trenches etc. the collection system is more like a water pipe delivery system than the traditional gravity sewer piping.) (Traditional gravity collection systems have always been the lion’s share of costs. Change that component and the costs go down, no matter what kind of treatment plant is used.)

Since the septic tanks will be doing the bulk of the work “digesting” the solids and pre-treating the wastewater, that will reduce overall costs of treating the water at the plant. And, having solids pre-digested saves on the problem of sludge disposal, a growing, expensive problem. Homeowners will have to make a choice with this system: Do they want a huge gravity “dump it and forget it” system for X $ with ongoing and growing energy costs and sludge disposal costs? Or do they want to take a modest responsibility for their own waste onsite and pay Y$, with greatly reduced OM&R costs. The Voters will have that decision to make when the time comes.

In addition, water conservation is a key component in keeping costs down as well, which means the community must install low-flow everything, if they haven’t already done so. In addition, and interesting to me, is the possibility of also using a tiered billing system for the waste water project since the focus of this project is WATER – the more you use, the more you’re increasing the overall treatment costs, then the more you should pay – exactly like our presently tiered water rates. Tiered rates encourage the thrifty, and make sure the wasteful pay their fair share. After all, the cheapest way to clean water is not to get it dirty in the first place.

Tanks in high ground water areas can be anchored so as to not float away. Long term pump-out for sludge/solids is a recommended pump out once every 12 – 20 years (depending on the occupancy numbers & etc.)

Alarm systems will operate via a wireless Web Base system to alert the plant operator if there are any problems and if so, exactly which house or junction.

The system will be phased in, hitting the hottest areas (highest in nitrates) then adding on the lowest nitrate areas. Also being discussed with the RWQCB is the use of onsite systems (i.e. something like the Piranha system now in use at the firehouse) where it could be used.

Ag exchange is a key component of this project. Instead of spending gazillions to get nitrates OUT of the water, the nitrates in the upper aquifer and the treated wastewater (treated to Title 22 tertiary, suitable for all uses, including food crops) are viewed as a valuable resource to the farmers on the outskirts of town. (Instead of buying nitrate fertilizer, the nitrates will arrive in the water in useable form and in the right amount for “free.”) The exchange involves the farmers using the treated nitrate-laden water instead of pumping and using deep aquifer potable (nitrate-free) water, thereby leaving that water for Los Ososians to drink. This exchange should also help slow the salt water intrusion to the west of Los Osos.

The treatment sites being looked at shouldn’t be visible from any public road and the preferred site has only one neighbor far away.

That’s some of what was presented at the Town Hall Meeting. The meeting was taped and I hope the community will have a chance to watch the proceedings. A final presentation will be on July 28, when the report is due.

So, now, Los Osos. Start your engines. It’s a race to the cliff in a truck filled with an apparently asleep at the switch majority while in the front cab grabbing for the steering wheel are a gaggle of warring factions, all armed with hidden agendas, teeth-grinding grudges, Medean blood in their eyes, Jihadi folks with bombs strapped to their chests, True Believers wielding long knives, all Hell-bent on murder/revenge/and/or suicide – Kill the CSD! TRI-W Forever! Hang Sam Blakeslee! Up the British! Die!Die!Whoever! Programs! Get Yer Programs! Can’t Tell The Players Without No Programs!

In other words, just another typical day in Sewerville. So, stay tuned. And have a nice day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hello? HEL-OOOOO? Wake up! Yoo0-Hoooo! HEY, Los Osos . . Friday, July 7, 7 pm at the Los Osos Community Center: Ripley Team Wastewater Alternatives Update, including: (1) Hydro-geology of the Los Osos Water Basin by Ken Schmidt, Hydrologist, Nitrate & Groundwater specialist and Professor from Fresno with 40 years experience monitering effluent in the Fresno Basin. (2) Collection Systems Alternatives, by Joe Leach, civil engineer, including preliminary feasibility, cost estimates, exhibits, fee calculations, drainage design, storm drainage basin design, etc. (3) Treatment System Alternatives, by Dana Ripley, Lead Consultant and Project Manager, expert in zero discharge and sustainable design and (4) Site election for Treatment Plant location, by Dr. Bahman Sheikh, Water Resource and Reuse Specialist from the Bay area. So, HELLO, HEY, YOU THERE, YES, YOU. Out of your Barcalounger. No more sitting in front of your computer reading and commenting on this blog. Time to get up to speed, else you'll be left in the dust, chuga-chugga. Elvis AND the train are leaving the building.
Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA For July 5, 006

Hot Air Rising

In a recent TV interview, former vice-president Al Gore expressed optimism that the earth-changing, global-warming events depicted in his new film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” could be mitigated somewhat in order to lessen some of the worst damage because, said he, when governments finally get mobilized, things can happen very quickly.

As he spoke, this government was busy pandering to their bases for political talking points in November as party loyalists in congress spent days pushing for a Constitutional amendment . . . to ban flag burning.

While Rome and the world was actually burning up, this government was busy fiddling to prevent the incredible danger to the environment and to the social fabric of this nation caused by millions and millions of people out in the streets . . . burning Old Glory. You’ve seen them, haven’t you? You can hardly breathe from all the smoke.

Unlike our president, Mr. Gore actually is a worldly traveler, so perhaps some of his optimism comes from seeing other governments around the globe starting to mobilize, other governments who actually “got it” some time ago and who are setting policies that actually support “green” industrial and scientific innovation.

In this country, a few years ago, the Pentagon issued a report outlining the direct threat global warming will have to our own national security and to the stability and security of the world. The Pentagon aligning itself with a bunch of tree-hugging, liberal, hippie-dippy, French-looking Commies? Now that’s an event you would think would rattle this government to the core. But that report has languished while this government spent time in Congress again pandering to their bases for political talking points in November by trying to get a constitutional amendment . . . to ban gay marriage. You’ve seen them also, haven’t you? Millions of gay people getting married in the streets right next to all those flag burners? You can hardly get down the road through all the smoke and thrown rice.

Of course, Al Gore’s optimism may also come from understanding that so long as this government’s loyalty remains with its corporate masters, the only hope We the People have will be . . . We the People. But that will only happen if we wake up, pay attention, and realize that if we love our grandchildren – and I’m sure we do – then we, individually and collectively, will have to get out ahead of the curve and change the world ourselves. After all, if any of us were paying attention in this country, we should have learned one thing from the Katrina disaster: This government is out to lunch and you, dear citizen, are on your own, so good luck to you.

And it may turn out to be the supreme irony that individuals, acting alone together, are the ones who actually can move the quickest to avert disaster. How? Simple.

In a flexible, fast-responding capitalistic global economy, it all comes down to this: What we value is what we spend our money on. And it is that dollar clutched in the palm of our individual hands that has the power to change the world and change the future.

So, what’s it to be? Gas guzzler or gas sipper? Incandescent light bulbs or compact fluorescents? Tax subsidized greenhouse-gas-producing energy or tax subsidized non-polluting renewable energy? The list is only as limited as our imaginations.

Industries and innovation always follow the money; governments and global movements always follow the money; the future always follows the money. And guess who has the money? What we buy today is truly a case of Pay It Forward, a choice each of us can make that may turn out to be the most precious gift we can give ourselves: The difference between life and death for our grandchildren.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Speak Now, Or . . .At the Thursday's July 6th Los Osos CSD meeting (7 pm. community center) (and at other CSD sessions during July, Q&A time will be held concerning Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee's proposed "plan," the so-called "breakthrough plan" regarding the county taking over the wastewater project. There are Q&As running on Channel 20 and a FAQ website is being readied on the bill. It's critical that the community get a copy of the bill, read it, consider what it means, and make any comments concerning amending or improving the bill. There has already been an amendment added in Sacramento, (concerning enlarging the area outside the Prohibitioin Zone that can be included in any septic management/water improvement programs), and there's now a website you can log onto to read the bill, and comment. A group of citizens had a brainstorming session and came up with other additions they feel need to be included and they've already sent those recommendations to the CSD. For example, one proposed "amendment" would require an affordibility study such as those recomended under the Federal EPA rules, and such like. If you have any ideas or suggestions, go to The bill number is AB2701, author is Blakeslee, and a page will pop up allowing you to comment or you can simply click on Oppose/support & etc. Please get informed, get involved. HOW this legislation is shaped and whether it's successful or not, will have a direct affect on YOU, so you'd better get involved at the beginning. Or else, you'll simply get stuck -- again -- with the bill for something somebody else wanted. Which reminds me, on Friday, July 7th there will be a workshop at 7 pm, again in the L.O. community center, with presentations by Ripley Pacific of the work to date on the wastwater project update. Time to come, get informed, ask questions directly of the engineers. Once again, how the wastewater project is shaped will depend on informed community input.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

CORRECTION: In my 6/26 entry, I had written, "My favorite is the Pre-Recall Los Osos Taxpayers Association case which, among other things, complains about the money being spent by the CSD on lawyers and does so by suing the CSD so they have to spend money on . . . lawyers." Oops, wrong. The suers suing the CSD in that case was Taxpayers Watch, not LOTA. Sorry. Too many groups with similar names. Maybe we now need to start selling programs just to keep the players straight.