Yes, We Have No Water, So Go Right Ahead And Build That Mega-Mansion With Four or Five Bathrooms And Lots Of Non-Xerescaping, No, No, It’s Fine, Take All The Water You Want, Pay No Attention To Those Annoying People Whining That You’re Sucking Up THEIR Water While They’re Stuck In A Moratorium, Bwa-hahahah, Tough Luck Suckers!
Well, ya gotta laugh at the mixed message the BOS sent yesterday. Just prior to voting in all kinds of recommendations to put in place a Severity III Water Shortage Plan (the highest level short of a complete lock-down), the Supes refused to put the kibosh on a controversial mega-mansion a-building outside the PZ here in beleaguered Sewerville. They also refused to listen to LOCAC’s recommendation for a temporary building moratorium until the various water measures can be verified as actually working.
Nope, it’s build first, THEN when the wells run dry, everybody can stand around and say, Well, Dang!
Some other interesting tid-bits at the BOS meeting, and later that night the TAC meeting, concerning both Sewer & Water:
-- A snippet of tape from the recent RWQCB hearing in Watsonville was played. Seems the Board didn’t know what the status was of The Los Osos 45, you know, the 45 homeowners who were singled out for a year of hell and were finally issued CDOs and CAOs. Board thought in some way that these orders were merely “in abeyance,” but weren’t sure, that the Notices of Violation recently sent out to everyone in the PZ were simply notices, that there were no consequences associated with the NOV, (Really? No consequences? So why bother to send them out?), then they chatted about how they couldn’t rescind those 45 CDO/CAO orders without a hearing – a hearing? Oh GAWD, don’t let’s go there, you mean, actually open that can of worms again? – obviously it was an idea that fell with a resounding silent thud – but, oh, well, not to worry, what-ever, it didn’t really matter since that was, like, so yesterday . . . Move along, move along, more tea! More tea! Unless, of course, you happen to be one of the 45 with a legal CDO/CAO on your home, but then you don’t count in this sick game, anyway. You never did.
--The Tri W Permit from the Coastal Commission is now looking slightly weird. First, it’s still not clear to me just who “owns” it – the county? The CSD? One of the things constantly touted about the Tri W project is that it’s “permitted,” but clearly, with closer study by the TAC and the new regs on water reuse, the new rules that may pertain to the Bay now being designated as a State Marine Reserve, the ongoing questions raised by Ron Crawford about “bait & switchy,” the rescinded Statement of Overriding Considerations (no documentation for the “community held values” of having a sewer plant in the middle of town so a park could be attached to it), it’s becoming clear that that permit may now be turning radioactive: Is the Old Project still the Old Project, or has time and regulations morphed the Old Project into something resembling a New Project, which would have to be reviewed by the CC-- Oh GAWD, don’t let’s go there, you mean actually open that can of worms again? – and so forth.
-- Some speakers asked if there could be a split 218 assessment vote – a $2 -3 million assessment to allow for CEQA studies to be done, then a follow up “real” 218 vote for a final project, with known site, size, price tag, etc.
Paavo made it clear that that won’t fly for a couple of reasons: Funding for “studies” would be a “special tax” that would require 2/3 vote. Two-thirds is really hard to get for any project, whereas the regular 218 assessment would only require 50% plus 1. Much easier. So, a mini CEQA ain’t gonna happen.
-- During the due diligence phase (after the 218 is passed) everything that’s on the TAC table and/or on the County table (i.e. companies like Orenco and Pio Lombardo’s Purple Pipe Plan using decentralized plants) are supposed to be due diligenced along with the generalized work done by the TAC, i.e. general STEP, GRAVITY, PONDS, BIOLAC & etc. If everyone keeps their thumbs off the table at that point, and keeps working with solid numbers – beware of GIGO -- there’s a good chance the right project will rise to the top.
When the BOS meeting switched to the Level Three Water Severity portion of the program, a few things popped out:
--First, and most important, it appears that the water purveyors are making good progress in their adjudication process. Golden State Water Co, for example, will be going before the PUC to get rate increases to cover their costs of new wells – moved so as to reduce pumping to the west so as to decrease salt water intrusion, and other plans to utilize the upper aquifer better, again so as reduce over pumping) S & T Mutual (Sunset Terrace) water company was again urged to consider installing water meters on the homes they service (I know, surprising that in this day and age of water scarcity, there’s meterless homes???), and all the water purveyors are moving to structured rates so as to make more water use really, really expensive, so as to encourage conservation.
But the most interesting item, for me, that came out of the BOS meeting, came later that night at the TAC. It became clear that the cost for a Level I water benefit from any sewer project was nearly identical with the costs for a project that delivered a Level II water benefit, so the TAC consensus was, let’s not even waste time with any project that only delivers a Level I.
Furthermore, with full participation of the water purveyors, the county’s various water saving/ retrofit Severity III plans, and by separating out the sewer assessment benefit to be paid to those within the PZ and the water benefit, to be a general benefit assessment to be paid for by all those outside the PZ, (who are getting the benefit of clean water) it may be possible to bring in a project that delivers a Level III water benefit of balancing the basin, but do it at a Level II cost.
So, that’s something to keep an eye on as the process moves along.
-- Also of interest to me, were the folks who are part of “FAIR,” which is composed of vacant lot owners who came to the BOS to urge passage of this water plan. The “FAIR” folks are also going to be an interesting bunch to watch because it’s not known at this point whether or not they’ll get a vote on the sewer assessment – i.e. why be assessed for something you may NEVER get the benefit of, i.e. be able to build a home on your lot even after the sewer is installed because there’s no water. Which also raises other questions: The county allowed homes to be built outside the PZ, homes that have been sucking water out of the aquifer shared by all. Don’t know what’s “fair” about that, except it’s certainly a perfect example of how damaging and short-sighted the PZ was in the first place – a water basin is a water basin. It pays no attention to lines on a map.
Also unknown, if the PZ moratorium is lifted, how will new building permits be allocated? First come, first served? And what happens if people outside the PZ have reduced the resources available to those within the PZ thereby putting some PZ residents permanently out of business? Again, there’s that inherent unfairness with what the RWQCB did with those PZ lines.
--One nice thing about water saving in general, is it’s nearly impossible to get ahold of fixtures that aren’t water saving, unless you go to Canada or somewhere and smuggle in an old gazillion-gallon-a-flush toilet. So whenever anyone builds, remodels or upgrades, they’ll end up improving the situation.
--Another question that really should be looked at: According to the County’s figures, 70% of all water use is indoors, with 30% for outdoor use. Can the county and the RWQCB agree on some kind of safe, effective greywater system that would be allowed for Los Osos that could be installed NOW by homeowners who want to start saving that 30% immediately? Pio’s Purple Pipe Plan promises to do just that, but his proposal won’t be looked at by the TAC, to my knowledge. Let’s hope the County takes a serious look at it before moving ahead, and answers the question, how quickly would an immediate 30% outdoor water use reduction effect salt water intrusion . . . and at what cost . . . compared with the other plans now being looked at.
-- And, of course, the most obvious question that remained hanging in the air: How is it possible that Los Osos went through water severity Level I, then Level II and nobody did anything about it and here we are, ka-boom, Level III and only now is anyone lifting a finger. How is that possible? .
And, finally, at the TAC meeting, the Finance Committee held up a bar graph that indicated that when comparing capital costs for any combination of STEP/GRAVITY/and/or/Ponds/Biolac/ OxidationDitch, all those combinations were within a reasonable hailing distance of each other (with STEP being slightly cheaper)
But if you compared those cost combinations with TRI W, TRI W flew off the chart. Waaaaaaaaaay more expensive.
Which once again prompts me to say, “Oh Lucy, Jooooo Gotta Lotta ‘Splainin Toooo Doooo……”
Oh, and almost forgot: The July-August edition of The Rock (www.rockofthecoast.com) is out, with interviews with several Sewer Experts & Citizens.