What I Learned At Last Night’s County EIR Sewer Report Meeting
1. The draft of the EIR report is at www.slocounty.ca.gov/PW/LOWWP.htm
2. Hard copies are at the library, at the SLO Public Works Office.
3. CD’s are available and you can watch on your computer or take it to a copy center for $90 and have a hard copy printed off, or just have them print off certain chapters, whatever.
4. The EIR report was complicated, a difficult job, the team worked very, very hard, the final document with all appendices will give you a hernia if you try to pick it up.
5. You have until Jan 30 to make written comments. Send them to:
Environemntal program Mgr.
SLO Dept Public Wroks
County Gov. Center, Room 207
SLO, CA 93408
Comments need to focus on the environment, be factual, support any opinions with facts. They’ll be answered in writing and both questions and replies will be added to the draft document as part of the record.
6. Four projects were picked and all of the parts of them are interchangeable, sorta like the game of Clue. Instead of Miss Scarlet in the library with a pipe wrench, you can have STEP/STEG with Oxidation Ditch at Branin property with Tonini sprayfields. Or Gravity with Falcultative ponds at Giacomazzi with Tonini sprayfields (the spray fields remain the same no matter what system is combined as does the disposal field at Broderson.)
7. At this point the environmentally “superior’ project was Gravity, facultative ponds with both treatment plant and spray fields all at Tonini. This was chosen for several reasons, including the isolated site, lowest greenhouse gas issues, can consolidate faculties, have room for large winter storage ponds, well located for future ag exchange & etc. All of which is considered in Chapter 7.
8.Economic viability is NOT part of the EIR. There is no environmental link between sewer/economy that impacts environment. Yes, an abandoned town with foreclosed houses sitting empty because people couldn’t pay the sewer bill and in today’s economy not enough people could afford to buy a house could result in some environment damage, but the link is too weak to be considered in this report. Plus, recent real estate figures show, SLO County isn’t in that bad a shape, foreclosure-wise. And there will likely be enough rich folks still able to move to the “Gold Coast” no matter what. So people supposedly referred to by at least one person in town as “the riff-raff”) driven out of Los Osos by the sewer price will be replaced by people who can more than afford the sewer price. Hence, no environmental issues.
9. The project will return enough water to stop salt water intrusion. Conservation measures (i.e. mandatory low flow everything) will help. However, the project will NOT deal with overall water issues since the county does NOT have control over the water. Water issues will also NOT be stuck on the backs of sewered PZ residents. Instead, all water purveyors will have to work together to solve water issues separate from wastewater issues, and charge water customers the rate necessary to solve water issues instead of hiding water in “sewage” and having the PZ residents pay for it all.
Furthermore, the plant and system is designed at a carrying capacity for proposed “ build out” so if anyone wants to build any more, they’ll have to come up with a new plant and new water, which effectively locks Los Osos into a kind of permanent moratorium, thereby jacking up the value of the homes already here since old Will Roger’s daddy had it right: Son, buy land, they ain’t making any more of it.
10. The “community survey” will be out in January but, alas, the community still won’t have any idea of the cost differences between STEP or gravity. They’ve been lumped into a vague “guestimate” right now of bout $250 a month. Because of the proposed design/build plans, the County is stuck with a chicken/egg problem: can’t get hard numbers before a project is identified; can’t really fairly pick a project until you get hard numbers. So the residents will still be buying a pig in a poke.
11. Which means, any “survey” asking whether you want STEP or Gravity will remain questionable because the county will have no way of knowing what the public’s “break point” is. That is: How much MORE are you willing to pay to get Plan X over Plan Y? $10 a month? How’s about $40 a month? $6.95? What? Without that number, it’s impossible to know just what the community wants to buy, unless the survey has a box asking: (1) Is overall cost (including OM&R) the MOST important issue for you? Yes- No. (2) Do you want the county to go with whatever turns out to be cheaper, either STEP or Gravity, doesn’t matter which, cheaper price is the key? Yes-No.
That question should get to the heart of the STEP/Gravity matter pretty quickly. (The last survey seemed to break pretty evenly between the two with a big chunk of people not bothering to even return the form, so we can assume they also don’t care one way or the other?
12. A question was raised whether Ag zoning at Tonini would be “broken” by putting in a wastewater treatment facility and, No, those are still allowed in Ag land. So there’s no fear of suddenly rezoning Tonini so there’d be a land rush to build high end homes next to the sewer plant. Plus, there is a mitigation cost which will come in the form of land-banking to mitigate for taking the spray fields out of a certain type of ag production, so those land-bank pieces could be formed into a greenbelt, joining the other greenbelts around Los Osos, further reducing the temptation to “sprawl.” (And further increasing the value of the homes already here.)
13. Walking into the auditorium of the Los Osos Middle School to listen to a County presentation for a sewer treatment system was an amazing experience of déjà vu: About 23 years ago, if memory serves, a cold Jan? Feb night, 1985, I was at an identical meeting, same place, same players, same issue. Told a friend last night that this community is beginning to feel like one of those medieval towns wherein town folks worked whole generations on building their town cathedral; father to son to grandson, season in, season out, chip-chip-chip, hammer, haul, dig, generation after generation, this community’s life-work. Instead of a stone cathedral, we’ll end up with an unnecessarily damaged community . . . . and a wastewater plant.
There will be further workshops and public input meetings, a presentation to the CSD, and plenty of opportunity to comment as The Process chugs along. Taxes won’t be collected until the Board “accepts” the project, guestimated sometime in 2009, maybe. Real costs remain up in the air. Design/build, value engineering, grants, SRF extendo-loan time and other such may help bring the cost down.
If costs on the new project get down to where Tri-W would have been (final, real-world costs) we’ll end up with a terrible, tragic irony. We could have had a sewer treatment plant out of town without nearly destroying the town to get it. Sad.