Pssst, Lossss Osssoossss. Ssssttts, Yoo hoo WAKE UP! HELLO!
Well, nice to know some things never change. The county sent out what most presumed would be a much anticipated Sewer Survey, the long promised “not-a-vote-but-a-voice” questionnaire and, to date, only 27% of the things have been returned. At Tuesday’s regular " Aw Gawd It’s Los Osos Time Again” at the BOS meeting, it was noted that surveys of these kinds usually get a 10 – 15% response. So far, this one’s gotten 27% with hope of getting over 30%. Which, compared to usual, typical survey type thingees will be ok, but this survey is about one of the most community-destroying, longest-running all out Wars, ever. In short, it was the most important thing going on in this community and about 70% of the community can’t be bothered to even mail the darned thing back? Woa.
Well, those numbers are about what happened to the last survey. If memory serves, a whole bunch of people didn’t mail that one back in either. Guess most of the bears out here are still sound asleep. Well, shhhhh, don’t wake them. When they get the bill, they may wake up then, but it’ll be too late. This train is leaving the station, chugga-chugga.
The numbers given at the BOS meeting were PRELIMINARY and only represented 13% of those surveys (1,097 processed, 8,100 sent out; 2,237 received to date; closing date extended to March 6ish or so). The final and detailed results will be made public sometime in the future. But so far, the preliminary numbers processed indicate:
Top concerns and choices: 1.Complete the project ASAP
2. Lowest cost.
3 & 4. Site & collection system
On site and collection: 60% selected out of town (Tonini)
22% Edge of town (Giacometti, Cemetery)
10% Tri W (mid town)
8% no opinion.
Those percentages could change when the rest of the survey’s are finished, but the odds are zip that it won’t, for example, end up with Tri-W being the #1 choice. The above number will give Ron Crawford (www.sewerwatch.blogspot.com) a good chortle and puts the kibosh on any Save The Dream/Taxpayer Watchers claiming that “The Community Loved Tri-W,” or “The Recall and Moving The Sewer Out of Town Was Only Favored By A Handful of Anti-Sewer Obstructionists!” and so forth. Hard to argue with that “Out Of Town” 82% percent at this point.
The collection system turned up: 72% gravity
9% (if I heard that right) STEP
Interestingly, 49% wanted gravity no matter what it cost (even though prices for any of this weren’t on the survey) and 5% wanted STEP at any cost. But those numbers could change, if the community is surveyed again, once the final numbers are in.Because, 66% said they’d need a $50 a month savings before they’d consider STEP. (It was guestimated at this point that the difference between gravity and STEP is now about $20-30 a month, a number that doesn’t include the cost difference if it turns out that the gravity pipes have to be welded. At that point, the cost may go above the $50 a month preferred threshold, and folks may have to rethink their choices.) (Also not known, since there were no real numbers in the survey, is what components and technologies will be chosen by the design/build/companies who are going to bid on this project. They may come up with components and combinations that won’t meet some community selections choices, but will meet the top two – speed and lower cost. So, we’ll see.)
And, there was strong support for returning water and, as Mark Hutchinson noted to the BOS during the follow up Q&A, he felt that the project as it’s shaping up, with the plant out of town, tertiary capability on the horizon (if not earlier) and the disposal pipe heading back to the Broderson site, the plan is set for increased water reuse if the community votes (Mo’ $$, Mo’ $$) to go all Purple Pipish. (Build-out and growth depends on water, so for now, any growth may end up pretty heavily on the backs of the water rate payers, most especially folks living outside the CSD Water zone. But that could also change if Ag Exchange kicks in & of course, a serious, mandatory effort at retrofit and conservation.)
Also discussed by John Diodati, was the county’s trip to Washington for lobby/schmooze time. Efforts are focusing on the possibility of a 30 year fixed zero-interest loan from the Feds via the SRF Loans, and possible monies coming at some point, maybe years from now, from the Corps of Engineers, with the nexus being a clean-water-benefit (WRDA) to Morro Bay, a national estuary, and maybe some bucks from USDA, but that didn’t look as likely.
Interestingly, since President Obama has decreed “no earmarks,” since “earmarks” have been politicized as Baaaadddd, but “shovel ready stimulus projects” are goooooddd, and to date nobody has defined the difference between a “shovel ready stimulus EARMARK” and a “shovel ready stimulus PROJECT,” the WRDA/ Army Corps “project” is considered a new project and hence an “earmark,” so some finessing needs to be done to qualify. Clearly, the nexus between the sewer project and the waters of Morro Bay have already been established, so the “project” isn’t really a “new” project/earmark. So it remains to be seen if the “oldness” of the sewer project will become clear and hence enable it to be considered not an “earmark” but an old project finally “shovel-ready” and able to get under way, Please send nice money.
During public comment, the Usual Suspects arrived. And, of course, questions asked that at this point don’t have any answers, like, What “conditions” will be put on the project by the Planning Commission? What “conditions” will be put on by the RWQCB? One that comes to mind is the weirdness of the RWQCB decreeing ZERO DISCHARGE in the PZ, while, apparently (at this point) allowing ring/seal gravity pipes that have built in, known “leakage” of contents, i.e. raw sewage, not to mention inflow from high-groundwater and salt water, which end up in the treatment plant, possibly compromising water clean up/reuse efforts. Will they actually care enough about “water” to require welded pipes if gravity is chosen?
But two key comments were made by several folks: It is absolutely critical that this Process be kept “fair” and is seen to be “fair.” When that happens, the community is willing to compromise and will accept the results. But let the community think it’s being conned – again – or thumbs are being slapped on that scale, or if the Process is rushed or skipped, something which can allow “hooks” to which a lawsuit can he hitched, thereby causing delay – all of that is to be avoided like the plague, since that’s the last thing community wants. Contrary to the false information incessantly given out that Los Osos is nothing but a bunch of “Anti-Sewer Obstructionists,” what this community wanted all along is right there in the preliminary survey: A “process” to fairly evaluate options, ending up with a sewer plant out of town, the cost lower than Tri-W, a “voice” in the choice of technologies.
The tragedy of Los Osos is that those three completely rational requests were there all along, which means that the Sewer Wars and the train wreck created by lies, bad decisions, a failed system of governance and a failure of existing checks and balances and proper regulatory oversight was entirely unnecessary.