KapBLUMP, UMP, UMP. . . .
Uh-oh, methinks it’s the sound of Dan Blackburn dropping more shoes on the floor over at www.calcoastnews.com/news.php?viewStory=172160 titled “Los Osos Sewer Project Tainted by “Expired” Crime.”
He’s posted more information that started with former CDS Director, Lisa Schicker’s letter of complaint given to the BOS concerning issues with Montgomery Watson Harza, a company that was short-listed on the new sewer project. Dan’s story expands to include alleged illegality when former CSD’s District Manager, Bruce Buell’s was told by then-former interim district manger Paavo Orgren to “backdate” the CSD’s contract with Montgomery Watson Harza. Continues the story, “Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Brown, in a response to citizen complaints, acknowledged in 2006 that “falsification of a public record by a public employee is a felony,” and that a criminal act relating to the backdating apparently had occurred. But Brown declined further investigation by determining that a three-year statute of limitation had expired.”
The story notes that Supervisor Frank Meacham is asking for further information and a ruling from the county counsel.
Here’s Mother Calhoun’s take on what the outcome of all this will be: 1.) “C’mon Jake, it’s Chinatown. 2.) Something is illegal ONLY if a District Attorney somewhere declares it to be illegal and decides to prosecute. If he/she declines to prosecute, for whatever reason, it’s not a “crime.” Plus, if you commit a “crime” and hide it until the clock runs out, then whatever you did also isn’t a crime and everyone can pretend it didn’t happen.
What’s weird about the MWH contract backdating is this: If a contract has been illegally backdated, is the contract still valid, or is it considered a fraudulent contract and so is void? And if a company knows a contract is or has been or knows is about to be backdated and ignores that falsity, is that the kind of company that should be on the favored short-list for a humongous County project? Maybe the county counsel will tell us.
Planning Commission Starts To Work
On Thursday morning, the County Planning Commission started the long process of weighing in on the Hideous Sewer Project. Chairperson Sarah Christie runs a tight ship and organized the presentation and public comment into coherent blocks in order to encourage various citizens and groups to keep their comments focused so that their comments and concerns can remain clear to the Commissioners. Good idea, since this project is so complex and the community and others involved groups did their homework and had plenty of thoughtful questions and concerns. The Commission will meet again Thursday, April 30 to continue the process.
Some highlights that the Commission may be looking at further :
1. Clearly, everyone is pushing towards tertiary treatment. Think that’ll be a done deal.
2. However, since the original project didn’t include tertiary, this clear new direction raised some key questions: a) why throw tertiary treated water away on trans-evaporative spray fields when tertiary water has a lot more uses available than simply being “disposed of.” b) if ag use and urban reuse are planned, don’t need to meet the RWQCB’s nitrate levels by expensive removal processes, since nitrogen is a valuable resource for ag exchange or reuse on urban parks, golf-courses, which could both save money and could result in a different treatment method, i.e. ponds versus energy intensive BioLAC & etc.
3. If spay fields aren’t now necessary or prudent or the only solution for “disposal,” then may not need to use all the Tonini property, could locate the treatment plant on Giacomezzi, run pipes to smaller spray fields, and/or holding ponds, or be ready for ag exchange, even on parts of the Tonini land, thereby increasing ag use rather than decreasing ag use, thereby reducing necessity for mitigation costs & etc.
4. Clearly expressed majority of folks don’t want to dump water out of the basin. The rep for Golden State Water asked that ALL the water be re-imported back to the basin and made available to the water purveyors, but how that would work wasn’t explained. Sell it? Give it to them so they can resell to the taxpayers who paid to clean it up for reuse in the first place? Put it . . . where?
5. Look again at the Gorby Property and the alleged Creek Basin Alluvial area that supposedly can cache water underground for recharge, could use that for summer storage and Broderson for winter recharge with the water also there for ag exchange.
6. Repeated questions as to why the county shorted The Process by taking STEP off the plate before design-build bids would be allowed. (This raised an interesting point. Chairman Christie noted that the Planning Commission is working from a document and a Process that includes STEP through to the end, so she had to ask if the BOS had pre-empted the Commission’s responsibility and authority in this “process” and/or whether the document they were working from is still valid and “legal,” since that short-listing suddenly changed what they are, under law, supposed to be doing. It was also noted by one speaker that shorting the Process could lead to a lawsuit for violating CEQA rules & etc. And noted by another speaker that she had called the (utterly Green) Rocky Mountain Institute about this project and was told that SLO County is “too hostile” to anything “green/design-build/anything NOT traditional gravity sewers & etc) and they wouldn’t set foot here. And since there was a recent Design/Build conference here, followed by the very interesting shorting of the Process that would cut out genuine Design/Build (in which all options are on the table, let the best technology determining the final project, versus shorting requirements to such a degree that the project is, in reality, already “designed” and really only needs a “bid,” – heh-heh -- not true design/build.) Additional claims that this project favors certain contractors, is a “rigged process” bordering on “public corruption” (reference to the MWH story posted above?) and a Process that was purposely narrowed, & etc.
All of which then raises more questions that the Planning Commission is stuck with: Are they playing with a full deck or have they been preempted and handed only certain cards and patted on the head and told to “decide” whether they’d pick the four of clubs or the duce of diamonds and when they ask,”Hey, where’s the full deck?” they’re patted on the head and told, “Sorry, no can do, shut up and give us our permit and stop asking annoying questions already.” Sigh.)
7. Sludge was a timely question since the County still doesn’t have a county-wide sludge plan in place and, according to both the Tribune and New Times, likely won’t have that figured out for another year or more. What was once considered a useful “biosolid” for ag use, is now being shunned as a hazardous waste that needs to be secured in sealed landfills & etc. (STEP tanks and pond systems “digest” most biosolids thereby leaving way less sludge to be disposed of than other treatment systems, but since STEP and ponds are off the table, the Planning commission will likely have to go whistle if they want to get clear answers regarding sludge at this point.)
8. Interesting issue raised concerning undeveloped lots within the PZ. Fear that waiting for the basin wide/PZ mitigation plans with Fish and Wildlife could take YEARS to do collectively, (for the project as a whole) hence property owners with vacant lots waiting to build their dream homes and their heirs and their heirs, yea unto the tenth generation, a la Bleak House, will all be dead of old age before that will happen. One speaker suggested letting vacant lot owners pay a bundle for the sewer assessment now, and then also pay a bundle directly to F&W to mitigate their lot only and then go guild build, thereby putting more money into the project right now. Another speaker, representing vacant lot-folks, made it clear that building in the basin/PZ will depend on the availability of water so it’s critical that the basin’s water NOT be taken out and dumped, thereby making build out all but impossible for everyone with an undeveloped lot. & etc.
9. Julie Tacker, former CSD Director, stressed that water is the #1 issue, not nitrates or sewage, so shouldn’t remove water outside the basin. Said not to issue a permit until we get a co-equal analysis for alternate disposal ideas, since right now, the county’s only plan is spray fields, perhaps it would help to take a look at alternate disposal plans, especially since tertiary now seems a given.
10. Scott Kimura, resident of the Los Osos Valley, who has publicly opposed moving the sewer plant out of town, nonethess supports the Tonini project and it’s tie in with future ag water use, which makes me wonder if, with tertiary water now all but a given, if farmers out in the valley, including one organic farmer, are re-thinking what a lot of farmers in Monterrey County and Watsonville have re-thought when they voluntarily signed on to get all the treated wastewater they could get their hands on (likely with all those nice nitrates?) for their fields?
11. And finally Alon Pearlman asked the One Huge Question: Who is steward of the aquifer? Now THAT’S a can of worms that very few are brave enough to open, but it is a critical question to keep in mind since It’s The Water, Stupid, and if agencies keep get sidetracked to their own narrowed focus (nitrates, ag use, Williamson Acts, development planning & etc) it’s easy to lose track of the Big Picture. Is it possible that if everyone keeps focused on total full cycle --aquifer to tap to toilet to ground to aquifer to tap again and/or sky to roof to green driveways to green streets to flood basins to ocean/aquifer to sky again – in other words full cycle use and reuse – then the proper solutions will arrive?
Sure will. Question is, will we be open to seeing the answers instead of only seeing our presupposed, pre-determined, short-listed, pre-selected plans? We’ll see.
Planning Commission will continue, April 30, Thursday, starting a 8:45 a.m.