Oh, Thanks For Letting Me Know, Guys ...
Typical. Saturday I went to post some more entries only to find the blog page locked with a note that the page would be down for 10 minutes Sunday morning at 2 a.m. So, O.K. I figured Yahoo did't know how to tell time. When it was still locked at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, I contacted Greg, the Blog Master to see what was up. After much fooferawing, we figured out that Yahoo changed up the whole blog sign in routine, and forgot to tell their clients. Anyway, Greg got it straigtened out so, we're baaaccckkkk. Happily, the blog comment section worked so my dedicated Sewer Dawgs have been happily chewing on each other's ankles while I've been gone. Well, here's some new meat.
More Tea! More Tea!
Ah, a splendid day at the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The update on the Sewer brought out the Usual Suspects, but there was one inadvertent agenda item that was pure gravy for Los Osos residents who came early and were sitting in the audience.
I’m speaking, of course, of the City of Grover Beach being brought to heel and informed that they would be required to enroll that day in the SWMP (Stormwater Management Plan, pronounced “swamp,”) and so be brought under the direct control of our RWQCB staff, and under the Statewide General Permit.
Oddly, Grover Beach’s officials, backed up by testimony from Jerry Bunin of the Home Builder’s Association, were there to object, explain why they objected, and to plead for more time. It was beyond delicious and I could sense first disbelief followed by Cheshire Cat grins from all the Los Osos folks sitting in the audience.
Here’s some of what had Grover Beach’s officials panties in a bunch: The proposed program they were being “asked” to join was:
** Roger Brigg’s recommendations were seen overly restrictive and in some cases, difficult to achieve, the standards have and keep changing and GB wanted to look again at those requirements to see which worked and which didn’t work and were pleading for more time – 2 years instead of 1 – to make sure they were able to get this right.
** The plans required were too costly and often impracticable to implement
** Costs keep ramping up, regs keep ramping up, and so this is too great a burden financially on the city’s budget, which is near busted. Neither the City nor the people of Grover Beach can afford what’s being demanded.
** The SWMP program was seen as exceeding the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP) rule and the city considers it all as an unfunded mandate.
** To which Jerry Bunin added, that the RWQCBs plan, which GB was being “asked” to sign on to that day, was that their requirements were contraindicated if GB was going to attempt to achieve “smart growth,” tended to make sprawl more likely, used data that was 6 years out of date instead of newer EPA regs (i.e. bad science.) and could end up making an o.k. situation worse instead of better.
Well, Briggs and the Board were having none of that. They weren’t about to brook hesitancy from these “anti-stormwater obstructionists!” No, no, they assured the reps from GB, who had by now made it perfectly clear they were leery as hell, not only of these regs and this program, but made it clear that their problem was with STAFF and that problem was that STAFF often made decisions that may not comply with the general rules or even directives from the Board itself. In other words, the officials from GB didn’t feel safe with what STAFF was doing and felt there was a disconnect between just who was in charge here: the Board or Briggs?
Ah, well, replied Mr. Briggs, with silence from the Board. No need to feel distrustful of OUR intentions, said he, with his bright teeth shining. We here in the SWAMP will require that you enroll today, but don’t worry, all the details you’re concerned about can be worked out . . . . later . . . . so just come lay yourselves down here on the bank of the great, grey greasy Limpopo River. Never mind the crocs. They’re here to . . . serve you.
And so it came to pass. The dear, sweet naifs from Grover Beach disappeared into the SWMP Enrollment while all the Los Osos residents sat there and smiled and smiled and smiled. . . . unaffordable . . . onerous . . . bad science . . . out of date . . . counterproductive of smart build . . .pointless requirements . . . unfunded mandates . . staff running amok . . .
Ah, deju vu time. And soon, for the poor dears in Grover Beach, it’ll be time for them to understand, WE’RE ALL LOS OSOS NOW.
Then it was on to the update of the Los Osos Wastewater Project and immediately the issue of Water raised its ugly head. (I know, hard to imagine, this being the Regional WATER QUALITY Control Board). What came to the fore were the issues of taking water out of the basin, rebalancing the basin, and sea water intrusion.
Most telling of all was Dr. Monica Hunter who noted that the basin water numbers were all over the map and what she wanted to know was a simple question that sent knee-jerk shudders up and down the line of her fellow Board members: There’s new studies that should be ready by June that will give newer (and hopefully better) numbers as to just what the water basin yields are. Since the County is under direct pressure by the RWQCB to brook NO DELAY, noted Dr. Hunter, (drolly? ironically?) would the Board see a way to send a letter or otherwise make it clear that the County should “delay” any final plans or RFPs or bids or designs UNTIL they had a chance to review the latest studies just in case those new water numbers might indicate a design change and so they’d be able to make those changes BEFORE moving ahead, instead of moving ahead and then, uh-oh, too late, too bad, finding out they could have done things a little differently with far greater/better results?
Delay? DELAY to get better data so as to ensure the project will actually work as planned, rather than just build whatever so as to not DELAY? Slow down . . . pause . . . delay even by a few weeks???? The shudder through the Board was palpable and sent, once again, the clear message: The majority of this Board STILL doesn’t “get it.” Burned into their brains is the Original Big Lie: That Los Osos is a bunch of urine swilling, anti-sewer obstructionists who must be punished and any project jammed through, even a bad one.
Clearly, despite a recap presentation yet again of the assessment vote, the survey results indicating strong community support for water reuse issues, as well as the public testimony of concern about the water, the Board still doesn’t get it. Dr. Hunter requests that this Board support making sure the County gets and uses the best ,most up to date science concerning WATER, even if it means a couple of months “delay,” and the Board shivers and recoils.
Ultimately, after some hemming and hawing, Project Director Paavo Ogren soothingly noted that it’s highly likely the June water reports will come in on time, the CEQA rules require it be evaluated and any project changes be done if the new information warrants it, and all that will take place before the County reports back to the RWQCB again. This let the Board off the hook. No need to take a stand or write a letter or take any action concerning WATER or SCIENCE or anything else, and if they do write a letter, it should simply just vaguely “encourage” the County to keep the June reports in mind and Mr. Briggs had no objection so long as the words “no significant delay” be added in, which would still give him the legal and procedural authority to call it and “fine Los Osos out of existence,” – ie. Prosecute all Los Osos homeowners immediately, since that’s the “trigger” for enforcing all the CAOs which are now already in place. (Most of Los Osos is blissfully unaware of this, of course.)
Then during public comment, Alon Pearlman once again asked a question he posed on this blog comment section: Who are the stewards for the water basin? That is a critical question since there appears to be so many partial stewards, each looking out for their own interests, it’s easy to see how the big picture – and the water – can slip away while nobody’s looking.
And then for some comic relief, CDO recipient Bev DeWitt Moylan asked for a simple accounting of the Board’s own Cease and Desist plans – as spelled out in their own procedures and rules—since they had spent gazillions of dollars (remember the Grand Inquisitor flown down to SLO for the endless Mad Hatter Tea Party “Trials?”) which singled out The Los Osos 45 for “prosecution.” In undertaking such a huge effort, the Board obviously must have been really, really serious about “Water” and making sure the CDO recipients did everything to comply with their CDOs and the RWQCB’s own rules, right?
Here’s Moylan's written comments submitted to the Board, some of which were delivered by her husband Bill (comment time was cut to 2 minutes for speakers so prepared statements had to be hastily altered), followed by the critical and hilarious questions she actually asked the Board:
From: Beverley De Witt-Moylan
Re: Comments for CCRWQCB Meeting of 5/9/09
Date: May 8, 2009
“In October 2005 we sent in our last mortgage payment after several years of sacrifice to pay it off early so that we would have no worries about our home following retirement. On January 30, 2006 we received our Cease and Desist Order. Eighteen months later we were retired, living in a home we own outright, a home you threaten to confiscate through daily fines dating back to 1988, civil and criminal prosecution, and a discharge prohibition that condemns our home.
To cooperate with the discharge prohibition to avoid any possibility of exposure to penalties and fines we have asked repeatedly to no avail for assistance in complying immediately with our Cease and Desist Order. We have heard from Mr. Briggs that, “There is no deadline to take this action as long as the County is proceeding with the project. At this time the County is proceeding satisfactorily, and we remain optimstic (sic) that the County will successfully see the project through to completion.” Our CDO, however, states that the enforcement process timeline commences on January 1, 2011. If the County is not making what you deem to be “reasonable progress” toward a wastewater treatment facility in Los Osos on that date, then we find ourselves on the road to eviction.
Mr. Briggs also stated that, “A legitimate consultant experienced in small-scale wastewater treatment could assist you.” We presume that “small scale wastewater treatment” involves an on-site system. Yet the CCRWQCB is on record as supporting no onsite system. Matt Thompson told my husband not to “go that way” when he asked for help in identifying an on-site system the CCRWQCB would approve.
Recently the Chairman told us that we “were raising the same issues…and it is not productive nor a good use of time to keep repeating this cycle.” We do not believe we are repeating a cycle. We are repeating a request which has not had a response from this board that helps us resolve the dilemma you and your staff contrived for us..
As you are well aware, San Luis Obispo County supervisors recently approved a short list of gravity only purveyors. If their decision results in appeals and law suits, it virtually ensures delay in the County sewer project.
We require an answer. In the event that there is material cessation to the County project resulting from delays caused by protests, appeals, and lawsuits based on recent Board of Supervisor decisions, you need to provide a plan for how we are to meet the terms of our Cease and Desist Order. This is a situation that has not yet had a reasonable, comprehensible answer. If you insist upon retaining the enforcement actions then you must assist us in complying timely with this order.”
And Moylan’s questions read to the Board:
Questions for the CCRWQCB staff who proposed our Cease and Desist Order and for the CCRWQCB Board Members who executed our Cease and Desist Order:
What material benefit to the groundwater in Los Osos can you report following 2-to-2 1/2 years of individual cooperation by 45 families with the requirements of their random individual enforcement orders to date?
What are your criteria to determine the success or failure of random individual enforcement against 45 families in Los Osos as a groundwater management strategy to date?
Given the current state of the County project and the implied certainty of delay through protests, appeals, and litigation, what plans do you have in place to assist those of us with Cease and Desist Orders to comply with the prohibition deadline as a groundwater management strategy?
If you have no plan in place, when will that plan be in place?
It was too bad the dear, sweet naifs from Grover Beach, so recently “enrolled” in the SWMP, weren’t there to hear the Board’s silence. They would have understood what they’re now facing, as swamp enrollees. And you can also understand just why, earlier in the meeting, all those folks from Los Osos were grinning like Cheshire Cats listening to those poor GB dears talking about unfunded mandates, bad science, out of date studies, counterproductive requirements, stonewalling silence, run amok staff, and unaffordable and useless plans. Not that those Cheshire Cat smiles weren’t full of sympathy. They were, they were.
A Later Note
On the same agenda was an item for the Board to vote to give $950,000 to the Wild Cherry Canyon project, a plan to put together piles of money to buy a large chunk of land to extend Montana de Oro State Park to Avila Beach. The money is fine/settlement money from an old spill/clean up settlement. The STAFF of the RWQCB nixed the plan, wishing to spend the money on SWMP-type programs. But the board overruled the staff’s recommendation and voted to help this once in a lifetime conservation effort.
Even though the money was coming from RWQCB “fines,” I couldn’t help thinking about all the money the RWQCB wasted on the Mad Hatter Tea Party and Torquemada Inquisition Kangaroo Court trying and convicting and hanging The Los Osos 45.
To date, nobody can get any guestimate as to the amount of the taxpayers money they wasted on that appalling decision. Responses to inquires as to the total expenditure are returned with a bland comment that the Board doesn’t keep track of stuff like that. The amount had to be a genuinely huge bundle -- days and days of hearings, a Grand Inquisitor being flown down from Sacramento, endless staff time, eighty seven tons of paper. In short, a bundle. All totally wasted because it didn’t fix a single drop of water. Think of what good that money could have been used for had it been used properly. Sad.
New posting over at The Rock, email@example.com, “Rock Exclusive: BOS Clears MWH, Paavo Ogren of Conflict of Interest in Los Osos Sewer; Schicker Stands Firm.”
Reading the posting, what I found fascinating was County counsel Jensen’s comments: “My review of the materials that were submitted . . . I found nothing substantial in the materials that were submitted . . . .” [emphasis added]
Reading this and knowing LawyerSpeak, I kept finding myself mentally adding, “ . . . of course, I haven’t opened the box yet, but in reviewing the cover letter here, I can absolutely declare that I see nothing substantial in this cover letter. Nope, nope, nothing in this letter. Of course, I haven’t opened the box yet. And right now I’m thinking that I don’t have to do that since I can declare, with absolute certainty here from the dais, that there’s nothing about the fiber content of the cardboard, or how old the string is, or how many stamps are on it, that indicates anything substantial, so maybe nobody will notice that I haven’t actually opened the box before declaring the cover letter to be insubstantial, which, you will agree, is, at this moment in time, a FACTUALLY correct statement, the part about the cover letter, you see?”
As the Rock’s “exclusive,” snarkily notes, “Jensen did not disclose as to whether he researched any of the referenced documents listed in Schicker’s materials.”
Well, perhaps Mr. Jensen will actually open the box and write a more detailed report as to what’s in the box. Or maybe not. As I have noted before, nothing is “Illegal” until a DA somewhere says it’s “illegal.” And while public officials are required to LOOK at formal complaints, there is no law that says they have to SEE them. It’s all in the eye of the beholder and all up for interpretation. The Jensen Report will ‘splain it all.