I received a copy of the Sustainability Group’s request for permit revocation that was presented to the Coastal Commission. A previous posting that simply referenced Ron Crawford’s recent posting on a sewerish issue brought out the sewer crazies in this comment section. This document is for the sane people who might wonder just what’s in the document. (I note the cover letter’s notation that the Tribune apparently never bothered to read the document or even call for clarification before writing their story so it’s likely there’s a whole lot of people who have no clue what was sent to the Coastal Commissioners.) There’s also a link to the complete document giving fuller information as to why SG is asking for the Commission to take a second look.
This document will a) be totally dismissed, or b) cause some further modifications or improvements to be made, or c) result in the permit being pulled. A few years down the line, the document will be proven to be a) a huge waste of time and effort or b) a chilling blueprint outlining a train wreck.
But, I’m posting it here so anyone interested in following all this can at least read what was actually written and the reasons behind the request, instead of just making stuff up or flying into hysteria then making stuff up. The history that focuses on Resolution 83-13 is most interesting. I’ve long held that that Resolution was and is the fatal flaw in this entire enterprise. Because it went for the cheap/fast/easy “low lying fruit,” it was both too little and too much and kept missing the fundamental issue: A Water Basin.
History will decide whether all of this will play out as planned. Or not. Either way, the SG’s effort is part of the Process that is the Coastal Commission’s responsibility to review before moving forward.
A warning to some of you Sewer Crazies. I’ve left the open comment on this blog so it’s easier for sane people to participate in a discussion without fear of harassment. But if you start in on your ridiculous neener-neenering, I’ll start dumping you right and left. This document has plenty of interesting factual information in it to discuss and plenty of rational opinion to discuss. It doesn’t contain ad hominem attacks and so doesn’t require that in return. So, mind your manners, children.
Just wanted to update you on what the Los Osos Sustainability Group (LOSG) has been working on for the last 5 months. After going through over 1,000 documents (over 10,000 pages), a comprehensive story developed that explains how the current project developed over the last 30-years, and how this project could have disastrous adverse consequences on the Los Osos area, including the water basin and vital sensitive habitat. We feel the evidence presented strongly shows this project will do more harm than good. I am hoping you will take the time to read the following, and if you agree with it, take the time to write the Coastal Commission, and let them know of your worries and concerns.
As you may of read in the Tribune, LOSG submitted a "Request for revocation of the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the Los Osos Wastewater Project (LOWWP)" on February 20, 2012. There have been many comments regarding the request, but frankly, few have read the request, so many of the comments we feel are unfounded. The Tribune did not even read the request before printing the article, nor did they contact anyone from LOSG for comment or questions. We hope that you will read it, and then any comments you have about the request, positive or negative, at least will be from an informed position.
The full request can be viewed here: http://www.csclososo.com/?page_id=412
Email addresses of Coastal Commission members are attached.
I am including the cover letter for the request below, which gives an overview of the request (this can also be downloaded from the web site, along with the full request, and an outline).
Attached is our Request for Revocation of the Los Osos Wastewater Project (LOWWP) Coastal Development Permit (CDP). This cover letter provides an overview of the issues covered by the Request, including why we are submitting the Request and why the Commission should revoke the LOWWP permit. Basically, the information we present shows the LOWWP could have disastrous adverse consequences on the Los Osos area, including the water basin and vital sensitive habitat, and agencies intentionally provided inaccurate, erroneous, and incomplete information that failed to disclose these impacts. Additionally, the evidence we provide shows agencies substantially exaggerated the benefits of the project and failed to disclose that a much less harmful, feasible alternative is available. As you know, the Los Osos Basin is a threatened resource, on which many vital systems rely. Water and wastewater decisions must be based on the best possible accurate and complete information.
Basis for revocation request and why we must submit it
The LOSG received the email from Mr. Carl on January 23, 2012, stating the criteria we must meet for a successful revocation request. We are sure our request meets that criteria and the Commission will see that 1) the County and CCRWQCB withheld information or intentionally provided inaccurate or erroneous information prior to June 2010, 2) the information was crucial to decision making and could have led to denial of the project or changed conditions, and 3) the LOSG has done due diligence as citizens to get the information to the Commission as soon as possible given the complexity of issues, size of the record, intentional withholding of information, and necessity for the issue to be addressed comprehensively. (Also see LOSG letter to the Coastal Commission dated January 26, 2012, pp. 10 & 11 and Section IV.E of the Request for Revocation for further evidence of due diligence.)
A comprehensive picture of issues, in the case of Los Osos, is necessary to show why a large body of evidence on the record supporting the project no longer constitutes substantial evidence. A complete presentation of issues is also needed to show how and why very serious potential adverse impacts remain unmitigated, why the project could do more harm than good (and cannot not be conditioned to protect resources), and why a management alternative is the least harmful feasible alternative. Finally, a comprehensive picture is needed to show why a process driven by Resolution 83-–-13 is inherently flawed and has led to a project that will harm resources.
We are sure the Commission will see that the issues are too important not to address. This project could have extremely serious adverse consequences on the Los Osos Valley Water Basin, the sole source of water for the area already threatened by an extremely urgent seawater intrusion problem. It could have severe adverse impacts on very high value sensitive habitat, including Morro Bay National Estuary and Los Osos Creek endangered steelhead habitat. It could also have severe adverse consequences on the lives of many people now and in the future, on air quality, and climate change. The Commission approved the project on the basis that it is “critically necessary” to protect these resources, based on County and CCRWQCB official statements and documents. However, the information we present shows that information is not accurate, and the project could severely harm those resources.
As citizens in possession of this information, we have no choice but to present it as soon as possible in the effort to prevent severe harm to resources. If agencies cannot show with specific evidence that septic systems are a significant source of pollution of the estuary and pose a significant threat to health and safety, that the project will stop that pollution and threat and is essential for basin sustainability, and that the severe potential adverse impacts we identify are mitigated with specific, measureable, enforceable-–--–-and feasible measures-–--–-then the permit should be revoked. This is what the County and CCRWQCB information claims, yet it is not supported by the information we located in the record. The decision to allow this project to go forward must be based on facts and an unbiased analysis of facts using the most relevant, complete, and accurate information available. This project has the potential to destroy a water basin, vital habitat, and a community. The decision to allow this project to go forward cannot be based on popular opinion, political expediency, or on information that might otherwise fail to meet Coastal Commission standards for accurate and complete information or CEQA standards for substantial evidence.
The information the County and CCRWQCB provided to the Commission claims that septic systems are causing significant harm to resources and the LOWWP will stop that harm, it is needed for basin sustainability, and it is least harmful feasible alternative. The information we provide shows that County officials knew the following prior to approval of the project on June 11, 2010.
· Septic systems are not significantly polluting the estuary or related habitat, and the project will not provide a significant benefit to these resources.
· The project provides no significant benefits to the basin and is not needed for basin sustainability.
· The project has severe unmitigated potential adverse impacts on key resources: 1) the Los Osos groundwater basin, 2) very high value environmentally sensitive habitat (ESHA), 3) human health and safety, and 4) air quality (GHGs), for which feasible mitigation is unlikely.Some of the most serious unmitigated potential impacts not disclosed include the following:
· Severe impacts from earthquakes due to liquefaction under homes downhill from the Broderson disposal site that could result in loss of life, major property damage, and long-–-term shut down of the wastewater system.
· Substantial adverse impacts to the upper aquifer (significant drops in water levels, seawater intrusion, reduced beneficial use, and adverse impacts to protected aquatic habitat), resulting from two issues: a delay of 2 to 14 years or more between the time septic system return flows stop recharging the upper aquifer (dispersed vertical recharge) and the time Broderson leach fields (centralized lateral recharge) restore water levels and replace flows (assuming Broderson disposal is feasible and works as planned). This impact is substantially increased by the adverse cumulative effects of major shifts in pumping to the upper aquifer, which water purveyors are currently planning to address the urgent seawater intrusion problem.
· Substantial adverse impacts to all aquifers and habitat from conservation and recycled water programs that provide little if any mitigation. The CDP provides for a conservation and recycled water program to back up to Broderson disposal and add a margin of safety. However, agencies overstated the mitigation potential of both of these measures and failed to disclose adverse impacts. By June 2010, a considerable amount of conservation had already occurred in Los Osos greatly reducing or eliminating the potential for conservation to mitigate for the project. Also, agencies knew the recycled water program would not offset pumping of the lower aquifer significantly (so would not significantly mitigate for seawater intrusion), and they knew the high salt content the water could destroy soils and aquifers, also resulting in underuse of the program and/or the need for additional mitigation and facilities. The SWRCB has required a “feasibility study” for the recycled water program. However, a “study” after the fact does not mitigate for impacts or ensure feasibility. The CDP includes the recycled water program as a main mitigation measure for seawater intrusion and habitat, yet it has undisclosed, unmitigated potential adverse impacts on the basin, habitat, farmland, and farming aquifers.
· Substantial unmitigated adverse impacts, including indirect and cumulative impacts, on the lower aquifer that could make the extremely urgent seawater intrusion problem worse. Purveyors have not come to an agreement on how to manage the basin to stop seawater intrusion and will not likely come to an agreement or make necessary investments to shift pumping to the upper aquifer realizing that the project will have major impacts on the basin. For example, they know the project has significant unmitigated impacts on the upper aquifer, and they know recycled water will be high in salts. They will not commit resources to the recycled water program or shifts in pumping to the upper aquifer if these measures put investments at risk (although experts agree urgent major shifts in pumping to the upper aquifer are needed to address seawater intrusion). The project also has unmitigated socio-–-economic impacts on these resources. The project will delay or prevent necessary water management measures, future mitigations, and major system repairs (e.g., due to earthquakes) because these essential measures will not be affordable to rate payers.• Substantial unmitigated impacts on Los Osos Creek, endangered steelhead habitat, resulting from a reduction in groundwater flows that could reduce flows in the creek and increase contaminant levels by reducing the size and viability of buffering wetlands (e.g., Willow Creek Drainage). The project includes extensive mitigation for a possible minor drop in water levels in the creek as a pipe is installed over the creek, but ignores this much more serious impact.
These are some of the unmitigated impacts that we identify and explain in our Request for Revocation. The information we provide shows that County and CCRWQCB withheld information necessary for the Commission to recognize that the project has severe unmitigated impacts, provides no significant benefits on the estuary and basin, and will do more harm than good. The evidence we provide also shows these agencies withheld information showing a less-–-harmful, feasible alternative exists. A comprehensive management program, similar to the plan in effect for the San Lorenzo River Watershed will do everything officials claim this project will do, and much more, at a fraction of the cost. The CCRWQCB also has jurisdiction over the San Lorenzo Watershed.
Why information provided by the CCRWCB should be considered in this request
Although the County is the CDP applicant and lead agency under CEQA, your decision to grant the permit, according to the CDP Staff Report of May 27, 2010, is based on the finding that State and Regional Water Boards are requiring the Los Osos project. Further, the Commission relied, to a large extent, on information provided to you by the CCRWQCB for findings that resulted in the approval of the project. Much of that information is inaccurate, erroneous, or incomplete. Although the Commission’s authority is limited when reviewing a treatment works, the Commission does have the right and responsibility to expect and ensure the information provided to you by agencies is accurate and complete, in order to make the best decision possible. It has become clear to us, based on the evidence we provide, that, while the CCRWQCB and SWRCB are requiring the project, the agencies are not committed to project mitigation or basin sustainability.
Why Resolution 83-–-13 must not drive decision making and should be rescinded
Resolution 83-–-13 is driving the implementation of a centralized wastewater project for the prohibition zone of Los Osos, but Resolution 83-–-13 is not based on substantial evidence in the record. Most of the key findings supporting Resolution 83-–-13 have been refuted or no longer apply. CEQA precludes inclusion of inaccurate information as substantial evidence. So long as the effort to solve the water quality and supply issues in Los Osos begin and end with Resolution 83-–-13, Los Osos resources will be at risk. We’ve provided a discussion of Resolution 83-–-13 in our request so the Commission, including why and how Resolution 83-–-13 has resulted in a flawed environmental review process and project that will harm resources.
Los Osos should not be subjected to a project and process controlled by an obsolete regulation. Resolution 83-–-13 was implemented in 1983 under very different conditions, and current science contradicts most of its findings. In 1983, seawater intrusion was not a concern and decision makers believed they could resort to imported water if a centralized wastewater project caused seawater intrusion or buildout proved unsustainable. The realities of the 21st Century are much different— evidence supports that the carrying capacity of the basin has been reached and additional building is unsustainable. Thus, a centralized project—conceived and designed to allow buildout—should not be implemented. It will only increase growth pressures at the same time it causes a major disruption to a water basin already under stress from accelerating seawater intrusion moving through the large lower aquifers-–--–-9/10ths of total basin capacity—at 700 feet per year. Los Osos should not be held captive to decisions made in the 20th Century, which threaten resource substantially in the 21st Century. Therefore we are asking you to use your authority to have Resolution 83-–-13 rescinded.
How this project drives unsustainable growth
As our members of the LOSG have pointed out in the past, this project drives unsustainable growth by being so expensive that property owners and public officials will support more growth just to have the costs reduced. This is one way the County is promoting more growth. Recently, we’ve heard the County is preparing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and applying for a “Sustainable Community” grant for a “study” of sustainable water supplies. This “study” will undoubtedly find that there is enough water in the basin for build out. To support this finding, the study will undoubtedly provide “proof” in the form of a hydrological study that relies on modeling. In the 1980s and 1990s, rather than limit growth, the County relied on revised models, which “proved” the basin could sustain more growth—and 20 years later we have a critical seawater intrusion problem. It is time to stop this cycle of resource overuse in Los Osos. We do not have the luxury in the 21st Century to sponsor growth at the expense of resources, nor do we have the luxury to install a $190 million wastewater project whose only verifiable benefit is to allow building, both of which set Los Osos on a course toward disaster.
How the Request for Revocation is organized
Our request for revocation entitled Request for Revocation of the LOWWP CDP is divided into for parts:
Part I: “Agencies intentionally provided the Commission inaccurate and incomplete information that would have required additional or different conditions or denial of the permit.” [Violation of Coastal Commission Administrative Regulation 14 CCR § 13105 (a)]
Part II. The project’s adverse impacts and risks far outweigh its benefits.
Part III. “Property owners adversely affected by the project were not notified and given a chance to comment.” [Violation of Coastal Commission Administrative Regulation 14 CCR § 13105 (b)]
Part IV. “The Commission failed to comply with the Coastal Act and CEQA due to inaccurate, erroneous, or incomplete information. (The CCRWQCB and SWRCB also violated CEQA.)
(Please also see “Outline of Request” and previous related letters/emails attached or on disc.)
If our Request for Revocation is denied, we ask that the Commission provide specific reasons and the specific evidence (documents) used as the basis for the decision. Again, we regret any inaccuracies or inconsistencies in our request. We have done the best we can to cover the issues within a timeframe that avoids harm to resources. If Commissioners or Commission Staff notice errors or inconsistencies, we request that they are pointed out. We will clarify or correct them.
We thank for your consideration of these important issues.