California American Water refiled its application for the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, to obtain a Coastal Development Permit for a desalination facility, with the California Coastal Commission and urged the commission to schedule a new hearing date as soon as possible.
“We needed to take time to put forth the best possible project for the Monterey Peninsula,” said California American Water president Rich Svindland. “It was a necessary step. It’s made the project better and will help build support from the local community and decision makers.”
Svindland said the company now better understands the concerns raised by commissioners and local stakeholders surrounding social and environmental justice, and that changes have been made accordingly.
The desalination component of the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project relies on source water wells located in the City of Marina. After reimagining the initial proposal, California American Water sent a letter to the City of Marina offering new substantial benefits for the City:
- The ability to receive water from the project,
- Agreement to a franchise fee – typically a monthly percentage fee on customers’ bills paid to City,
- Restoration of the former sand mining plant site where the wells would be located, and
- The ability for the City to own portions of infrastructure needed for the project.
City officials expressed an interest in meeting and engaging in discussions to ensure that these benefits adequately address their concerns.
“We’re eager to listen and find ways to make the City more comfortable with our project,” said Svindland. “The environmental analysis of our project demonstrated our wells will help to slow the advancement of seawater intrusion into the aquifer from which the City gets its water. But we’ve heard that is not enough. We want to find solutions that benefit the region and all stakeholders.”
In addition to the outreach to the City of Marina, the company has also offered to seek approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to expand its ratepayer assistance program to a 50% discount for qualifying customers if the desal project moves ahead.
“There’s no question the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project is a substantial investment for our customers and will impact bills,” explained Svindland. “But it’s needed to meet state restrictions on pumping from the Carmel River, our customers’ current main source for water.”
Svindland said water is an essential service that must be affordable for customers at different income levels.
“Our proposed changes would make our customer assistance program for lower-income customers the most generous of any water utility in the state,” said Svindland.
Other changes to the company’s application include the results of additional investigations into the hydrogeologic conditions of the nearby Armstrong Ranch ponds and improvements to the project’s Habitat Mitigation and Monitoring Plan.
Once the staff of the California Coastal Commission deems the application complete, the agency has 180 days to process the request for a Coastal Development Permit, hold a hearing and render a decision.
“The original order to reduce pumping from the Carmel River was issued in 1995,” said Abbie Beane, executive director of the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy. “This problem has persisted for too long without a solution. A lot of great work has been accomplished to restore the river and its tributaries in the intervening period – including the 2015 removal of San Clemente Dam. But pumping from the river remains the fundamental threat to our watershed health and its species. It also affects our area's ability to manage wildfires. The only way to achieve permanent relief and restoration of the resource is construction of replacement water projects.”
“The Monterey Peninsula must solve its long-standing water issues on its own without taking water from the Salinas Valley,” said Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau. “The desal project relies on the ocean and will not harm the Salinas Valley Aquifer. Solving the Peninsula’s water issues also helps to solve social and economic issues faced by our entire region. Having participated in the public review and approval process for this project since 2012, our organization looks forward to a final hearing and positive decision on the desal project as soon as possible.”
“The lack of water on the Monterey Peninsula has served historically as one of the greatest impediments to jobs and housing in our area and remains so today,” said Manny Pinheiro, CEO of the Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades. “The Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project is important to labor – not only for the jobs that will be created during its construction but in supporting future economic activity, including water availability to develop desperately needed affordable housing for working families.”
“The need to protect the Carmel River has been a chief concern for the environment and the Monterey Peninsula community since 1995,” concluded Cal Am president Svindland. “Finding a solution that meets the needs of our customers and the environment can be a difficult balancing act. We’ve heard from many stakeholders and we’ve made many changes to the project along the way to address concerns. We will continue to listen and adjust. We must find a long-term solution for the Carmel River and comply with the state’s order to reduce pumping and we continue to believe the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project is the best solution.”
About California American Water: California American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), provides high-quality and reliable water and/or wastewater services to more than 690,000 California residents. Information regarding California American Water’s service areas can be found on the company’s website www.californiaamwater.com.
About American Water
With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 6,800 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to 15 million people in 46 states. American Water provides safe, clean, affordable and reliable water services to our customers to make sure we keep their lives flowing. For more information, visit amwater.com and follow American Water on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
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California American Water
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