Public Water Now Appeals Planning Commission Ruling on Cal Am Desal Permit

By Melodie Chrislock

Public Water Now has filed an appeal with the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to set aside the permit issued by the Monterey County Planning Commission to Cal Am for its proposed desal plant until a Supplemental EIR is completed.
The Planning Commission’s ruling in favor of Cal Am’s Desal permit was narrowly passed by a vote of 6 to 4. The four District 4 and 5 Commissioners who opposed it, and whose districts would directly affect, wisely asked for more time and more detail to make their decision.
The Planning Commission decision violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Monterey County General Plan, the North County Local Coastal Plan, the Sustained Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the California Constitution, and established California law governing groundwater rights.
PWN’s appeal asks for a Supplemental EIR because the EIR prepared by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is inadequate and incomplete and did not address mandated legal and environmental requirements. It did not evaluate the data and anticipated adverse impacts of Cal Am’s desal project on groundwater in the Salinas Valley Basin identified by the Stanford AEM study.
A glaring omission was the fact that Cal Am has no groundwater rights in the Salinas Valley and cannot legally secure them. The County General Plan and LCP, SGMA and CEQA require proof of groundwater rights before a permit may be issued.
Clearly County Planning Commission staff did not provide the Commissioners with the vital information they needed to make a sound decision. There was no discussion of the many substantial objections raised by PWN and others at the hearing. Instead the Commissioners were asked to issue this permit simply because the CPUC had approved the project.
Commissioners were also told it was urgent to move forward and that any delay would result in rationing. It was never pointed out that there was no urgency because the back up plan recently initiated by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and Monterey One Water could meet the State ordered CDO deadline, if Cal Am could not.

The "backup" plan is the expansion of Pure Water Monterey. This fall PWM will begin delivering 3,500 acre-feet of water annually. This innovative project can be expanded to deliver another 2,250 acre-feet. 

Read the recent Herald article on the Pure Water Monterey Expansion HERE.

Environmentally and economically, the Pure Water Monterey expansion is a much better water supply solution than Cal Am’s proposed desal project. It would provide water at about one third the cost and it can meet the CDO deadline. The expansion would provide all the water the Peninsula needs for years to come, making Cal Am’s desal unnecessary.

Take the PURE WATER MONTEREY TOUR with PWN on June 21.

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