How Soon Can the Expansion Deliver?
On April 26, a new Monterey One Water board voted unanimously to certify the Pure Water Monterey Expansion Environmental Impact Report. Certification had been delayed for over a year by Cal Am and its supporters on the Monterey One board. Now the project is ready to go except for one critical element – a Water Purchase Agreement from Cal Am is needed to obtain financing and begin construction. The Expansion could be completed in 24 months, ending decades of water shortage on the Peninsula.
The PWM Expansion can also protect us from drought. The sooner the Expansion comes online, the sooner we can begin storing water to make up for any drought shortages to the Aquifer Storage and Recovery program, which depends on Carmel River winter flows. If we end up short on water, there will be no one to blame but Cal Am.
The 2,250 acre-feet of recycled water from the Expansion would give the Peninsula enough water for decades of growth, jobs, and new housing. Despite Cal Am's claims that the Expansion is not enough water, it’s clearly enough to make Cal Am's proposed desal plant unnecessary. Big profits from desal are the only reason Cal Am has blocked and undermined the Expansion for the past year.
Not trusting Cal Am do the right thing on its own, the morning after the Expansion was certified, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) filed a complaint against Cal Am with the CPUC. It laid out the history and asked the CPUC to require Cal Am to sign a Water Purchase Agreement for the water from the Expansion. Cal Am is regulated by the CPUC. No other entity has the power to tell Cal Am what to do.
The CPUC has accepted the complaint (C 21-05-005) and assigned it to Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma and Administrative Law Judge Zita Kline. Cal Am was directed to answer the Complaint by June 18, 2021. After more than a year of stalling, it looks like Cal Am may finally be forced to do the right thing?
Do We Have Enough Water in a Drought?
It's been a dry year, and come December, the State's CDO restrictions on pumping from the Carmel River will finally kick in. Will we have enough water without the PWM Expansion?
Pure Water Monterey – Phase One is producing 3,500 acre-feet a year and once the two additional deep injection wells come online in November 2021 and February 2022, there will be another 500 acre-feet available to Cal Am annually.
With a total of 10,050 acre-feet (3,500 acre-feet from Pure Water Monterey plus another 500, 3,376 acre-feet from the Carmel River, 1,474 acre-feet from the Seaside Basin and the 1,200 acre-feet currently in storage from ASR (Aquifer Storage and Recovery), the Peninsula will be able to meet its demand through September 2022. But if we have another dry year without the 2,250 acre-feet from the Expansion it could be very tight.
The beauty of the PWM Expansion is that this 2,250 acre-feet will be stored in the Seaside Groundwater Basin. We won't need all this water for many years. In the meantime, it could build up thousands of acre-feet of reserve to protect us against drought and at the same time protect the Seaside Basin from seawater intrusion.
Cal Am Buyout and LAFCO
Before MPWMD can make Cal Am a buyout offer, the Local Agency Formation Commission of Monterey County (LAFCO) must activate MPWMD's latent powers to sell water retail and run a water company. MPWMD has filed its application with LAFCO and expects to meet with them in June. Once LAFCO approves the application, MPWMD will make Cal Am an offer. That could happen by fall. If Cal Am refuses to sell, the MPWMD board would then vote on moving forward with an eminent domain buyout. They have the five votes necessary to approve the use of eminent domain.
PWN Managing Director