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Better Ask Barry: New devlopment in desal project

With just over two weeks until a crucial vote by the California Coastal Commission, a newly-released staff report is recommending it rejects Cal Am’s plans to build a water desalination plant in Marina.

The desalination plant is the linchpin in Cal Am’s efforts to comply with state requirements to reduce the amount of water it takes from the Carmel River.

Longtime supporters of desal are disappointed by the staff’s recommendations.

“We’ve been trying to get a long term water supply solution here for years. Every time we get this close, we seem to make the mistake and the community does not support the solution. And here we go again,” said Jeff Davi, chairman of the Peninsula Coalition of Businesses.

Last year, the state’s Public Utilities Commission approved the desal project over the objection of environmental groups and the City of Marina.

In a report released Monday, Coastal Commission staff took a different view, citing “new information” that there is “less need for water from new sources than previously thought.”

The report concluded that there are viable alternatives to desal, including expansion of the Pure Water Monterey project, which purifies and recycles water for domestic and Ag use.

Marina mayor Bruce Delgado says it confirms what he and others who oppose the plant have felt all along.

“We don’t need the Cal Am desal plant. We have a better alternative, and that alternative is cheaper, and it’s environmentally friendlier because it doesn’t harm our coastline,” said Delgado.

In a statement to KION, Cal Am said: “It’s important to remember the Coastal Commission staff report is not a decision. If the California Coastal Commission were to deny the project on the basis that the region’s water needs are less than what the CPUC determined, California American Water would have one State agency putting it out of compliance with CPUC orders and regulations and the California Water Code, and at great risk of violating an order from the State Water Resources Control Board.”

The 12-member Coastal Commission is expected to vote on November 14 at its meeting in Half Moon Bay.

Both sides of the desal debate are expected to be lobbying right up to the final vote.

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