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Monterey Peninsula residents weigh in on public takeover of Cal Am

SEASIDE, Calif. (KION) Monterey Peninsula residents are fired up about who should control their water after weighing in on a plan to have the public take control of California American Water.

“We don’t have any say at all in how Cal Am is managed,” said Carmel resident Kay Allan.

People KION spoke with think a public takeover will help lower their bills and give them more of a say in how their water is managed. But Cal Am is pushing back, saying they're not for sale.

This all comes after the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District released a consultant study finding public takeover to be economically feasible.

It's a plan voters supported back in 2018, when they approved Measure J to secure and maintain public ownership of all water production.

But Cal Am is speaking out against the move.

“Our water company is not for sale and we don’t think the number there is appropriate,” said Cal Am Vice President Kevin Tilden.

The report estimates the value of Cal Am’s assets to be around $513 million. It claims a public takeover will lower water costs for customers.

But Cal Am thinks otherwise; Tilden said, "when you add all the debt they would incur and pay back, it would be shocking if they would save any money and in the history of water condemnation in California, shows it does not save money.”

MPWMD listened to public comment on the takeover and study Tuesday.

Next steps include a vote to buy the system, but if rejected by Cal Am, this could go to court.

“If they did proceed and if they did lose in an eminent domain proceeding, then yes, the water management district and people in that district would be responsible for paying that bill,” said Phyllis Meurer who is opposed to the public takeover.

But with affordability and environmental protection on people’s minds, they think moves toward public ownership is worth the risks.

“I am a college student. I go to CSUMB, so definitely affordability is a big thing on my mind,” said Josh Norden.

Tuesday's meeting was just for informational purposes and public comment so no final decision was made. MPWMD has a meeting next week to discuss this topic further, but a decision could be made next summer.

Central Coast / Monterey County / Top Stories

Elisha Machado

Elisha Machado is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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