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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

New Water Supply for Monterey Peninsula Residents Moves Closer to Approval

August 2013
Carmel River The Carmel River near Sulphur Springs Camp in the Ventana Wilderness. Look closely and you will see a mountain lion jumping across the river in his natural habitat. Photograph courtesy of Ventana Wilderness Alliance.

Early this month, three formal settlement agreements regarding the new Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (MPWSP) were filed by California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Cal Am is seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) before the CPUC.

Sierra Club has been engaged in legal action to protect the public trust resources of the Carmel River since 1991 when represented by attorney Larry Silver, the Club filed a complaint with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) protesting Cal Am's continued over drafting of the Carmel River. After years of legal wrangling the SWRCB issued a Cease and Desist Order in 2009. The purpose of this newly revised MPWSP is to replace a significant portion of the existing water supply as directed by the CDO. Sierra Club was one of fifteen signatories to one overall agreement to dismiss litigation challenging the CDO (subject to a tolling agreement) in return for the parties moving forward to get a replacement water supply for the Peninsula by 2016.

By signing this agreement, Sierra Club is not agreeing to an appropriate size for the plant. The agreement sets the desalinization plant size at 6.4 millions of gallons per day (mgd) supplemented by supplies from a Groundwater Replacement Program plus an augmented Aquifer Storage and Recovery Program and a plant sized at 9.6 mgd without recycled water.

The key section of the agreement to the Club is Section 3.1 which recites that the parties believe that the development, construction and operation of the MPWSP serves the public convenience and necessity subject to the CPUC's review of the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is currently being prepared. Additionally the agreement provides a mechanism for hydrogeology studies to study impacts on the ground water basin and other water supply environmental issues.

The other two agreements were concerned with details of sizing and delivery pipeline. Sierra Club signed only one--the overall settlement agreement. Sierra Club believes that as the essential purpose of this agreement is to move the MPWSP project forward so that Cal Am can get off the Carmel River, it warranted Chapter and National Club approval.


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