It’s expected to cost area agri-businesses about $1 million to
provide bottled water to lower-income Salinas Valley residents
whose water supply has been contaminated by nitrates in the
first year of a pilot program.
State Public Utilities Commission officials are seeking input
on whether to conduct new hearings on California American
Water’s proposed Monterey Peninsula desalination project to
address a number of issues, potentially including an updated
project demand forecast and desal plant sizing evaluation that
could lead to a smaller initial plant that could be more easily
expanded as demand grows in the future.
Lauded as a model for regional collaboration and innovation,
and even the “wave of the future” for the rest of California,
the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project was universally
praised by a group of dignitaries at a groundbreaking ceremony
Machine Gun Flats Lake sits placidly in a natural depression on
what was once an Army training area. It is one of about 45
vernal pools on Bureau of Land Management land on Fort Ord,
teeming with life after an exceptionally wet rainy season, and
a welcome sight after years of drought.
A California American Water official argued the company’s
desalination project can secure key permits and approvals
within six months of certification of the final project
environmental review document and start construction shortly
afterward, despite a series of delays involving the draft
report and the prospect of seeking a critical permit from the
city of Marina.
Mineral rights and royalty owners have filed a new lawsuit
against Monterey County, challenging voter-approved Measure Z,
which establishes some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on
oil and gas operations in the state’s fourth-largest
oil-producing county. … Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking,
and wastewater injection into aquifers will still be prohibited
during the stay.
A Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary representative said
the latest delay involving California American Water’s proposed
Monterey Peninsula desalination project — a 30-day extension of
the public comment period on the project’s draft combined state
and federal environmental review document — could push back
finalization of the report by a month.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously
approved a letter to the California Department of Conservation
expressing their concerns about a proposal to expand the
boundaries of an aquifer where oil-production wastewater is
ARkStorm stands for an atmospheric
river (“AR”) that carries precipitation levels expected to occur
once every 1,000 years (“k”). The concept was presented in a 2011
report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) intended to elevate
the visibility of the very real threats to human life, property
and ecosystems posed by extreme storms on the West Coast.
A new ruling issued by a state Public Utilities Commission
member has indicated the full commission likely wouldn’t
consider approval of California American Water’s Monterey
Peninsula desalination project until March 2018, four months
after company officials had hoped, and suggested that
consideration could be delayed even further.
Lake Cachuma, a giant reservoir built to hold Santa Barbara
County’s drinking water, has all but vanished in California’s
historic drought. It reached an all-time low this summer —
7 percent capacity, which left a thick beige watermark
that circles the hills framing the lake like an enormous
With the passage of Measure Z, which has captured nearly 56
percent of the vote so far, Monterey County would become the
first oil-producing county in California to ban fracking and
expansion of risky oil operations. … Monterey County,
which ranks fourth statewide in oil production, becomes the
sixth county in California to ban fracking.
Outgoing Rep. Sam Farr addressed a 23-member panel bringing
together local representatives from four counties, the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, municipal flood control staff members
and the two candidates running to replace him on Nov. 8, Casey
Lucius and Jimmy Panetta.
The good news for humans and other mammals, said UC Santa Cruz
professor Raphael Kudela, is that the stink and clingy nature
of the foamy water at beaches around Monterey Bay is the worst
of it, because the algal bloom is not producing a toxin.
Mired in drought, expectations are high that new storage funded
by Prop. 1 will be constructed to help California weather the
adverse conditions and keep water flowing to homes and farms.
At the same time, there are some dams in the state eyed for
removal because they are obsolete – choked by accumulated
sediment, seismically vulnerable and out of compliance with
federal regulations that require environmental balance.
Backers of a new Monterey Bay desalination project think they
have found a fix for the environmental problems posed by most
seawater intakes: Instead of drawing seawater from the beach,
they plan to draw from the one of the world’s deepest marine
In what local water activist Ron Weitzman promises is a
precursor to further litigation, the Water Ratepayers
Association of the Monterey Peninsula has filed suit against
the state Coastal Commission and Monterey County seeking to
halt California American Water’s slant test well program for
the proposed desalination plant project.
Promised state funding for the increasingly costly Interlake
Tunnel project in legislation backed by Assemblyman Luis Alejo,
D-Watsonville, has been cut by 60 percent to $10 million,
potentially risking long-term project financing.
In an effort to help maintain the balance between freshwater
habitat and flood protection, the Monterey County Resource
Management Agency brought in special crews to work at the
Carmel Lagoon area Monday.
Local architect Cove Britton is seeking to correct what he
contends are inaccuracies in preliminary flood insurance rate
maps that could negatively affect his clients and their
neighbors in tony Pleasure Point. … Three years ago,
homeowners from Oregon to Maine complained about map
inaccuracies, according to Pro Publica, an investigative
journalism nonprofit that found money for FEMA’s map project
was cut by Congress.
About 100 people, from stakeholders and supporters to
dignitaries and politicians, came out to the former site of the
San Clemente Dam on Monday to celebrate the removal of the dam
and Carmel River Reroute Project.
Reversing course on conducting a series of impact studies, the
Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to place a proposed ban
on hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas well stimulation
techniques on the fall ballot.
Backers of a proposed initiative aimed at banning fracking and
other oil and gas exploration practices announced Thursday
their petition signatures have been verified and deemed
sufficient by the Monterey County registrar of voters just days
after the Board of Supervisors ordered impact studies on the
A new era of groundwater management
began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies
to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management
plans with the state as the backstop.
SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the
“management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be
maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without
causing undesirable results.”
The group Protect Monterey County delivered 16,108 signatures
Wednesday to the Monterey County Elections Department in
support of putting an initiative on the November ballot to ban
fracking and dangerous oil production practices in the county.
Hoping to expand on similar bans already in place in Santa
Cruz, San Benito and Mendocino counties, environmentalists on
Tuesday launched a ballot campaign to prohibit fracking in
Monterey County, setting the stage for another expensive battle
with the oil industry over the controversial drilling
More than five years after the Monterey Peninsula Water
Management District was barred from collecting a user fee on
California American Water bills to pay for Carmel River
mitigation and other work, the California State Supreme Court
ruled the state Public Utilities Commission had no authority
over the fee.
California American Water’s latest Monterey Peninsula water
supply project cost estimates show a larger desalination plant
would cost the same as previous estimates, but a smaller desal
plant would be more expensive. That would potentially squeeze
the cost of a supplemental recycled water project unless it
qualifies for grants and low-cost financing.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an
amended water recycling agreement between the county Water
Resources Agency and the Monterey Regional Water Pollution
Control Agency, the primary backer of the groundwater
replenishment project also known as Pure Water Monterey.
A critical source water agreement for the proposed Monterey
Peninsula groundwater replenishment project, and expanded North
Monterey County agricultural irrigation, is headed to the Board
of Supervisors on Tuesday after the county Water Resources
Agency board blessed it Monday.
A groundwater replenishment project aimed at providing the
Monterey Peninsula with potable recycled water continued to
forge ahead of California American Water’s desalination project
during a state Public Utilities Commission hearing Monday.
California American Water is expected to resume pumping from
its stalled Monterey Peninsula desalination project test slant
well operation by early November after the Coastal Commission
gave its unanimous approval Tuesday.
Saltwater intrusion challenges nearly every town and farm
district in California that borders the Pacific. Many have been
fighting back the ocean for generations. Bulletin 52, the first
state report to document the salt problem in the Salinas
Valley, a farming center just south of Watsonville, was
published in 1946.
A more thorough, joint environmental review of the oft-delayed
Monterey Peninsula desalination project by the Monterey Bay
National Marine Sanctuary and the state Public Utilities
Commission will likely take about a year to draft and finalize,
according to representatives of both agencies.
This week, the BBC and PBS are showcasing the success story of
Monterey Bay in a series of live prime-time television events
called “Big Blue Live.” … As a member of the Santa Cruz City
Council in the 1980s, I [California Natural Resources Agency
Secretary John Laird] was part of a regional effort to
designate the Monterey Bay as a National Marine Sanctuary.
Facing another delay on California American Water’s
desalination project, the Monterey Peninsula regional water
authority weighed in this week on the major reasons for the
delay — the apparent Geoscience conflicts of interest and the
stalled test well operation.
California American Water officials have acknowledged using
patented slant well technology by Geoscience president Dennis
Williams in the Monterey Peninsula desalination project after
previously denying it.
Santa Barbara City Council members on Tuesday unanimously
approved spending $55 million to reactivate a mothballed
desalination plant that could provide the city with
nearly a third of its drinking water.
In order to sort out an apparent conflict of interest and its
fallout, the state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday
extended the public review period for California American
Water’s latest desalination project’s draft environmental
impact report by nearly three months.
California American Water and a group of experts will be asked
to prove regional agricultural irrigation pumping caused most,
if not all, of the decrease in north Marina groundwater levels
that halted pumping of the Monterey Peninsula desalination
project’s test slant well last month.
Soquel Creek Water District leaders are looking at purchasing a
new piece of water main-flushing technology as one of several
potential water-saving projects that they could fund through
fees paid by new district development permits.
Santa Barbara, known for its landscapes fed by coastal fog, has
always had a cautious relationship with water. And its history
of conservation may hold lessons for other upscale communities
such as Beverly Hills and Rancho Santa Fe being forced to slash
their hefty water consumption because of the drought.
For the second time in less than a month, Monterey Peninsula
business leaders are seeking a legal and technical analysis of
California American Water’s desalination project in an effort
to sniff out any issues that could potentially further delay or
derail the proposal.
The decision, approved in a 3-2 vote, aligned with results of a
recent [Soquel Creek Water] district phone survey of 300
customers, 90 percent of who said they were already doing
everything they could to conserve water and who were less
supportive of mandatory water rationing and penalties.
For nearly 25 years, the desal plant has sat unused. That’s
about to change. As nearby beachgoers swam, sailed and paddle
boarded on an overcast morning last week, Santa Barbara
officials showed off those tanks and pumps, describing their
plan to turn seawater into drinking water.
California American Water submitted a draft petition to the
state water board last month aimed at delaying the deadline for
reducing its river water pumping by four years from the end of
2016 to 2020. It promised to meet a series of milestones
including completion of a desalination plant capable of
providing a replacement water source for the Peninsula by the
Reclamation has released for public review environmental
documents for the proposed zebra mussel eradication project for
San Justo Reservoir, the Hollister Conduit and the San Benito
County Water District’s distribution system. The proposed
treatment is to use potash which has been shown to be effective
in killing zebra mussels.
An oil company has sued to block San Benito County’s
voter-approved fracking ban in a move that could affect the
growing trend of California cities and counties’ efforts to
stop the controversial oil drilling practice of hydraulic
In drought-ridden California, many water bills are calculated
using a basic principle: The more water a customer uses, the
higher the rate. It’s a strategy water districts employ to
This winter, a large sandbar planted itself in front of the
Salinas River, not an unusual phenomenon on waterways
throughout the Central Coast. But as the waters rose behind it
— threatening and, once heavy rains hit, eventually flooding
crops — county water officials could not push the wall of sand
The first step toward finding solutions to long-standing
groundwater overdraft in the Pajaro Valley was to acknowledge
the problem and agriculture’s contribution to it, said Miles
Reiter, chairman and CEO of Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates
A state Public Utilities Commission judge will allow public
debate over the proposed regional desalination project
settlement agreement between California American Water and
Monterey County later this month, delaying the commission’s
scheduled review on Thursday.
After resisting disclosure, Monterey Peninsula Regional Water
Authority president Jason Burnett released a draft proposal
late Tuesday aimed at delaying a state-ordered cutback in
pumping from the Carmel River by four years.
This handbook provides crucial
background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook
also includes a section on options for new governance.
The enterprise has been known locally as the California Flats
Solar project and Arizona-based First Solar is building the
facility. It was given the thumbs up from the county planning
commission in January. It is expected to get final approval
from Monterey County Supervisors on Tuesday.
After receiving nearly 160 percent of normal rainfall in
November and December — thus causing Santa Cruz to suspend
mandatory water rationing for residential customers — the
driest January on record stands as a stark reminder of how
vulnerable the water supply is to nature’s mood swings.
With December’s deluge now a distant memory and a bone-dry,
unseasonably warm January coming to a close, even a wet
February and early spring likely won’t help the historic
drought conditions affecting Monterey County and the rest of
the state, according to a National Weather Service expert.
A year after forming a special panel to evaluate future water
supply options, the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday agreed
to extend the group’s timeline for making recommendations and
increase spending for a facilitator to guide the work.
From building a tunnel connecting two south county reservoirs
to clearing the Salinas River and dealing with its
half-century-old river diversion permit to managing the Salinas
Valley groundwater basin — not to mention the promise of a
recently approved $7.5 billion state water bond — Monterey
County and its water resources agency are facing an
unprecedented number of crucial water-related issues.
Although Soquel Creek Water District officials pulled the plug
last year on a $3 million mandated conservation program, the
agency soon will roll out some components of the initiative
designed to reverse groundwater overdraft.
Santa Barbara County water agencies announced Friday that they
will receive $2 million in state funding for a pumping project
at Cachuma Lake — a source of drinking water for 220,000 people
on the southern central coast — where water levels have dropped
Residents are getting a sample of Santa Cruz County’s
summer-like weather this weekend as temperatures are expected
to reach into the 70s. … The weather is the latest stage of
the unseasonably warm and dry weather hovering around as
California enters its fourth year of drought.
Deadlines for meeting a new state mandate to balance the
overdrafted Salinas Valley groundwater basin are years away,
but Monterey County water and agricultural industry leaders are
calling for the local process to begin immediately.
A split Marina Coast Water District board decided to resume its
previous quest for a desalination plant, with a goal of
providing a new potable water supply within two years to new
development in Fort Ord, including Monterey Downs.
Last year, as drought gripped California,
[Javier] Zamora’s bills for water and the electricity that
runs the pump at his well skyrocketed. But this year, he
invested in a new irrigation system that’s dramatically cutting
his costs and water consumption.
The plan, which would establish the Santa Cruz Redwoods
National Monument, could bring national attention to the
bucolic oceanfront land along Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and
Davenport. … On Feb. 12, Bruce Babbitt, who served as
U.S interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, will
travel to Santa Cruz for a free public event at 6 p.m. at the
Kaiser Permanente Arena to kick off the campaign and answer
California’s drought declaration has triggered only local
limits such as restrictions on washing cars or watering lawns
for most communities, but one Pacific Coast tourist town has
seized it as an opportunity to build a long-desired
The coastal tourist town of Cambria, located just below Big Sur
and adjacent to Hearst Castle on California’s central coast,
will begin pumping about 300 gallons a minute of treated water
into the local aquifer this week. The new water source is part
of a controversial emergency solution—built just this fall—to
keep the community from running dry.
For up to nine months, Abby will raise her little adoptee, and
when 671 is ready, she will be released into a protected inland
salt marsh called Elkhorn Slough, just off Monterey Bay. That’s
where 671 will set to work to preserve the estuary, says Tim
Tinker, who tracks otters for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Carmel River had just begun flowing after the recent rains,
prompting Lorin Letendre and several others to hike up to a
ridge above the San Clemente Dam in Monterey County this past
week to see the surging stream. … The new river channel will
allow workers to take down the dam structure next year without
worrying about a catastrophic mudslide.
Is it over? We’re not talking about the storm that hit Northern
California and the Central Coast Thursday, inspiring
apocalyptic media coverage and leading to store shelves being
stripped of flashlight batteries and tarps.
The deluge meteorologists warned about, deemed to be the
strongest to hit Monterey County in seven years, arrived and it
delivered floods, road closures, power outages and plenty of
rain throughout Thursday.
Ahead of a storm that is expected to drench the Monterey Bay
region, Santa Cruz officials announced Monday the temporary
lifting of mandatory residential water rationing and fines in
favor of maintaining voluntary conservation at drought-driven
Testimony concluded on Friday in the regional desalination
project trial in San Francisco Superior Court, with a
preliminary ruling not expected until February. … In a
separate suit, Cal Am is seeking to relocate a Sacramento
County Superior Court challenge filed by Marina Coast seeking
to halt the company’s slant test well project for its current
desal proposal, asking a judge to move the case to Monterey
If you were plotting the epicenter of a daring trend or
gathering the vanguard for a revolutionary charge, San Benito
County might not be the first place you’d start. … But after
a stunning election victory, residents of this farming region
find themselves on the sharp edge of a growing movement to ban
hydraulic fracturing via local voter initiatives.
A proposal to deliver wastewater from a Toro-area community
services district to the regional treatment plant for recycling
could be a key part of any Monterey County Board of Supervisors
approval of the Ferrini Ranch development.
Construction is under way on a 26-home sustainable community in
San Luis Obispo. … The site has been built with local water
issues in mind as well: There will be an on-site storm water
management and “rain-store” retention system …
Officials with the Cambria Community Services District plan to
flip the switch Nov. 15 on a $9 million desalination plant that
will provide the community with a desperately needed new supply
of drinking water.
The Coastal Commission will consider California American
Water’s proposed slant test well project at its meeting
Wednesday, and it’s hard to imagine that the commission will go
against its own staff recommendation, which is to allow Cal Am
Imagine harvesting your own water — no water utility, no
monthly water bill. Instead, you have equipped your home with a
rain catchment system or atmospheric water generator, and
connected it to your tap. Monterey will soon be a site for just
such an experiment.
Last month, I packed up my household vegetable garden in Fargo,
N.D., about 2,000 miles to the northeast of California’s
Central Coast. … I’d visited Salinas this summer, as an
agricultural journalist among a tour group of writers and
California American Water has reached a deal with Cemex to
allow drilling of slant test wells, and possibly production
wells, for its proposed Monterey Peninsula desalination project
at the north Marina sand mining plant.
Already among the best at conserving water in the state for
several years, the Monterey Peninsula still managed to cut its
water use even further this summer and ranks among the state’s
most efficient water users.
Santa Cruz’s tough water restrictions are paying off. With the
lowest water use per capita, the city is doing the best job at
conserving water in the state, according to the State Water
Resources Control Board report released this week.
Mendocino County voters have overwhelmingly approved a ballot
initiative banning fracking in the county, joining San Benito
County in saying no to the controversial method of extracting
oil and gas from deep within rock formations.
Coastal Commission staff has recommended upholding California
American Water’s appeal of its desalination slant test well
project with conditions, arguing Marina city officials failed
to provide any support for denying the project permit.
The trees are a symbol of the drought’s effect on the
relatively isolated Central Coast, which — despite its
proximity to the world’s largest body of water — is
particularly vulnerable to shortages because it relies on an
unstable networks of creeks, lakes and State Water Project
Voters in three coastal California counties vote Tuesday on
whether to ban fracking and other intensive oil production,
even as slumping prices globally are leading companies to start
to scale back on production.
A showdown over whether to employ state legislation requiring
union-backed labor protections on the Interlake Tunnel project
continued Tuesday even as a status report indicated the project
cost has nearly doubled.
A team of researchers from Stanford and the University of
Calgary say a ground-breaking geophysical survey of saltwater
intrusion into groundwater tables along 25 miles of Monterey
Bay coastline shows the wells are running a deficit.
Faced with a state mandate to balance groundwater basins within
the next two decades, Monterey County officials on Tuesday took
the first step toward meeting that goal in the long overdrafted
Salinas Valley groundwater basin.
When President Ronald Reagan was pushing for offshore oil
drilling on the edges of Monterey Bay in the mid-1980s, Santa
Cruz voters fought back, approving a ballot measure that banned
construction of all storage tanks, pipelines and other oil
equipment in the city. … Now, nearly 30 years later, the same
David vs. Goliath tactic is being used farther from shore.
Even ideas are being conserved as Santa Cruz continues its hunt
for alternative water supply solutions. … The so-called
ideas convention was hosted by the city’s 14-member Water
Supply Advisory Committee.
Praising “historic” cooperation among agencies as a harbinger
of future water management efforts, the Monterey County Board
of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously signed off on a deal to
provide water for the proposed Monterey Peninsula groundwater
With high unlikeliness that Santa Cruz will receive enough
precipitation in the coming year to escape the persistent
drought, Water Director Rosemary Menard recommends extending
residential rationing on a month-to-month basis.