On November 17th, the Coastal Commission discussed and reviewed a permit application for a new desalination plant to be located in the Monterey Bay. With a vote of 8-2, the project was approved, despite environmental and equity concerns, which the water utility was required to address during this resubmittal. After 3 years of worsening drought and a moratorium on pumping water from the Carmel River, desalination brings an alternative source of drinking water to the Monterey Peninsula.
The new desalination plant will be built in the City of Marina, on the site of the old sand mining facility which is surrounded by dunes and coastal habitat. It is expected this plant would provide 4.8 million gallons of drinking water a day, equivalent to about 35% of the water supply for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and other nearby communities. Coastal Commission staff reports that the water will cost approximately $6,000 an acre foot compared to $2,500 an acre foot at the Carlsbad desalination plant near San Diego. Local communities are concerned about the increased cost of water.
The facility will suck saltwater from beneath the sea floor, treat it in the new facility, and discharge leftover brine through a pre-existing wastewater discharge two miles offshore in the waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. In an effort to preserve local habitat and coastal access, CalAm will give the City of Marina $3M for a coastal access program. The company will also monitor dune, wetland, and vernal pool habitat, and prioritize purchasing coastal lands to preserve for mitigation. This desalination plant will relieve the pressure on the Carmel River, which was illegally pumped for decades, harming the watershed and endangered species habitat.
The approval of this desalination plant follows precedent from another previously approved permit for a desalination plant in Doheny Beach, Orange County. After a nine year process, CalAm is one step closer to the reality of this Monterey Bay facility, with only a few more local and regional permitting challenges to face. The future of desalination as a steady water source for the Monterey Peninsula is looking extremely likely.
12/3/2022 09:49:46 pm
your newsletter completely ignores the environmental injustice of the CalAm desal plant conditionally approved by CCC on Nov. 17. Your info also completely ignores recycled water as a cheaper and environmentally friendlier alternative that won't dump millions of pounds of brine in the sanctuary each day and that this groundwater desal (not from under the ocean as your newsletter states!) will be the largest greenhouse gas emitter on the central coast. Did you know the CalAm desal groundwater extraction wells will permanent damage many acres of coastal dune environmentally sensitive habitat? Why doesn't your website report the damage this project will do to the environment? Why do you think CalAm desal is so much more expensive than other desal projects? Do you care it will raise the already highest water cost in the nation by $50 per month ($600 per year) for CalAm customers? Do you think ratepayers can afford this? Do you care?
Edwin S Lee
12/4/2022 04:25:36 pm
The desal plan will suck brackish water from an aquifer that runs from under the ocean to well inland. It is unclear what effect that will have on the inland portion of the aquifer or on a freshwater aquifer beneath it. It's all in the staff report, which also ignores probable unintended consequences.
Susan L Schiavone
12/6/2022 11:23:04 am
You seem to have outdated information on this project. The estimated cost in today's dollars is well over $7-8,000 AF, and rates will probably go up 60-70% according to the CPUC Public Advocates Office--on top of 2026 rates due for four more increases already. Pure Water Monterey Expansion would provide adequate water for 30 years and has already given Cal Am the opportunity to stop illegally taking Carmel River water. Additionally, there has been a concerted effort to save the steelhead and it is working. We are in a drought, yes, but we don't need a giant desal that is going to harm the environment, and its wells won't last more than 25 years before being drowned by sea rise, and they have nowhere to move them inland. This is a provisional approval, and we shall see what happens in terms of the final decisions on several conditions. Cal Am has presented false data on supply & demand to justify the construction of another asset to feed their stock porfolio on our backs. And they will have too much water produced for what is needed so a lot of expensive desalted water will go to CSIP for crop watering after Castroville gets low-cost ($110 AF) drinking water...at our cost since the return water they are pumping from the SVGW basin illegally once again will have to be returned, and they cut a deal with the farmers to give it to them cheap for their support for this boondoggle. The Cal Am ratepayers are in a very bad squeeze play and the only answer is the buy-out of the company's local assets and to recover from a century of their oppression. Please do more research on this and talk to local public water officials for some facts. Thank you.
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