Tag Archive for 'Santa Cruz desalination project'

Santa Cruz desal critics pick apart environmental eval

Photo retrieved from: www.santacruzsentinel.com

“SANTA CRUZ — Desalination skeptics packed a Quaker Meetinghouse on Thursday to hear a critical evaluation of an environmental report for a $129 million facility that would serve 135,000 water ratepayers.

More than 100 people listened as Rick Longinotti, a founder of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, questioned a draft environmental impact report’s conclusions about water supply shortages, alternatives and the impact on growth and the environment. He argued the city has made a political decision to allow for water use to grow at UC Santa Cruz and within the city’s limits from 3.2 billion gallons in annual demand now to 3.8 billion by 2030, figures published in the report, rather than hold demand down.

The former electrician turned marriage counselor and anti-desal crusader said the city needs to wean golf courses off drinking water, share excess winter flow with neighboring districts, become more aggressive with conservation measures and better manage the Loch Lomond Reservoir rather than pursue a costly desalting facility. He called again for a formal water-neutral development policy similar to one in place within the city’s desalination partner, the Soquel Creek Water District, which requires developers to directly offset their new use through conservation rather than pay fees that may not all go toward conservation.”

Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel



Retrieved from: www.kestrel-inc.com

“The City of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District are planning jointly to construct a seawater desalination plant. The construction cost is estimated to be over $100 million dollars. Ratepayers in the City of Santa Cruz will be on the hook to pay 60% of that cost. Water rates will go up significantly if the plant is built. On a more philosophical plane, a decision to build a desal plant will be a decision to release our community from the inherent limits of the natural environment. Currently, we have to live within the limits of our natural water supply. Desalination is a way to “manufacture water.” As long as the ratepayers are willing to pay the costs, the supplies of water that can be produced are essentially unconstrained. The City of Santa Cruz has promised UCSC that it will pursue modular desalination plants in the future, to meet “system demand” for water. In other words, the decision on desal is a decision about University growth in particular, and future growth in general.

This is one of those cases in which the Wittwer & Parkin law firm, where I am “Of Counsel,” is representing an interested party, namely the Community Water Coalition. The environmental review process is just beginning, and I hope all of you will get personally involved. I have put links to the Draft EIR in today’s transcript. Comments are due by July 15th.”

Read more: KUSP


Right to vote on desal in Santa Cruz sails through

Photo retrieved from: www.voteondesalsc.org

“Santa Cruz voters have soundly said they want a future vote on a controversial desalination plant.

Measure P, a ballot question organized by the Right to Vote on Desal Coalition, asked voters not whether they want to approve the plant but rather whether they want a future say on plans to transform seawater into as much as 2.5 million gallons of drinking water per day. The City Council already granted citizens the right via a city ordinance to vote on the plant, but opponents were concerned a future council could overturn it.

With all 36 precincts reporting, the measure led 71 percent to 29 percent.

Rick Longinotti, a founder of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, said earlier on Tuesday a victory “may become clear to city officials that it will be an uphill battle” to win voter approval for the plant. He said it will indicate there are “serious questions about whether desal is the way to go.”

The city and Soquel Creek Water District are proposing to build a plant, at an estimated cost of $125 million, to protect the city from severe drought and provide more river and stream habitat or fish while resting the district’s overdrafted aquifers. Opponents seek greater conservation, water transfers and increased storage.”

Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel


Pursuit of Desal Driving Santa Cruz Water Costs. Voters to Weigh In Nov. 6

Proposed Desalination Plant Sites and Pipeline Routes. Retrieved from: www.indybay.org

“Santa Cruz – Overlooked by local newspapers and area media outlets, USA TODAY last month published a unique study of residential water rates over the past 12 years for water agencies nationwide with immediate implications for Santa Cruz .

The investigative report found that monthly costs at least doubled for nearly a third of the one hundred localities, including Santa Cruz where rates haven not yet peaked, largely because of the current estimated $300M cost to build a proposed regional desal plant and its infrastructure. In 2005, the City estimated the likely cost of the project at $30-$40M.

Among the ten California water agencies surveyed, Santa Cruz ranked third (113%) in increases, behind only the metropolitan San Francisco (211%) and San Diego (141%) water districts. Overall, average residential water rates nationally have risen 33% since 2000. The extensive USA TODAY survey was conducted by Raftelis Financial, the water management consulting arm of Black & Veatch.

During this same period, water consumption in Santa Cruz declined sharply by 30% amid conservation efforts coupled with reduced demand from a declining manufacturing sector. Paradoxically, the City has raised water rates four times and the trend toward higher bills continues — driven primarily by the City’s decision to pursue seawater desalination, which is strongly supported by the business and political establishment.

The City has encountered severe financial difficulties since 2006, requiring ongoing layoffs and furloughs in order to shave millions from the budget. Yet in 2008, Water Department head Bill Kocher received a 19% salary raise to $192,912. Kocher is a vocal advocate for building an expandable 2.5-4.5 million gallons per day desalination plant on the City’s west side near the growing UCSC campus.”

Read more: Indybay

Deconstructing Desal in Santa Cruz

Photo retrieved from: www.santacruzsentinel.com

“Part 1: The basics of the desal debate


  • ‘Fresh-squeezed water’: Desalination debate raises financial, environmental and philosophical concerns: Laura Brown, the longtime former director of Soquel Creek Water District, is fond of repeating a quote often attributed to Mark Twain: “Whiskey is for drinking — water is for fighting over.” Read more

  • Habitat protection, planning for population growth color desalination debate: The city predicts the number of people living within its water service area could rise 10 percent by 2030 from levels seen in 2010, a quarter of which could come from increased enrollment at UC Santa Cruz. Read more

  • Water bills to skyrocket: Desalination plus capital projects equals big bucks: Water customers may want to start saving now. Ratepayers in the city of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District will pick up the tab for a $123 million regional seawater desalination plant if the controversial proposal is approved by voters and regulators in coming years. Read more“Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Desalination And You

    Photo retrieved from: www.gtweekly.com

    “This Nov. 6, Santa Cruzans will not only cast their votes for a new president or an incumbent one, but also for local city council candidates and ballot measures. Citizens may dedicate much of their political consternation to the presidential election, but there are important decisions to be made at home, too.

    The implications run deep and the controversy runs high when it comes to one issue being raised in the local election, in particular: desalination. Because of a potentially dire water shortage in times of drought, the city is looking in the coming years to move forward with—or nix—the building of a $115 million desalination plant, says Bill Kocher, the city’s water director. The plant would be built in the City of Santa Cruz, and would hopefully be finished by 2016, says Mike Rotkin, former city councilmember and co-founder of the Sustainable Water Coalition, which advocates for conservation, water storage and water augmentation measures in Santa Cruz.

    Which of the seven city council candidates secure the four available seats (Tony Madrigal and Ryan Coonerty are terming out, and councilmembers Don Lane and Katherine Beiers’ seats are up for grabs after four-year terms) could potentially have a huge impact on how the city chooses to move forward with desalination, how much money is spent, and on which conservation and augmentation projects it will be spent on. Candidates who are elected will most likely encounter the water shortage problem during their tenure, and their positions on the desalination project or alternatives may have a huge influence over how the public and the council address water issues.”

    Read more: Santa Cruz Good Times


    LAFCO vote on controversial UCSC expansion delayed four months

    Photo retrieved from: www.santacruzsentinel.com

    “The proposal touches on long-standing local issues, including university expansion, allocation of scarce water resources, student housing and environmental preservation. But it also has top city officials and the university on the same side, with the city arguing that added campus housing would ease neighborhood problems, traffic and water consumption.

    LAFCO chair Neal Coonerty appointed a subcommittee to tweak conditions for the expansion, and another to look at future conservation efforts for the city’s water system. It postponed a final vote until October, when students return from summer break.

    “There are many people – students, community members, faculty – that are concerned with the visibility of this issue,” said Zora Raskin, a third-year student who said it should not be voted on during summer.

    At issue during Wednesday’s meeting, packed with campus activists opposed to the development of a long-planned (though not imminent) 240-acre North Campus, was a set of conditions LAFCO’s board suggested as a condition of extending the water and sewer services needed to start construction.”

    Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Desal Opponents Vow To Press On With Ballot Measure: Coalition Worried City Could Overturn Citizen Right To Vote On Plant

    Photo retrieved from: www.karpel.org

    “SANTA CRUZ – Despite a move by the city to let voters decide the fate of a proposed seawater desalination plant, opponents pledged Thursday to charge “full-speed ahead” on gathering signatures for a November ballot measure also designed to give voters a say.

    Paul Gratz, a spokesman for the Right to Vote on Desal Coalition, said the group is concerned city officials will reverse an ordinance approved Tuesday by the City Council to allow a vote as early as 2014. He said the charter change amendment sought by his group to give voters the right to vote on desal at some point in the future would guarantee that no future council could take away that right.

    Four of the council’s seven seats are up for election in November. At least two prominent candidates who strongly favor the city’s pursuit of a desalination plant have said that are likely to run again: Mayor Don Lane and former Mayor Cynthia Mathews.”

    Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Sharp Emotions Salt Desalination Plant Meeting

    Santa Cruz Water Director Bill Kocher. Retrieved from: www.santacruz.patch.com

    “The desalination plant, which may be the city’s biggest municipal project ever, at $100 million, is already polarizing the town.

    A group of opponents called Desal Alternatives leafleted the meeting, asking people to attend another meeting Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Live Oak Grange to talk about how not building the plant would create jobs.

    Meanwhile, the invitation-only meeting was a pitch to various people in the community asking them to support the desalination plant.

    Kocher and Laura Brown, director of the Soquel Creek Water District, described the perils of a decreasing water table, including ocean water and toxic Chromium-6 compromising the Soquel district’s wells if the table keeps plummeting.

    “The problem is if we wait until it’s too late,” said Kocher. “It’s like the oil light in your car and the oil light is on.”

    The two water districts, which comprise 135,000 people, will work together to build the plant, if approved. It would produce 2.5 million drinkable gallons a day by sifting salt out of ocean water.

    Opponents say the cost is too high and that demand for water has dropped in recent years. Proponents claim that the drop is largely due to a bad economy with empty stores, manufacturing businesses that have left town and rentals that don’t water lawns,  and that demand will pick up again in the future.”

    Read more: Santa Cruz Patch


    Santa Cruz City Council OKs studying water swap as desalination debate continues

    Photo retrieved from: www.santacruz.com

    “The council unanimously agreed to join a study with regional water agencies for swapping supplies, an idea explored but abandoned 21 years ago. In recent years, however, the county had laid the groundwork for a new study funded by a state grant that will evaluate trading water between Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and the Soquel Creek Water District.

    Vice Mayor Don Lane saw the move as consistent with efforts to study alternatives to a desalination plant that could transform 2.5 million gallons seawater for potable use each day.

    “We are pulling out all the stops,” Lane said. “Every idea that might have some benefit to our water system, including desal and including conjunctive use [or swaps], are all worthy of our consideration.”

    The idea is that Santa Cruz, a largely surface-water system, would provide excess water from the San Lorenzo River in winter to be delivered first to the Scotts Valley Water District then to Soquel Creek Water District, with the understanding that the groundwater-based Soquel Creek district may return some water during drought periods. The city would be paid for the water it treats and transfers.”

    Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel