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Santa Cruz’s Controversial Water Department Head to Present at Statewide Desal Conferences
by Paul Gratz
Thursday Oct 25th, 2012 10:04 PM
Today, the City’s Water Department Director, Bill Kocher, began four days of official business to help advance seawater desalination development by attending two statewide conferences. Kocher will be a panelist presenter at the “Annual Desalination Conference: Building a Foundation Toward a Sustainable Desalination Policy” being held in Sacramento on Oct. 25-26 and Irvine on Oct. 29-30 at the Hyatt Regency Hotels. Sponsored by California ’s leading pro-desal lobbyist organization, CalDesal, participants at the North/South confab will include: water utilities and providers, elected officials, real estate developers, desalination firms, equipment vendors, and water industry advocates and consultants.
For Immediate Release – October 25, 2012
Contact: Paul Gratz
831.419.6441, pauljg45 [at] pacbell.net

Santa Cruz’s Controversial Water Department Head to Present at Statewide Desal Conferences. All Eyes on the City’s November 6 Desal Vote.

Santa Cruz -- Today, the City’s Water Department Director, Bill Kocher, began four days of official business to help advance seawater desalination development by attending two statewide conferences.

Kocher will be a panelist presenter at the “Annual Desalination Conference: Building a Foundation Toward a Sustainable Desalination Policy” being held in Sacramento on Oct. 25-26 and Irvine on Oct. 29-30 at the Hyatt Regency Hotels.

Sponsored by California ’s leading pro-desal lobbyist organization, CalDesal, participants at the North/South confab will include: water utilities and providers, elected officials, real estate developers, desalination firms, equipment vendors, and water industry advocates and consultants.

According to the CalDesal website, “ California (is) in a declared “Water-Supply Emergency” and proposed solutions hinging upon increased precipitation or voter approval, there has never been a more important time to commit to locally produced desalinated water. Opponents of desalination are better funded and better organized than the water industry. But not for long! Help us engage, level the playing field and make desalination a reality.” The annual CalDesal membership fee is $5,000 and Santa Cruz is a founding member.

The conference comes at a time when many California communities are reassessing, shelving, or cancelling their desalination plans due to escalating costs, environmental risks, and public opposition. (http://news.yahoo.com/desalination-no-panacea-calif-water-woes-174531736.html)

Currently, Santa Cruz is proposing to build -- at an estimated cost of $300M -- a 7-acre desalination factory along with an extensive pipeline, pumping, and storage infrastructure system. In 2005, however, Kocher estimated the cost of the project at $30-$40M. At that time, backers often referred to the project as a boutique plant that would not induce unsustainable population growth and UCSC campus expansion.

On November 6, Santa Cruz citizens will decide on their water future by voting on Ballot Measure P “The Right to Vote on Desal.” If the contentious Charter Amendment passes, it would require voter approval for legislating seawater desalination planning, construction, and indebtedness. (http://voteondesalsc.org/)

No other US city has adopted this kind of voting requirement for seawater desalination. Therefore, passage of the Santa Cruz measure likely would have far reaching implications for desalination at least throughout California . (http://www.votescount.com/nov12/meap.pdf and http://voteondesalsc.org/text-of-measure-p/charter-amendment-vs-ordinance/)

Although not an engineer, hydrologist, or a water system planner, Kocher has spearheaded the City’s 12-year effort to erect an expandable 2.5-4.5mgd regional desal plant along the shoreline of the environmentally-sensitive Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. Controversial, yet widely acknowledged as a skilled public relations manager, he has implemented a highly visible marketing campaign for building public acceptance for the environmentally and financially risky desalination project.

With access to over $14M of public funds appropriated so far for research, planning, and promotion, Kocher directs an ongoing “outreach and education” effort that integrates print, broadcast, internet, social media, polling, interactive iPad surveys, workshops, a speakers bureau, and other marketing strategies.

Related
Desalalternatives.org