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Pro-desal EIR marketing campaign pitches “green boutique” plant, downplays expansion
by Paul Gratz
Monday May 6th, 2013 3:53 PM
On Tuesday, May 7, the Santa Cruz City Council and Soquel Creek Water Board will hold a 7 PM special study session about the Regional Seawater Desal Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) expected to be released on May 13. Ironically, the pro-desal EIR kick-off coincides with the six month anniversary of the overwhelming passage (72%) of Measure P. The November election vote created a Charter Amendment guaranteeing Santa Cruz City residents the right to vote on the construction of the proposed desal plant in 2014. The grass roots ballot initiative is widely interpreted as an expression of a lack of confidence in politicians to manage the community’s water future. Nevertheless, officials approved $17M through 2013 to investigate, pursue and promote desal, including the EIR preparation and certification. The EIR includes a full-on marketing campaign aimed towards building public acceptance for the controversial regional desal facility. But, proponents insist public funds are used only to conduct unbiased informational and educational outreach activities.

Pro-desal EIR marketing campaign takes-off May 7. Backers pitch “green boutique” plant, downplay expansion. Opponents skeptical of an impartial evaluation.


Santa Cruz -- On Tuesday, May 7, the Santa Cruz City Council and Soquel Creek Water Board will hold a 7 PM special study session about the Regional Seawater Desal Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) expected to be released on May 13.

Ironically, the pro-desal EIR kick-off coincides with the six month anniversary of the overwhelming passage (72%) of Measure P. The November election vote created a Charter Amendment guaranteeing Santa Cruz City residents the right to vote on the construction of the proposed desal plant in 2014. The grass roots ballot initiative is widely interpreted as an expression of a lack of confidence in politicians to manage the community’s water future.

Nevertheless, officials approved $17M through 2013 to investigate, pursue and promote desal, including the EIR preparation and certification. The EIR includes a full-on marketing campaign aimed towards building public acceptance for the controversial regional desal facility. But, proponents insist public funds are used only to conduct unbiased informational and educational outreach activities.



Conflict of interest web or just business-as-usual coziness?


Currently, four outside desal consultants have been awarded $4M to coordinate the EIR study and marketing. Yet, not one of the firms has a tract record of planning and building a single successful seawater desal plant.

Kennedy-Jenks and URS Corp. are the desal EIR co-authors. Interestingly, the same firms co-prepared the EIR for UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan which sets forth campus growth goals and the need for expanded city water services. Desal opponents argue that the desal plant is both a university and regional growth inducer.



CalDesal: The City’s favorite lobbyist


Recently, it was revealed that Bill Kocher, Santa Cruz Water Department Director, is Co-Chair of Cal Desal. The Sacramento-based private lobbyist organization advocates vigorously for desal development, deregulation, and streamlining of the permitting process.

Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District are founding members of the 3 year old organization’s political goal is to “level the playing field” and affect “voter approval” of desal projects statewide. CalDesal’s annual membership fee is $5,000 per agency.

In addition, Santa Cruz Water Commissioner Walt Wadlow is a member of the CalDesal Executive Committee -- as is Kocher who staffs the Water Commission.

Kennedy-Jenks along with another EIR contractor, San Diego-based Dudek Consulting, both sit on CalDesal’s Board of Directors along with Kocher and Wadlow.

Moreover in 2010, Kennedy-Jenks and CalDesal contributed $5,000 each to defeat Marin's Measure T the community-driven right to vote on desal ballot measure. At the time, Kennedy-Jenks was the lead consultant for that proposed project which subsequently was shelved.

Other prominent CalDesal board members working as consultants for the city are Black & Vetch Corp., Camp Dresser & McKee, and Tenera Environmental.



Will “desal or die” fatalism prevent authentic civic participation?


According to Measure P co-author Paul Gratz, “Officials seem hell-bent on pitching a pricey $4M desal EIR study to a skeptical community without having a Plan B in place.

Instead, voters and water ratepayers deserve a comprehensive evaluation that impartially assesses all the impacts of desal, including environmental, economic costs and benefits, university expansion, real estate development, quality of life, natural resource management, and business and neighborhood needs.”

“Fortunately, the community is smart enough not to get saddled with a staggering $300M in costs to build a risky desal plant and infrastructure system along the shore of the environmentally-sensitive Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. With the lucrative money stakes so high, I am afraid there will not be anything polite about the desal debate,” Gratz added.

The 2-hour joint session will include public comments and questions from residents and water ratepayers. The event also will be covered by news organizations, televised live on Community Television (Channel 25), and available online at www. cityofsantacruz.com/councilmeetings



Related
Desal: New study highlights energy concerns as publication of critical environmental eval nears
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_23160139/desal-new-study-highlights-energy-concerns-publication-critical
Desal plants come with high energy costs
http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_23173273/desal-plants-come-high-energy-costs
Santa Cruz, Soquel Creek water customers to get desal leaflet in bills
J.M. Brown -- Santa Cruz Sentinel 4/18/13
http://www.scwd2desal.org/In_the_News_04-18-13.php
DeCinzo: The Santa Cruz Pro-Desal Water Czar Comedy Club
http://photos.santacruzsentinel.com/2013/03/13/editorial-cartoons-steven-decinzo/#2
DeCinzo: T-minus $300M and counting...
http://photos.santacruzsentinel.com/2013/03/13/editorial-cartoons-steven-decinzo/#26
Paul Gratz: Unlocking lessons from Santa Barbara 's desal boondoggle for Santa Cruz voters
http://www.sa ntacruzsentinel.com/ci_21715541/paul-gratz-unlocking-lessons-from-santa-barbaras-desal?IADID=Search-http://www.santacruzsentinel.com-www.santacruzsentinel.com
In California, What Price Water? - New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/business/energy-environment/a-costly-california-desalination-plant-bets-on-future-affordability.html?pagewanted=all

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by John Cohen
Saturday May 11th, 2013 9:12 AM
There's a lot more to this mess than the average citizen realizes. It is all going to come out. Hope to watch when the sh*t falls.

http://montereybayareanews.com/2012letters-to-the-editor-5/2/