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Desal Advocacy and Conflict of Interest - Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District
Last week at the so-called special joint study session, the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District rolled out their advocacy campaign to build political and public acceptance for the desal EIR study and approval of the regional desal plant.
All eyes are now on Santa Cruz , which should be considered the litmus test for the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary’s desal future. If the Santa Cruz “expandable” regional desal plant is approved, then desal industry leaders can easily pursue building a string of both boutique and large-scale installations along this environmentally sensitive coast. Although desal opponents always have been concerned about the environmental effects, the main focus of our current campaign will shift towards political-economic and violation of public trust issues. Of course, we will be continuing to advocate for the development of proven and much cheaper water management options, including groundwater replenishment, inter-district water transfers, wastewater reuse, capturing rainwater, water neutral development, and aggressive conservation.
A lack of transparency, overall exclusionary attitude, and cozy industry relationship by of our water agencies, is inspiring desal opponents, not only to challenge their political hegemony with renewed vigor, but to question the nature of regional water resource planning and growth management as a whole. From a preliminary examination of public records (see below), an inconvenient reality is coming into view that raises serious questions about the appearance of conflict of interest, cozy relationships, aggressive advocacy and lobbying, and lack of oversight and accountability.
CalDesal membership is divided about evenly between public agency officials, such as the directors of the Santa Cruz City and Soquel Creek Water districts, and a mixture of corporate CEOs and consultants looking to profit in the client-rich environment that CalDesal was designed to provide. CalDesal lobby’s extensively for desal projects and regulatory “streamlining” -- code for rolling back fundamental environmental protection and permitting rules that stand in the way of desal and unbridled development.
Based on a preliminary examination of public records, it might appear to an already skeptical community Bill Kocher may be spending too much of taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ time and money promoting desal and not enough looking out for the interests of residents and businesses of the cash strapped city paying him over $184,000 per year.
Desal Advocacy and Conflict of Interest - Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District
Prepared by Paul Gratz
Co-author of Measure P
May 13, 2013
The City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District are founding members (2010) of the 3-year old lobbyist organization CalDesal. The water industry organization politically advocates for desal development/deregulation and opposes anti-desal legislation. Registered with the Secretary of State (http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1336512&session=2011), CalDesal is a secretive organization and is not required to disclose its executive committee, membership or business plan. The general public and news media are not allowed at CalDesal meetings nor is it generally given meeting agendas and minutes. Also, the Public Records Act does not apply to CalDesal.
The CalDesal Board of Directors has private sector members as well as public agency members and it sponsors legislation (http://www.caldesal.org/about-caldesal/our-coalition/). According to the organization’s business plan, “It is the mission of CalDesal to be an advocate at the political, policy and regulatory level for desalination as a vital new source of Water for California . Our goal is to create a positive environment statewide for the acceptance of desalination and to reduce the impediments to its implementation.”
Bill Kocher, City of Santa Cruz Water Department Director , is Vice Chair of the CalDesal Board of Directors Executive Committee. Laura Brown, former Director of the Soquel Creek Water District, also served on the CalDesal Board of Directors. The annual membership fee for each agency is $5,000.
The CalDesal Regulatory Workgroup includes Mr. Kocher where he actively participates in making presentations, membership recruitment, meetings/conferences, workshops, planning retreats, hearings, and conference calls. Also he serves on the Program Workgroup.
Heidi Luckenbach, City of Santa Cruz Water Department Program Coordinator , is a member of the CalDesal Policy Research and Technical Paper Review Workgroup.
CalDesal advocacy activities/tactics include regular “CalDesal in Action” alerts sent to members only when letters, calls, and participation are needed on legislation and regulatory developments.
Mr. Kocher and City of Santa Cruz Water Commissioner Walt Wadlow are CalDesal executive committee members. Also, Mr. Kocher staffs the Water Commission (http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=3880). In 2012, Mr. Kocher and Mr. Wadlow assisted in the preparation of the desal advocacy document for the City of Santa Cruz entitled “Request for Proposals for a Public Education and Communication Plan for Water Supply Reliability.”
The City of Santa Cruz contracts an array of consultants (http://www.santacruzlive.com/documents/consultlist.pdf) to study, plan, and promote the proposed desal project who along with Mr. Kocher are also members of the CalDesal Board of Directors. They include: Carollo Engineers, Black & Veach Corp, Camp Dresser &McKee, Dudek, Kennedy-Jenks, and Tenera Environmental.
In 2006, Kennedy-Jenks and URS Corp. co-prepared the EIR for the UCSC Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) setting forth the campus growth objectives and the need for expanded water services by the City of Santa Cruz . URS Corp. is SF based multinational engineering & construction firm specializing in military, oil & energy/fracking, nuclear, mining, and dams and water infrastructure systems. At the time, on the board of directors of URS Corp. for 30 years was Richard Blum a UC Regent. Still a regent, he also manages a multi-billion dollar portfolio for Blum Capital and is the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein.
In 2010, Kennedy-Jenks and CalDesal made political contributions to oppose Marin County ’s Measure T -- the community-driven “right to vote on desal” ballot measure. Also, Kennedy-Jenks and URS Corp. were the principle consultants working on the EIR for proposed Marin County Water Department desal project (http://www.marinwater.org/controller?action=opennews&id=43). At the time, the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Water District were members of CalDesal and authorized the use of public and water ratepayer funds to support a variety of CalDesal political activities.
At the behest of CalDesal Executive Director Ron Davis, a registered lobbyist, Mr. Kocher wrote on September 8, 2010 to the State Water Resources Board indicating opposition to the adoption of specific environmental protection regulatory actions designed to limit hazardous seawater desal practices.
Last year, Mr. Kocher presented at both CalDesal’s Annual Conference sessions held in Sacramento (Oct. 25-26) and Irvine (Oct. 29-30). Closed to the public and news media, the conference came only a week before the passage of Measure P (http://www.caldesal.org/downloads/Kocher%20CalDesal.sc.portfolio.pdf). As a City of Santa Cruz employee, his travel, lodging, and food costs were allowable expenses.
The City of Santa Cruz awarded $4,000,000 in service contracts through 2013 for consultants to conduct desal EIR evaluation, preparation, and promotional activities. The firms are Kennedy-Jenks/Data Instincts ($1.8M), URS Corp ($1.7M) and Dudek Consulting ($0.5M). Kennedy-Jenks and Dudek representatives are CalDesal Board of Director members together with Mr. Kocher (http://www.santacruzlive.com/documents/consltlist.pdf and http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=25847).
Dr. Brent Haddad is a prominent UCSC faculty member and Director of the Center for Integrated Water Research (CIWR) -- the nation’s first publicly supported desal think tank. Haddad is one of the conceptual architects of the regional desal system. Kennedy-Jenks Senior Engineer, Jean-François Debroux, is a CIWR fellow. In 2009, Haddad received a private consultant contract ($89,257) with the City to establish the scwd2 desal partnership.
Former Director of the Soquel Creek Water District, Laura Brown hired Kocher 25 years ago when she was Santa Cruz 's assistant city manager. Both Brown and Kocher were instrumental in establishing CalDesal. In 2012, when Brown stepped down from her top job at the district, a close relationship at the top remained in place for the two agencies -- as the interim manager, Taj Dufour, is Kocher's son-in-law (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/desal/ci_21655154/how-desalination-works-siting-plant-intake-critical-permitting?IADID=Search-www.santacruzsentinel.com-www.santacruzsentinel.com).
In August 2011, the Fair Political Practices Commission determined that Vice Mayor Don Lane and Soquel Creek Water District Board President Don Kriege violated ethic rules governing the use of public funds for distributing an advocacy newsletter. The April 2011 mailing to water agency customers promoted the controversial desal project contained a letter signed by both elected officers. Mr. Kocher claimed that he signed off on the newsletter developed by the city’s desal marketing consultant Mark Millan, President of Data Instincts. At the time, Lane and Kriege were co-chairs of the joint agency desal task force partnership
May 7, 2013
SUBJECT: Public Comment and a Questions Presented to the May 7, 2013 Joint Special Study Session on the Regional Seawater Desalination Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) at the Santa Cruz City Council Chambers
Good evening elected officials!
I am Paul Gratz and a 30-year city resident and water ratepayer. A retired public health planner and community educator, I co-authored the Santa Cruz Measure P ballot initiative known as the right to vote on desal Charter Amendment.
I am appearing here to present a question concerning tonight’s agenda subject, content, and process matters under discussion.
In light of the overwhelming passage of Measure P by city voters on November 6, 2012, please identify with regard to the desal EIR study, review, certification, and voting process: What appropriate procedures are being taken to systematically ensure that public funds are not used to:
• Advocate and lobby for desal development
• Conduct a campaign to promote public acceptance and voter approval of a proposed regional desal project
• Disseminate evaluation, outreach, and promotional information that is not impartial, accurate and objective
• Participate as members of CalDesal to engage in political advocacy aimed towards weakening environmental laws and regulations, including desal plant permitting requirements
So far, the City has awarded $4M to out of area consultants to plan and prepare this EIR. And tonight, a representative of one of the leads working on the project, URS Corp., will make a presentation.
How many seawater desal EIR evaluations and for whom has URS Corp. prepared that resulted in the construction and operation of a successful facility?
Co-author of Measure P
501 Prospect Hts., Santa Cruz, CA 95065
Download PDF (53.5kb)
Desal Joint Study Session Public Comment by Gary Patton
Subject: RE: Public comment: May 7, 2013 Desal EIR study session
From: Michael E Boyd [boyd.michaele [at] gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, May 06
To: City Council
Cc: Don Miller; jbrown [at] santacruzsentinel.com
Subject: Re: Public comment: May 7, 2013 Desal EIR study session
City Council Members and Directors I am Michael Boyd and I live at 5439 Soquel Drve Soquel, CA within the jurisdiction of the Soquel Creek Water District's boundaries.
I am here today in search of a co-Plaintiff for my law suit against the City and the District. I intend to amend this suit to include the contents of discussions today and public input on such in to the Court's records and I ask that you cooperate by providing the necessary public records in an expedited manner. What are the benefits to
being a co-Plaintiff in my law suit you may ask? For one you could lower your water bill by more than three thousand dollars more a year it will cost you if they build desal. You could benefits from cleaner drinking water. You could benefit from ecological paradise of our water sheds and sea shores as opposed to the ecological and economic disaster that desal will bring.
The government, the City Council and Directors and their staff, have no First Amendment rights in their capacity as employees of the government. This right is strictly reserved for the people. The First Amendment protects the rights of individuals to freedom of religion, speech, press, petition and assembly including the right to sue. Freedom of expression is essential to individual liberty and contributes to what the
Supreme Court has called the marketplace of ideas. The First Amendment assumes that the speaker, not the government, should decide the value of speech. The Free Speech clauses of the federal and state Constitutions prohibit the use of governmentally compelled monetary contributions (including taxes) to support or oppose
political campaigns since "[s]uch contributions are a form of speech, and compelled speech offends the First
Amendment." Smith v. U.C. Regents (1993) 4 Ca1.4th 843, 852.
If this Special Joint Study Session on the Proposed Regional Seawater Desalination Project is not part of the EIR process on the Proposed Regional Seawater Desalination Project in my mind it constitutes the use of public funds for advocacy for Seawater Desalination in violation of my civil rights as a ratepayer and voter in Soquel.
Since the Soquel Creek Water District has spent more than four and a quarter million dollars advocating for this project that's located within the City outside the Soquel District's sphere of influence this violates my rights as a ratepayer under the State's Constitution which requires that my water supplier incur water charges for water services that are used and usable. So that's why I am suing both the District and the City over their advocacy for desal. But my suit would be stronger if I could just find a co-Plaintiff who pays for water service from the City.
Send me an e-mail at michaelboyd [at] sbcglobal.net if your interested but act today.