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A New Beginning: Desal on Pause. What Now?
by SC News
Thursday Aug 22nd, 2013 3:06 PM
In the wake of the City of Santa Cruz's decision to stall the public's vote and possibly alter and resubmit the plan for the proposed desalination plant planned for the westside of Santa Cruz, Desal Alternatives' Rick Longinotti and Paul Gratz released statements in response. Gratz remains skeptical of the city's intentions, and cautions about the lack of transparency of the whole process that wasted $17 Million of the taxpayers money. Longinotti announced the Desal Alternatives steering committee has, "issued a call to all citizen supporters to advocate that the City Council adopt water security measures that can be implemented immediately."
From Rick Longinotti:

A New Beginning: Desal on Pause. What Now?

In case you didn't read the Sentinel article, City puts brakes on desal project, Mayor Hilary Bryant and City Manager Martín Bernal have issued a press release entitled, "RECOMMEND THERE NOT BE A VOTE IN 2014, WHILE SHIFTING FOCUS TO CONSERVATION AND ADDITIONAL PUBLIC INPUT TO CRAFT A NEW VISION FOR THE CITY’S WATER SUPPLY".

In the press release, Mayor Bryant says, "A greater focus on water conservation practices and potential is needed". Bernal calls for community involvement, "I will ask the Water Department to bring forward a plan to engage our community to become a top water conservation city in California." Those statements are music to my ears, although we should be careful to point out that there are lots more alternatives to desalination than just cutting back on our water use.

According to the Sentinel, "To be clear, city officials recognized they need more time to build support for desal and made a politically tough decision to delay the project." So what should we do during this pause in the desal timeline? Wait to be "educated" about the need for desalination? I prefer to accept the Mayor and City Manager's offer of citizen engagement to "craft a new vision for the City's water supply". I would like you to join me.

Fall Campaign

The Desal Alternatives steering committee has issued a call to all citizen supporters to advocate that the City Council adopt water security measures that can be implemented immediately. The steering committee is still honing the list of measures, which we'll discuss in the next email. We'll be contacting you to give your input to the Council this Fall. Meanwhile, come to the Desal Alternatives meeting on September 19th where we'll organize ourselves for the Fall campaign and hear some inspiration from Conner Everts, who traveled to Australia to find out how California can learn from their conservation methods.

Party

Let's celebrate that "when the people lead, the leaders will follow". Join us Sunday afternoon, August 25 from 2-4pm for food, music and good company at Garfield Park Village Clubhouse, 721 Bay St. near California Ave. Bring some finger food. I'll bring some punch.

Joe Jordan and Mary Flodin are hosting an informational gathering at their home on Saturday, August 24 at 4:30pm, 140 Heath St.

Fly in the Punchbowl

The statement from Martín Bernal is problematic for the City Council in one respect. Bernal writes, "In order to complete the significant public investment made to date in the draft Environmental Impact Report, to respond to comments by community members offered on the draft EIR, and in order to inform future discussions about the City’s water supply, the EIR will be completed." The decision whether to complete the EIR belongs to the Council, since it will cost a lot more money to complete than the $1.6 million already spent.

The four hundred comments submitted on the Draft EIR comprise a devastating critique of the desal project. There is only one way that a Final EIR can "fix" the deficiencies in the Draft: by recommending a package of alternatives to the project. Anything less from a Final EIR would not be credible. The Council may hesitate to spend more money just to get a Final EIR that recommends alternatives to the project. Council members can reach that conclusion just by reading the comments on the Draft.

Consider the comments from the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is engaged in negotiations with the City over fish habitat:

"Unfortunately the Alternatives Analysis does not appear to thoroughly evaluate alternatives recommended by National Marine Fisheries Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife through more than 10 years of technical assistance provided to the City." As government-speak goes, this is pretty damning. You can practically feel the heat of impatience radiating from the page.

And consider this conclusion at the end of seven pages of comments from Gerald Weber, geologist, "How can the dEIR be accepted as adequate when there is essentially no detailed study and assessment of the ground water potential along the north coast?"

I recommend a book by UCSC emeritus social psychologist, Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me. In the book Aronson explains why we humans so often throw good money after bad even though it is more rational to cut our losses.

- Rick Longinotti


An unpublished letter to the editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel from Paul Gratz:

8.20.13 - The only drought is a leadership drought

After wasting $17M, city officials now want to re-engage the public by backing off on their promised desal vote in 2014.

Mayor Bryant denies that "pulling the plug on a 2014 vote is not designed to keep desal from being a divisive issue during the November 2014 council race. ..." A classical political tactic where the main point is adeptly stated, but opposite of the proponents’ true motivation.

"We need to take in all the feedback that we've been getting, and say, 'Here's the problem and what are we collectively going to do about it?' A statement conveying what the city never did for two decades and has no intention of doing now.

Will this backfire if "delayed" desal remains a contentious topic for candidates running for the Board of Supervisors and City Council? In trying to dodge desal, politicians will out themselves as the election certainly will revolve around transparency, trust-building, and accountability.

Paul Gratz
Co-author of Measure P


More event info:

This Saturday,August 24, Mary Flodin and Joe Jordan are hosting a neighborhood house party/teach in concerning the proposed Santa Cruz desal plant. The event will include a discussion about the political maneuverings behind the city's announcement on Tuesday to sort of put the brakes on the regional desal project.

In the driveway out in front of 140 Heath Street, the event starts at 4:30 PM. There will be cookies and drinks, and local experts on hand to lead some fascinating and important discussion of all the issues associated with this possible project.

Join in and spread the word! It will be outdoors, so bring jacket and hat, perhaps. Heath St. parallels Delaware Ave., one block inland and connects between Fair and Swift.

-- Paul Gratz


For more info about Desal Alternatives, see:
http://desalalternatives.org/
§Bryant/Bernal City of Santa Cruz Press Release
by Indybay Volunteer Tuesday Aug 27th, 2013 7:21 PM

MAYOR HILARY BRYANT AND CITY MANAGER MARTÍN BERNAL
ISSUE STATEMENT ON DESAL PROJECT
RECOMMEND THERE NOT BE A VOTE IN 2014, WHILE SHIFTING
FOCUS TO CONSERVATION AND ADDITIONAL PUBLIC INPUT TO
CRAFT A NEW VISION FOR THE CITY’S WATER SUPPLY
August 20, 2013

http://www.scwd2desal.org/documents/press_release/2013-City_August202013.pdf