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Desal Advocacy and Conflict of Interest - Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District
Paul Gratz
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.

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