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Cal Am’s latest desal delay is its own damned fault

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For the past couple of years now, California American Water and its various partners have told us that time is of the essence, that its plans for a $400 million-plus desalination plant must proceed at all costs. The threat of a state-ordered cutback on water use looms large, especially over the hospitality industry, the Peninsula’s largest economic driver.

So when environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact of drilling giant wells under the beach, when those of a technical bent worried aloud about the integrity of the pre-construction testing process and the potential impact on groundwater near the plant site, when people concerned about the high cost of mistakes pointed out a glaring conflict of interest among the project team, they were all dismissed as obstructionists.

“They” are trying to stop the project, we were told, though “they” were never really identified. (The working definition of the so-called obsctructionists might be anyone who isn’t being paid to advance the project or doesn’t stand to receive a direct financial benefit.)

Those arguing that state environmental laws should be not be ignored for the convenience of the engineers were called tree huggers or worse, shills for potentially competing projects. Though they have found themselves in an emergency of their own making, Cal Am and its bedfellows argue that there have been too many delays already and rules are meant to be broken if it is in the interest of speed and commerce.

And now comes another significant setback for the project. Ruling Extending EIR Deadline for MPWSP Whose fault? Those damned obstructionists? Not hardly.An administrative law judge for the Public Utilities Commission ruled Thursday that the bureaucratic timetable must be set back three months because one of the key figures in the well-testing process is wearing too many hats. There are things to be sorted out, said an exasperated judge, Gary Weatherford.

Here is today’s Herald story on the ruling.

It seems that Dennis Williams of Geoscience is working for just about everyone involved in the well testing, including both Cal Am and the PUC, and he also holds a patent on the technology being tested. In other words, he was being paid by the PUC and the company preparing the environmental impact report on the project to help test Cal Am’s test wells of his design while also being paid by Cal Am. What could possibly go wrong?

So now expect to be told that this is an unnecessary delay caused by “those who would destroy the project.” But the truth is that this is the fault of those making the decisions on behalf of Cal Am and the Public Utilities Commission. This is not the handiwork of obstructionists. This is another breakdown in the procedure, a result of arrogance.

True, some of those who aren’t big fans of the project did notice the conflict and pointed it out but the powers that be on this project already knew all about it. If they say they didn’t, they will either be lying or admitting to grotesque incompetence. Google Dennis Williams and Geoscience and see how long it takes for you to spot the problem and say, “Oh, my.”

Williams is highly qualified for the work involved and it is entirely possible that he can segregate his functions properly and provide accurate assessments, at least according to his own standards. But that should have been discussed openly by the various parties – including the public – right from the start. Not now, after the media demonstrated that the PUC’s experts couldn’t even find a private well near the test site. Not now, after unexpected decline in groundwater in the area suggests the test well isn’t working as it is supposed to. Now now, after Cal Am’s customers have been put on the hook for some $10 million in testing costs, costs that will come straight out of customers’ pockets no matter how any of this turns out.

It could be that Williams was the best choice for the job and should have been hired. But doing that right would have required putting his various entanglements on the record, and you know what can happen when the public knows too much.

Weatherford’s ruling comes just a week at the Coastal Commission ruled that Cal Am needs to do some more work on its well testing program, which begs the question of whether Cal Am could have accomplished more early on by refining its testing plan rather than scratching and clawing to fast track it through the regulatory processes in the first place.

It could be that under current standards of public works construction, it isn’t possible for a project to be built without compromises of quality, design and process. Maybe there is corruption and self-dealing in every venture beyond some certain financial threshold. Maybe it’s $100 million. Maybe it’s whatever Cal Am’s budget calls for.

From Cal Am’s perspective, Tom Moore fits right into the obstructionist category. He’s on the board of the Marina Coast Water District, which once was a partner in Cal Am’s desal efforts, a partnership that fell apart spectacularly when it came out that a former county water official, Steve Collins, was being paid under the table for consulting work on the project. Now there is litigation and Monterey County and Cal Am and Moore’s district are trying to make each look bad and, for the most part, succeeding.

But Moore is also well positioned to comment on the swirl that the desal venture has become. Here’s his take.

“Given the history of the Regional Desalination Project and what happened to Steve Collins, logic would dictate that Cal Am and the CPUC would carefully vet ALL of their consultants and contractors to ensure there wouldn’t be even the slightest whiff of the appearance of a conflict of interest.  And logic would also dictate that any consultant or contractor thinking about working for either the CPUC or Cal Am on the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, or both in this case, would consult with competent attorneys and disclose, disclose, disclose in order to stay the hell away from even a remote possibility of a conflict of interest.  Unfortunately, it seems logic was not at work here.

“What does appear to be in abundance in this entire debacle is an appalling belief:  that when it comes to making more money for your shareholders and yourself, the ends always justify the means.  The withholding of critical information from customers and the public, the concealment of conflicts of interest, twisting the truth and even outright lying seem to be coin of the realm for the folks who hold this appalling belief.  It’s a very unfortunate commentary about private commerce today that $20 million $30 million will buy a lot of this sort of dishonesty.”

As it stands, the process leading to a possible desalination plant has become littered with thorns. Supporters of this project feel they must barrel through it all and demonstrate certitude  even though they has never built such a plant or maneuvered through such a process. They apparently feel that to stop and listen to anyone who isn’t on their desal team might be seen as a sign of weakness, so they choose to ignore all the noise from the bleachers. “They’re just trying to stop the project.”

And while that might be true for a few, many, many who have been watching and weighing in on the desal project for a decade now want only for the project to be completed as efficiently and cleanly as possible. And, just in case, they want officials to continue considering alternative projects that likely would not be as expensive or environmentally intrusive. There are many who don’t trust Cal Am and fear that special deals with the hospitality industry will leave everyone else paying exorbitant amounts for water. But they also understand that the river needs to be protected and an additional water supply is required. What they want is for Cal Am and the PUC to do a better job.

Cal Am averted a public takeover effort partly by convincing the public that it can do a better job than a public agency. Since then, the company has have presented no evidence of that. If there was generalized trust that Cal Am and its boosters were capable of getting it done on their own, and keeping costs at least somewhat under control,  the noise surely would die down. But what has gone down instead is the trust level, and there may be no end in sight unless Cal Am et al change their ways.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Devin Podeszwa July 10, 2015, 10:33 am

    This mess is a subversion of capitalism, of sound business practices, and of public trust. I’d say it resembles a circus, but that would be unfair to the ringmaster, acrobats, and the rest of the talent.

  • Frank Emerson July 10, 2015, 10:47 am

    I am not paid anything to “advance their interests” Royal. I want a replacement water supply, required to comply with the State Order, to relieve the overpumping of the river. I think it is obvious that the anti CalAm folks have made a job out of delaying every aspect of the process. George Riley, Bill Hood, Ron Weitzmen, Marina Coast and many others have written letters and attended many meetings opposing bore hole, test well, and every aspect of permitting from the start.

    • James Toy July 10, 2015, 5:50 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree. They shoot down Cal-Am at every opportunity then complain that Cal-Am doesn’t know how to fly.

      • L. Parrish July 10, 2015, 7:00 pm

        Opponents of Cal-Am don’t “complain” of their incompetence, we’re well acquainted with it. We’re just sick and tired of paying for their every failure. i.e. The previous regional project – $32 million and counting. The failed San Clemente Dam – $26 million and counting. etc. Their latest attempt (coming up) is to stretch out the current surcharge for the failed regional project over a 20 year period. Sound good? Well, they’re requesting an 8.51% interest rate icing on top of that cake. Still sound good? And their justification? “We think ratepayers need a reduction in their water bills”. That’s a quote. Am I hearing applause?
        And Mr. Emerson, aren’t you the Frank Emerson involved with the Carmel River Steelhead Assn.? And isn’t your group receiving funding from Cal-Am? Please give us an historical accounting of Cal-Am contributions to your org., if any. My apologies if I’m mistaken.

        • Frank Emerson July 11, 2015, 8:50 am

          Larry I have been doing steelhead rescues for almost 20 years on the Carmel River. We are a purely volunteer organization, no paid staff whatsoever. I receive no pay. For many years our only funding has been memberships and the Wild Game BBQ. Less than 10K a year. Despite the fact that MPWMD receives over $1 Million a year (almost $3 million in prior years) for rescues and fishery mitigation they declined to donate anything to the Steelhead Association. Cal Am donates $5000 when we asked because MPMWD would not donate anything. It covers some rescue costs, like truck maintenance and equipment. That’s it. plus our annual wild game BBQ which nets us under 10K a year, and we haven’t had one of those in 4 or 5 years, So no whopping amount of funding over here Larry. Oh and about 20 years ago they donated a used utility truck that we still use for steelhead rescues.

          • L. Parrish July 12, 2015, 5:13 pm

            The point is, your organization HAS taken funds from CAl-Am and are therefore compromised. And your apologist behavior precludes you or your group from EVER critisizing or opposing Cal-Am in WHATEVER venture they dream up, no matter what the cost is to innocent ratepayers. Thanks for the disclosure.
            And by the way, all of the people you mentioned previously are volunteers (as are all members of PWN or WRAMP) and none have EVER taken any $ from Cal-Am. Your group wants to save the fish in the Carmel River – that’s a good thing. Our groups want to save ALL water users in the Monterey District from an out-of-state corporation that not only is intent on bleeding our community of as much money as is humanly possible, but also is directly responsible for drying up the Carmel River; guilty of stealing that water for well over 20 years and reselling it at an enormous profit; illegally dumping arsenic at the dump; criminally charging customers around the State (including locally) for projects that were never built; illegally excluding a low-priced alternative to the San Clemente Dam ripoff, etc. etc.. Not only that, if you’re interested in facts, they have actually opposed virtually every effort to decrease their theft of water from the Carmel River and/or solve our water problems here – which they created in the first place. I’d list them all, but that’s another long list.
            The point is, opponents of Cal-Am rely on facts, and proven history.

          • Frank Emerson July 15, 2015, 5:58 pm

            Okay Larry, turn about is fair play. Much more to the point would be how many of the people or the organizations they represent commenting here against the Cal Am project are getting funds from Nader Agha. Agha seems to be in competition with Cal Am to build a desal plant. It has been reported that Waterplus and PWN received funds from Agha, significant funds. Ron Weitzman has been listed as a supporter of the Agha project. We are not compromised by taking a small donation from ClaAm. None of us personally benefit from that donation, it does not even cover all the costs of a rescue project besides. Before we ever did receive that we already supported Cal Am as our Utility and Desal as the only water supply that is drought proof and can meet the community demand while not over pumping the river during the dry months. It is very simple Larry. We want to restore the river. We do not care if Nader also builds a plant, just stop trying to derail the one we need ASAP. OK?

    • Royal Calkins July 10, 2015, 8:45 pm

      Wasn’t thinking of you as one of the recipients, Frank. Thou doth protest too much. And do you really find it all that bothersome that the people you name have “written letters and attended many meeting” to state their concerns. You’re comparing that to the strong-arm tactics from the other side?

      • Frank Emerson July 11, 2015, 8:58 am

        Royal, in case you hadn’t noticed those are the people that show up to protest the bore hole testing, the test wells and every other aspect of the CalAm project. I was there. No one else is there trying to deny the permits, every time they do they ask to delay another year. And guess what, now here we are with another delay, which increases the cost. and then you blame Cal Am for increased costs?

        • Royal Calkins July 11, 2015, 9:15 am

          The problem with the test wells was that Cal Am wanted to waive EIR requirements, which it was allowed to do after expending considerable time and energy on politics rather than studying the science. It chose to cut corners and then to tried to make up additional time by hiring experts willing to say all is well before completion of the testing. So, yes, Cal Am gets the blame.

          • Stephen Collins July 11, 2015, 2:31 pm

            Good call, Royal, but it worse than that, by claiming the slant well was a “test” well, a science project, per the Coastal Commission filing they avoid CEQA. In the EIR, Cal Am claims the well is a “permanent” well, but CEQA is not required because the matter has already been reviewed by the Coastal Commission. Disingenuous as hell.

  • Kristina Baer July 10, 2015, 11:01 am

    Someone who does not have a vested interest in an “unproven technology” has to exercise “due diligence” in the testing of the slant wells or we rate payers once again will pay the penalty for a flawed (and failed) “clinical trial.”

  • Margaret Davis July 10, 2015, 11:13 am

    Skeptics of Cal Am have history on their side. The puzzlement is Cal Am’s ratepayer support, on the lines of, “My longtime doctor has brought me to the brink of death through his negligence, so now he’s going to do an experimental procedure that might kill someone to give me life. Anyone who questions him just wants to see me die.”

  • Susan Schiavone July 10, 2015, 11:17 am

    I totally agree with Tom Moore. We should have voted out Cal Am when we had the second chance to do so. Given the already existing preferential treatment for the hospitality industry and Cal Am versus the draconian residential tiered rates, I have no doubt we will pay and pay. This situation is because of the failure of our regulatory structures, a failure and corruption of our local political leadership, unscrupulous business interests, and high priced international corporate propaganda.

  • Jan Shriner July 10, 2015, 11:23 am

    This Marina coast director intends to protect the groundwater of it’s own ratepayers through diligence and integrity with the public process. I feel a responsibility to my constituents.

    I find it distasteful and irresponsible that others would expect to develop a water source that either negatively impacts the source MCWD uses or that is unnecessarily negatively impacting the rights of the environment.

    Thank you Royal for making the decision of the administrative law judge accessible for the public.

    I hope everyone will support a clean, thorough process to solution.

  • George Riley July 10, 2015, 11:25 am

    Frank, It is OK for you to rant, but you ignore facts. You have tried to call me out a few times, but I do not need to stoop to a rant back. And ratepayers deserve a voice that demands facts and transparency. You should try it sometine. Its refreshing, rewarding and relevant.

  • Larry Gowin July 10, 2015, 11:39 am

    ‘A failure and corruption of our local political leadership’, who might that be Susan?

  • john m. moore July 10, 2015, 12:31 pm

    Measure O only required a study. But its real flaw was that if the buy-out of Cal-Am came to fruition the Monterey Penninsula Water Management District was to be in charge. It has a history of incompetence, but it also would have put all of the employees of the new agency in the CaLPERS pension system which would eliminate any and all savings. If there is a new attempt to purchase Cal-Am. the county Board of Supervisors should be directed to direct RFQs to private companies with contruction and management capabilites for the management of all of the related Cal-Am franchise, including the De-sal plant. Poseidon is one such company, but there are several others. I am not an expert about water management, but unfortunately I know too much about the government pension mess. I just learned that the Pacific Grove pension deficit is $97M(at a 4% income rate), plus it owes about $27M for principal and accrued interest on pension bonds($1.8M a year thru 2029).So acquiring Cal-Am and subjecting it to government pensions would be a guaranteed disaster. With my suggestions, I greatly favor the county acquiring Cal-Am.

    • L. Parrish July 10, 2015, 6:29 pm

      So, exactly what is this ‘history of incompetence’ you speak of? Do you have some facts to back up your rhetoric or just blowing off some steam? Using your logic one would also surmise that any public agency using CalPers is somehow financially doomed. Is that how it is? Monterey? Seaside? Salinas? I’m no expert on retirement/pension systems, but I don’t think you are either. It’s my understanding that contributions are variable and determined locally, so assuming a “guaranteed disaster” seems a bit ludicrous. Otherwise, every public agency using CalPers would be bankrupt. Is that the case?
      Plus, during the Measure O campaign, there was never any mention of involving Monterey County as a potential purveyor/owner of the Monterey District water system. To be sure, their involvement would not be sought out or even welcomed. And by the way, Monterey County is on CalPers – just for the record. I guess they’re courting disaster.

      • john m. moore July 10, 2015, 6:52 pm

        Yes they are all courting pension disaster(with the exception of Carmel which can raise taxes at will). Where have you been?

        • L. Parrish July 10, 2015, 7:10 pm

          Again – please present some facts. And explain how Carmel “can raise taxes at will?” What kind of taxes? Can they pre-designate them for pension payments? Please explain why other cities can’t do the same, if this is true.

  • Dan Turner July 10, 2015, 1:55 pm

    It was never true, as CalAm’s shills claimed, that Measure O only authorized a study. The only reason the study was included in Measure O was due to a state law that the big utilities (CalAm, PG&E, S. Cal. Edison, etc.) got our legislature to pass in 1992 requiring such a study before a private utility could be bought by a public agency. The law said that the study report had to show that it was in the public interest (that it would cost less money) for a public agency to take over the utility’s services. No one ever considered doing such a study before that law because it was obvious to everyone that it is always less expensive (for a variety of reasons) to have water, gas or electricity delivered by a public agency rather than a private corporation – especially a regulated monopoly, if the regulators had been “captured” by the companies they were supposed to regulate.
    The only reason for this law having been passed was to make it more difficult for the public to get rid of private utilities. And, it has been very successful. Since we now have to do this useless study, the utilities and their shills can complain that hundreds of thousands of dollars – maybe millions – will be wasted on some stupid study. And what if the study shows that it will not be in the public interest – less expensive – to replace the private company w/a public agency (which is about as likely as monkeys flying out of your tush)? Then all that $ would have been wasted.
    Measure O said that, after the state-mandated study showed that public water would be less expensive than corporate water, the MPWMD was mandated to open negotiations, within a few months of the vote, to purchase CalAm’s Monterey Peninsula assets and go on to eminent domain condemnation proceedings if a deal couldn’t be reached. It was never just a study and, to claim it was after all this has been known for some time, demonstrates a level of disingenuousness that goes way beyond run-of-the-mill ignorance.

    • john m. moore July 10, 2015, 2:35 pm

      I stand corrected, but add that anyone who believes that the Monterey Penninsula Water Management District is more efficient than Cal-Am demonstrates a run of the mill ignorance that is dangerous. As I stated, if Measure O had averted the public pension problem by requiring a contract with a qualified non-govt. operator, I would have supported it. Fortunately, I was able to sway hundreds of voters to vote no for the superficial bent of Measure O, which subjected taxpayers to an avoidable multi-million pension liability. So if you go at it again in the same way, I feel comfortable about opposing it again; however I prefer that you go at it again with the benefit of my suggestion about contracting out the specialized management responsibilities to a qualified non-govt. company like Poseidon(which built and manages the San Diego desal project and sells water to utilities at about $2,100 per acre-ft)

      • Dan Turner July 10, 2015, 5:18 pm

        I agree with you to the extent that we did misjudge the depth & breadth of animus in the community towards the MPWMD. However, considering that CalAm outspent us about 25:1, I doubt we could have won even if we’d had God running the new system last time. Next time, if we have to try via a vote again (which we might not have to), even outspending us 25:1 might not be enough for CalAm.
        Public pensions are, except for a few executives, not excessive. The problem is not that public pensions are too high but, rather, that SS pensions are too small and should be, at least, doubled.

        • James Toy July 10, 2015, 6:17 pm

          Dan Turner: “I agree with you to the extent that we did misjudge the depth & breadth of animus in the community towards the MPWMD.”

          The passage of the advisory vote asking the legislature to disband the MPWMD should have been a huge clue. You misjudged big time. Cal-Am overspent on Measure O. I think O would have lost even if Cal-Am spent little or nothing on the campaign.

          • Royal Calkins July 10, 2015, 8:48 pm

            Jim: In my humble view, if Cal Am had not outspent the Measure O campaign 20 to 1 and had not used most of that money to buy misleading ads (witness their false claims about Felton), Measure O likely would have passed.

        • john m. moore July 10, 2015, 7:02 pm

          Whether public pensions are too high is a vast area for discussion. The problem in Ca. is that the pensions cost about double What anyone could have imagined. In Pacific Grove, the pension deficits and pension bonds are now about ten times annual salaries and growing. From a high of 221 employees, the city is down to about 70.Pension costs are about 22% of the operating budget, Granted that PG was recently ranked the eighth worse city in the state for pension distress, it is not without company in Monterey county. Take a look at the deficit of the Sheriff’s dept. pension plan and give thanks for Cal-Fire instead of a county fire dept.

  • Devin Podeszwa July 10, 2015, 6:04 pm

    A completely undeveloped idea here. It just jumped into my mind. Imagine each and every resident/user/customer as sole shareholders?…

    • Devin Podeszwa July 10, 2015, 6:51 pm

      I’m an old fashioned ignorant capitalist. I believe in the power of the invisible hand when not subverted by imbalances, incompetence, and corruption.

  • James Toy July 10, 2015, 6:08 pm

    It looks like even those who know history can still repeat it. It’s Stephen “Who, me?” Collins all over again.

    But those who support the People’s Project and/or Deep Water Desal over Cal-Am’s project shouldn’t get too giddy whenever Cal-Am stumbles or encounters a bump in the road. Neither of those two alternatives are getting anywhere near the level of public scrutiny that Cal-Am’s project is getting. If they were under the same microscope, I suspect we’d find a lot of problems with them, too. For example, both rely on open ocean intakes, which environmental regulators frown upon.

    • Stephen Collins July 10, 2015, 7:36 pm

      Since I pled no contest to false conflict charges, I own the disparaging you display in your comments. I would hope that when the fraud and perjury is brought to the forefront after McKee reopened the case and the District Attorney depositions are made public you will see the reality of Cal Am’s deception. Marina Coast voted on my contract in public and did nothing wrong. They have continued to fight Cal Am and the County because they are in the right, they know it, I know it and soon the public will know it. Cal Am’s motive is simple, corporate greed and avarice. Royal’s article is very simple, Cal Am and the County screwed up and Dennis Williams will pay the price.

  • Marc Del Piero July 10, 2015, 7:25 pm

    ALL OF THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS REPORTED IN THE PRESS AND ARE PUBLIC RECORDS. In 2005, when I was the attorney for the Pajaro-Sunny Mesa Community Services District in North Monterey County, that public agency secured a 90 year agreement (30+ year lease and two extensions) to build a publicly owned desalination plant in Moss Landing. The project complied with the Monterey County ordinance from 1989 (that I co-authored) mandating public ownership of any de-sal plant. Their site had seawater intake and outflow facilities and was independently identified in 2002 by the CPUC as the optimal location for a regional desalination plant to address water supply deficiencies in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. That public district also entered into a 30+ year development and management agreement with Poseidon Resources Corporation, which is the successful developer of the largest desalination plant on the west coast of North America (the Carlsbad plant in San Diego). Poseidon is a very sophisticated and successful private company, not likely to pursue projects that it believes are futile. Poseidon was to act as the public agency’s development and management agent for the first 30+ years of the plant’s life. PSMCSD’s board directed its general manager to offer water from the proposed publicly owned, but privately managed, plant to both FORA and Cal-Am so as to permanently remedy the shortage on the Monterey Peninsula that was identified by the State Water Resources Control Board in 1995. I was present at all of those meetings. The offer was rejected in favor of Cal-Am’s proposed plans (without any groundwater rights) to illegally take and export groundwater, by way of wells, from the overdrafted Salinas Valley aquifers. Cal-Am succeeded in discounting the credibility of the proposed project to local officials, virtually none of whom had ever built any type of water project.
    Unfortunately, that is all ancient history.
    Today, over a decade later, Cal-Am’s test well is shut down because Cal-Am, and its’ apparently “paid-off” consultants, were illegally pumping fresh water from below farms in the Salinas Valley, in direct contradiction to Cal-am’s sworn testimony before the CPUC and the Coastal Commission and the Marina City Council. Cal-Am promised that it would only pump seawater. Today, Cal-Am’s senior management appears to be guilty of paying the CPUC consultants, who are writing reports in the supposedly fair and impartial draft CPUC EIR. Today, without success, Cal-Am’s sad representatives had to try to explain away the perversion of the “integrity” of the public’s environmental processes. Today, the CPUC is being held up to withering criticism by the Monterey Peninsula’s long-suffering ratepayers and public, which are accusing the CPUC’s consultants and “hydrology working group” of being the ” bought and paid-for tools” of Cal-Am’s corporate management.
    After ten years of corruption, the residents of our communities are disgusted and fed up. How much longer will the public processes mandated by state law be allowed to be perverted? How much longer will our elected officials refuse to “take the field” and demand an end to untested and unsuccessful slant wells that have been planned (from the beginning) to take groundwater from innocent land owners of the Salinas Valley? How much longer will the Coastal Commission represent to the public that the slant well is only temporary when Cal-Am’s filings with the CPUC indicate that it is intended to be permanent? How much longer will Cal-Am’s apologists keep defending Cal-Am instead of facing the facts that, for 20 years, no water project has been developed to save the Carmel River? How much longer will we have to wait for a viable water project that is not dependent upon “stealing” other peoples’ groundwater? When will we get a new water supply that is untainted by corporate corruption or bureaucratic incompetence?
    There are three answers to all of these questions. First, a “clean”, full, complete, and independent EIR/EIS with COMPLETE AND DETAILED alternatives analyses of the People’s Project and the Deep Water Project, must be prepared and fully re-circulated pursuant to the requirements of the CEQA guidelines. The document must not be based on “forced political agendas” of irresponsible, faceless bureaucrats. It must be be based upon hard facts, like an acknowledgment that Cal-Am’s well project will be “taking” groundwater from overlying land owners without compensation, and like an acknowledgment that the magnitude of possible environmental damage from a screened seawater intake (using current technologies) is miniscule/ “de minimus”, and will not have any significant effect, as defined by CEQA, on the massive resources of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Without an open admission by the CPUC that the current draft EIR is irreparably perverted and compromised, it will NEVER withstand a legal challenge.
    Second, a federal grand jury needs to be empaneled to fully investigate, and fully and aggressively prosecute if necessary, each and every party, whether public officials or private parties, that has been complicit 1. in any illegal conspiracy to pervert and corrupt the impartial public legal processes to which our residents are entitled, 2. in any conspired improper expenditure of federally generated grant funds for wrongful non-grant or private purposes, and 3. in any wrongful conspiracy to convert or “take” the private property rights of innocent property owners for the benefit of the “insiders” of this legal “trainwreck”.
    Third, a public, local joint powers agency made up of special districts and municipalities, with competent staff and experienced and qualified (smart) executive leadership, must be formed to purchase the identified “environmentally superior project” because it is sadly clear that the CPUC’s consultants and staff are incapable of controlling Cal-Am’s conduct, and because the CPUC has failed to understand (after ten years) that the adverse environmental impacts of this massive land use project cannot simply be “swept under a rug” like they ignore ratepayers’ objections to unfair rate increases.
    It is time for the corruption to end.

    • Stephen Collins July 10, 2015, 7:54 pm

      Wow, Marc, while I was writing my weak response to Mr. Toy, you were putting this powerhouse together. I can tell you the Federal Grand Jury is a great idea and may be closer to reality than you think. My Federal attorneys are in possession of the District Attorney documents that were provided to me AFTER I pled no contest and find them illuminating. Imagine, Cal Am’s president claims in the latest lawsuit filed by McKee that Cal Am had no knowledge of my RMC contract until the issue broke in the press. His deposition to the DA: he was the approver of my RMC invoices from the beginning. Care to guess how many planning dollars for the Regional Project were Federal dollars? I think the Feds would find that interesting. By the way, the DA depositions were all sealed and never have been made public. Why the DA gave them to my criminal attorney is a mystery, but I have them now and intend to liberally use them. Karma is indeed a bitch.

  • bill hood July 11, 2015, 8:00 am

    What an interesting string of colliding comments. Nobody has mentioned, however, something that struck me as a vivid example of local politics. The Mayor of Carmel, whom I like personally, who has at least shown the courage to step out on the water issue where others feared to tread, but who hitched his star to a galactical black hole in the person of CalAm, was quoted by Jim Johnson regarding the CPUC’s ALJ’s recent order. In the context that the Mayor has been deeply involved in all aspects of the Cal-Am water project, and has served as the spokesperson and go-to person for the Mayors’ JPA since its inception, I can’t believe that he didn’t know what the relationships were between the CPUC, Cal-Am, the “independent” peer review panel and the consultant who owns the patents to the slant wells. So his quote that he supports taking a step back to get it right, respect transparency and the perceptions of conflicts of interests doesn’t ring very true. With all of his involvement and knowledge, it is not a stretch at all to believe the quote is standard political spin to make lemonade out of lemons. Maybe it happens so often, no one noticed or cared.

    • Stephen Collins July 11, 2015, 8:35 am

      Bill, it was noticed, at this point Jason is such an obvious shill for Cal Am that no one pays any attention anymore. Jason has essentially sold his political career to Cal Am and is irrelevant in the conversation.

  • Roland Martin July 11, 2015, 11:30 am

    I thought your subject article clearly gave good reasons for calling Cal Am to task, Royal – and was going to give a more thoughtful comment, until I read the forgoing back-and-forth.
    I see no need to add to the fur-fight.
    Roland

  • Janet Collins July 11, 2015, 2:59 pm

    I want to elaborate on Steve Collins comments further..As most everyone is aware, this whole thing has caused me many sleepless nights because from day one when it all blew up with Steve being officially being charged with the so-called “conflict”. the Regional Project collapsed..He is innocent of this and my words at sentencing in front of Judge O’fferrell at his sentencing were as follows.. “My son is completely innocent of these spurious charges”…Made him mad as hell..Told me we weren’t there to retry the case, but the sad truth was that with his spurious ruling that he couldn’t be able to face his accusers, namely, the members of the Board in court, all of his evidence against them and his case went right our the window..So, McKee had a Judge in his pocket and Steve had to plea no-contest..That’s why he is a fellon…He never had a chance for his day in court, so to speak.
    Now, the Board of Supervisors have done their best to hide duplicity and collusion with Cal Am in bringing about the demise of the Regional Project..Steve was merely the “black sheep” they used to accomplish the goal…Shoot, the Board even sold their ordinance to Cal Am so that they would be able to run a desal plant and that cost the rate payers a bunch…Remember???
    And after Steve was sentenced, the ADA Hulsey turned over a whole bunch of depositions, a ton of info, sworn testimony…Oh, so enlightening….We always wondered why they turned on Steve the way they did…And don’t forget the word PURGERY…Cal Am has created for itself problems of its own making, but don’t forget the Board as being tied at the hip with them..The Board in this County controls the DA’s office, the Courts, Cal Am and it looks like the CPUC.. Poor us..Just a Mom concerned for her son…

    • Stephen Collins July 11, 2015, 8:51 pm

      Thanks, Mom, you say it clearly only the way you can. I will never stop fighting these conspiratorial, purjurous bastards until they are brought to justice, for my family. The day I sit in San Jose as the Federal Grand Jury asks certain people questions, Karma will truly be a bitch. It is inconceivable for many readers of this Blog that this type of activity could take place, it is unfortunate for County Government that these criminals exist.

  • Jean July 11, 2015, 6:46 pm

    Steve;
    Karma is no bitch.
    She is the Angel of Cosmological Accounting.

  • bill leone July 12, 2015, 9:35 am

    A few months ago I was asked to readjust my tinfoil hat after commenting: I thought of
    Cal Am as a criminal organization, & the PUC, as well as other Cal Am supporters, to
    be accomplices. As the relevant facts work themselves toward yet Another Grand Jury
    investigation of local politics, I will repeat my Mantra to anyone who is willing to read or
    listen.
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they call you crazy, then they fight
    you, then you win.” Paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi.

    • Stephen Collins July 12, 2015, 11:03 am

      Bill, thank you for the Ghandi qoute.

  • Janet Collins July 12, 2015, 12:06 pm

    One last comment regarding this latest law suit filed by Cal Am and MCWRA…What a subterfuge..The Water Agency is nothing more than the Board of Supervisors and only an ADVISORY board…I served on it a number of years myself, before Steve was appointed before I became a Councilmember to the City Of Salinas…Why didn’t they file on behalf of themselves and their buddies Cal Am…And one more thing before I get off my soap box, they spent million on legal fees in the prosecution of Steve, millions on the Regional Project that the BOS is responsible for sending down the tubes, and only them in order for Cal Am to have a project and all with Federal funds and Tax payers dollars…your dollars folks…As Judge O’fferrell so astutely pointed out, not a penny came out of their pockets….Just yours when you pay your taxes and the ratepayers for Cal Am…. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive….

  • Kenneth K. Nishi July 13, 2015, 10:39 am

    I will try again just to present the facts concerning local water issues as seen by me, one individual who has lived on the Monterey Peninsula for the last sixty-nine years, since 1946.

    The anti-growth people came here later and stopped everything. The Los Padres Dam was built in 1949 to supplement the water supply of the San Clemente Dam, built in 1921. Since 1949, the only increase in supply came from the drilling of wells along the Carmel River. During this time, there were no projects to increase the supply of water that was developed by Cal Am.

    Now sixty-six years later, people need more water, and the cost of water is becoming obscene because, instead of increasing the supply over time to match increasing demand and keep control over cost, Cal Am had done nothing.

    The California Public Utilities Commission is responsible to look out for the ratepayers, as well as Cal Am, but all this time it has favored Cal Am by allowing its prices to increase with increasing demand and limited, and now shrinking, supply. The CPUC is the regulatory agency responsible to ensure that Cal Am is justified in the rates it charges ratepayers, including whether a technology such as slant wells that is being proposed should be paid for by the ratepayer or by the shareholder if that technology fails. Cal Am knows how to fly, but what is it trying to fly? Is it trying to assure inexpensive and adequate water for ratepayers or to assure profit as a company looking out for its shareholders?

    The Regional Desalination Project fell apart not because Steve Collins “was being paid under the table for consulting work on the project,” as someone recently wrote, but for reasons that will soon be made public. As a person familiar with the facts, I can say that the Steve Collins story the public is familiar with is completely false and that the truth will come out with Rico action taken out against Monterey County and Cal Am. Marina Coast is not trying to make anyone “look bad.” It is just trying to get the facts out.

  • bill leone July 14, 2015, 9:11 am

    I would like to know more about the “anti-growth people” Mr. Nishi mentions in his comment.
    Could we assume the Native Americans, who lived here for over 12,000 years without destroying
    their Natural Habitat, be amongst them? Were the European settlers who caused the Death
    of Monterey Bay in favor of unlimited & unrestrained growth? Read: “The Death & Life of
    Monterey Bay” for the answer. Is Mr. Nishi suggesting unlimited, unrestrained, & unsustainable
    growth?
    Most of the people I know who are critical of Cal Am & its accomplices in crime are intelligent enough to realize Some growth is inevitable, but emphasize Sustainable Growth; economic
    growth that is not self destructive.
    I Do agree with Mr. Nishi’s main point: Cal Am, the CPUC, & their proponents are
    not serving the best interests of Monterey residents.

  • Kenneth K. Nishi July 14, 2015, 9:33 am

    The only people here in North America who welcomed others were the Native Americans. Look and see what the “anti growth people” did to them. The second boat load of people who came to the East coast were not of the right religion, spoke with funny accents, wore funny clothes, ate funny foods, et cetera and ad infinitum, go somewhere else. That might why the thirteen colonies were settled with their own proper, accepted characteristics and sustainable growth.

  • bill leone July 18, 2015, 5:20 pm

    What!?