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See update at end. Also new, PUC Judge Gary Weatherford’s order detailing true information he wants from Cal Am and others about the latest conflict of interest.


There were some nice surprises in Jim Johnson’s story today in the Monterey Herald. The subject was desalination but it was not about delays or cost increases, at least not directly.

Johnson reported that Public Utilities Commission project manager Andrew Barnsdale is being relieved from the responsibility of overseeing the Cal Am desal project on the Peninsula. There were two surprises right there.

One was that there was a specific someone at the PUC who was responsible for the desal project. The impression had been created long ago that no one was in charge unless it was Cal Am. Whenever anything big happened at the PUC level, it always seemed to be the work of an administrative law judge who was allowed no contact with anyone except large law firms. Some of those administrative law judges seem pretty bright, but they’re pretty much limited to ruling on matters put in front of them by others who may or may not qualify for that distinction.

So someone named Barnsdale was in charge? Good to know. His name had come up along the way, but it hadn’t stirred much interest in the growing community of desal watchers locally for several reasons. First, his background is mostly in environmental law, electricity and permitting issues, not water or construction. Second, he had responsibilities for other significant projects around the state. Apparently the PUC thinks that overseeing an extremely important and tremendously challenging $400 million-plus desal project is a part-time job for someone without desal experience.

Dollar bills close-up - Money keeps silentAlso under surprises but in the “good surprises” category was that whoever Barnsdale reports to took action upon learning of a conflict of interest situation. It involves testing of the well technology that Cal Am intends to use. It turned out that the testing was essentially being carried out by one fellow who was being paid by most everyone involved in the effort, and who stood to make more money the longer the technology seemed to be working. Among those he was working for was the PUC and Cal Am. And the company preparing the environmental impact report on the project.

There are a couple of surprises contained in the preceding paragraph. No, not the conflict of interest part. The conflicts were apparent months ago to just about everyone involved, everyone except the PUC apparently. The surprises are that the PUC either didn’t know or pretended not to know something that should have been obvious to anyone with a passing interest in the subject, that it admitted to recognizing the problem eventually and, probably most surprising of all, that it did something about it.

UPDATE: Following the original post of this article, Monterey water activist George Riley weighed in with a comment, see below, strongly supportive of Barnsdale. Considering George’s superior knowledge of this project, the process and the players, this very strongly suggests that Barnsdale is being scapegoated. Stay turned for more on this.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Roland Martin July 14, 2015, 10:08 am

    We can only hope the next one “to get hit over the head”, will be Justin Barnett, and his partners in obfuscation, the six mayors who have shilled for Cal Am these many years.

  • Roland Martin July 14, 2015, 10:10 am

    We can only hope the next one “to get hit over the head”, will be Jason Barnett, and his partners in obfuscation, the six mayors who have shilled for Cal Am these many years.

  • Roland Martin July 14, 2015, 10:13 am

    Please correct spelling of” Jason Burnett”
    ( I must be more careful)

  • Ron Chesshire July 14, 2015, 10:22 am

    As noted a few times in previous Partisan articles, the PUC and their contractors have always been part of the problem. They have been playing with this issue for @ 17 years and we aren’t there yet. Putting this in the hands of an Agency who has little experience with water issues compared to their vast knowledge of electrical and gas issues was a stroke of genius by then Assemblyman Keeley who knew he was throwing this into a “black hole”. And, where was Eric Zigas (Environmental Science Associates) the PUC’s lead consultant on the EIR as this was all coming down? We have been done a great disservice and it is and will continue to cost us, dearly.

  • Marc Del Piero July 14, 2015, 1:44 pm

    It is time for immediate and full investigations, and criminal prosecutions if necessary, of all conspiring elected/public officials and private interested parties, of their collective actions, and of the allegations: 1. of illegal conflicts of interests; 2. of wrongful takings (without compensation) of private property and water rights from innocent land owners for the financial benefit of “insiders”; and 3. of conspiracies by private parties and governmental officials for the economic benefit of “insiders” and favored parties, including Cal-Am. It is time for the allegations of massive corporate corruption and illegal, pay-to-play “insider” deals by the CPUC to be exposed and ended.

    • Stephen Collins July 14, 2015, 3:19 pm

      You could not be more correct, Marc, but I will take it a step further. An investigation locally by Flippo will be pointless and nothing more than showmanship. Much of the abuse and obfuscation has been accomplished with some level of Federal dollars. The Department of Justice, empanelling a Federal Grand Jury, with indictment powers is the only way the County and Cal Am will ever be brought to Justice.

    • Ron Chesshire July 14, 2015, 9:23 pm

      Where do I sign to get the ball rolling?

      • Stephen Collins July 15, 2015, 2:26 pm

        Ron, write letters to your local legislators that you are close to, ask for Federal intervention, and send copies to the PUC. If Bill Monning and Luis Alejo ask for an investigation, you can rest assured it will happen far more quickly than a normal citizen.

  • Stephen Collins July 14, 2015, 3:23 pm

    Andrew Barnsdale is a person of impeccable credentials, and unfailing integrity. I have worked with Andrew on various other projects built in the County of Monterey and give him my highest endorsement. Cal Am publically stating they had no knowledge of the alleged conflict is shameful, and my guess, pure bullsh.. For Andrew to be scapegoated in such a manner is unconscionable and it is time for the public to get a full accounting.

    • Ron Chesshire July 14, 2015, 9:35 pm

      How about Zigas? I have never had a good feeling about him from day one as a contractor for the PUC to lead the EIR process. He should have been privy to all that has taken place? Can an investigation go back to Keeley’s legislation and the killing of the dam project by the PUC at Cal Am;s request? I’m fed up. Again, where do I sign to bring in the clean up crew?

      • Stephen Collins July 15, 2015, 6:44 am

        As the wheels come off Cal Am’s and the County’s project, Ron, I could fill this Blog on Zigas experiences. Remember this is the guy that somehow missed the Agland Trust well ever existing, not to mention the MCWD well. All within Dennis Williams 5,000 foot radius. Would it surprise you that I sat at lunch at the PUC one day with Zigas and several RMC folks, along with Weeks and discussed my County role, my RMC contract, etc. This is the same supposed “hidden” contract the County claims today no one, including them knew about. This whole scenario is about to get very interesting.

  • Ron Weitzman July 14, 2015, 5:04 pm

    Do you really believe any of these things would have occurred without the revelatons of Chuck Cech on June 12?i

    • Stephen Collins July 14, 2015, 5:06 pm


  • Norbert kammer July 14, 2015, 6:26 pm

    No matter what, Cal Am get a profit of 11% of capital investment. If it all gets more expensive the profit gets larger. For regulators, spending “free” money from taxpayers is just a way to show they are needed and insure their jobs.

  • bill leone July 14, 2015, 6:43 pm

    Now we’re getting somewhere: talking about empaneling a Federal Grand Jury with indictment
    powers to investigate Cal Am, & realize Marc’s 3 objectives. Where’s the petition? Who do I call or write to? What can a citizen to do get this show on the road?
    While you’re at it, you might also be interested in doing some research on the way Cal Am’s
    parent company, along with other major corporations, function as a Shadow Government;
    simply Google, “American Water Company + The National Association of Water Companies + ALEC.”
    You will be unpleasantly surprised.

  • Jan Shriner July 15, 2015, 8:28 am

    Barnsdale was right there with Lombardo and Zigas disrespecting the process in Marina city council chambers. One would think Delgado had just come from a friendly beer pong game with the cal am posse May 12, 2015. Impeccable is too generous of a word to describe the character of any of those individuals. Delgado asked if the cpuc has food fights in their meetings.

    • Stephen Collins July 15, 2015, 2:23 pm

      Jan, I will stand down a bit on the impeccable part, although I must say my dealings were always very good. He also knows how to take an order from his superiors and it would not surprise me if he was not ordered to take the line he took with Marina. Obviously, I do not know, just surmising. It definitely upsets me that once again, fall guys and scapegoats and being lined up to take the hit for people who really made the decisions.