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It was somewhat encouraging watching the National Geographic documentary, “Water and Power: A California Heist,” and that’s because it showed that water politics throughout California are as messy as they are right here on the Monterey Peninsula. What with the decades of unproductive sparring over solving our water supply problem and with the rapidly escalating cost of tap water hereabouts, I had started thinking that maybe we were alone in our inability to fix anything.  I was thinking maybe it was something in the water.

The focus of the documentary, produced by Marina Zenovich with able assistance from author and investigative reporter Mark Arax, was the manipulation of groundwater rights and some remarkable profiteering that is going on, principally in the San Joaquin Valley but also just down the coast in San Luis Obispo County.

Which points me toward the purpose of this piece, a June 3 forum on new groundwater rules and what they mean to us in Monterey County. More specifically, it will focus on California’s long-delayed but hugely important effort to begin actually regulating groundwater instead of simply letting the fellow with the deepest well call the shots.

The speakers will be Tom Moore, vice president of the Marina Coast Water District board of directors, and Keith Van Der Maaten, general manager of the district. It’s not just an academic topic for these two because the desalination plant that California American Water plans to build would draw some of its water from underground supplies theoretically controlled by Marina Coast.

The terribly long title of the forum is “To learn how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act may affect your water bill, your access to water and what groundwater sustainability agencies mean to us locally.” Under state mandate, Monterey County has formed a groundwater sustainability agency, which naturally is dominated by agribusiness interests.

In previous Partisan posts, I have labeled Moore as my favorite local politician, largely because of his incredibly deep knowledge of the subject matter and his ability to explain it all to folks like you and me.

The forum is set for 7 p.m. Saturday June 3 at the Marina Public Library, 190 Seaside Ave., in Marina. It is sponsored by the Marina Democratic Club, the Monterey County Democratic Central Committee and Citizens for Just Water.

In case you’d like to printout a reminder, here’s the flyer for the event.

BTW, the National Geographic special is available for rent on Netflix.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael Baer May 31, 2017, 8:17 pm

    Nice reporting Royal, Thank you!

    Besides this Saturday’s forum on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, there will be free showings of the “Water and Power” movie in Marina also at the Marina Public Library June 17, from 7-9 m and again June 29, 6-8 pm. This is being put on by Just Water, Marina Citizens for Water Justice and co-sponsored by Public Water Now.

    One of the most poignant moments for me in the movie was when that woman whose well had run dry due to over-pumping by the local corporate “Big Ag” interests said that access to water is a human right, not a commodity for corporate profit. Those of us living under the reign of terror by CalAm and CPUC here on the Peninsula can certainly relate.

  • Mike Johnston May 31, 2017, 9:52 pm

    Access to water is defined by law a human right in California now as a result of legislative action a few years ago. It is encouraging that throughout our state’s at times ponderous bureaucracy folks at every level and in every agency are being pushed to take that human right into account when making and implementing policy. Not a revolution, but a good first step.
    (Full disclosure: I’m an appointed member of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and thus a CA state bureaucrat of sorts.)

  • Janet Brennan June 1, 2017, 5:34 am

    As you may know, there is disagreement between the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency and MCWD on some aspects of how state legislation governing planning for groundwater sustainability should be interpreted. In any case, the requirements will have significant impacts on how we use water in Monterey County.

  • Donna Gilmore June 1, 2017, 7:45 am

    With the continual dumping of high level radionuclides into the Pacific from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the issue of radionuclides from a desalination plant need to be evaluated. Not all radionuclides can be filtered out, such as Tritium.


    • L. Parrish June 1, 2017, 11:07 pm

      Excellent point, that no one pays attention to, or even knows about. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Bob Oliver June 1, 2017, 2:54 pm

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMwYJ4vAx4A&t=222s DESAL DECEPTION
    In about 2003 ALCO Water company was in the news for two reasons. 1. The derogatory story replaced the story of the ground water contamination ISSUE at the Monterey Airport. It is still an ISSUE, but it isn’t being reported.
    2. There was a combined political effort by the MEDIA and LOCAL/STATE POLITICIANS to put ALCO out of business . Why? *answer: So no comparison can be made between CAL AM today and the facts surrounding comparable water rates, today. ALCO rates are way, way, way,way, (did I say way?) lower than Monterey Peninaula Cal Am rates.
    Bob Oliver boboboliver9@gmail.com 831 383-2676

  • Jean June 1, 2017, 9:14 pm

    How do those involved, foresee the interpretation of planning for groundwater sustainability, developing? What issues are involved?

  • Tom Moore June 1, 2017, 10:18 pm

    At this point in time, the disagreement between MCWD and the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SVBGSA) is pretty much moot. The disagreement, primarily promoted by Les Girard from the County Counsel’s office, was over the issue of whether or not MCWD was eligible to be the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Ord Community that is served by MCWD.

    This issue is moot for a few reasons. For example, the law requires a sustainability plan to be written for the Monterey groundwater basin. (This is the name of Sub-basin 3-004.10 as given by the California Department of Water Resources.) MCWD is now the Exclusive GSA over a portion of the Monterey Basin. The SVBGSA will soon become the Exclusive GSA over the remainder of the Monterey Basin. For the purposes of writing and executing a sustainability plan, it doesn’t matter where the dividing line in the Monterey Basin is between MCWD and SVBGSA. The law requires the two GSAs to either create together a single plan for basin sustainability, or write two separate plans based on a common set of basin data and connected by a coordination agreement between MCWD and SVBGSA.

    So despite the past shenanigans of the County Counsel’s office, MCWD and the SVBGSA must now work together as equal partners to develop the sustainability plans for Sub-basin 3-004.10 (the Monterey Basin) and Sub-basin 3-004.1 (the so-called 180/400 Basin). MCWD looks forward to starting work immediately with the SVBGSA on this sustainability planning process.

    Furthermore, none of us should envy the task being undertaken by the SVBGSA – it has seven basin sustainability plans to develop, three of which must also be done in conjunction with other Exclusive GSAs. Together these seven basins extend more than 100 miles in length and have highly varied sustainability challenges and economic interests. Here’s hoping the SVBGSA staff will be able to quickly get beyond any past legal or political disagreements with others and get down to the tough planning work they face.

  • Janet Brennan June 2, 2017, 9:17 am

    Which GSA will be preparing the plan for the former Ft. Ord area outside the boundaries of MCWD?

  • Jean June 2, 2017, 11:49 am

    Thank you, Tom.
    I’m familiar with the statute and its requirement for coordinated plans, but wondered which issues were in dispute.

  • Tom Moore June 3, 2017, 12:04 am

    Janet Brennan asks an interesting question: “Which GSA will be preparing the plan for the former Ft. Ord area outside the boundaries of MCWD.” Unfortunately, the wording of this question might be slightly misleading for some readers. The law doesn’t require a plan JUST for the Ord Community within Marina Coast’s service areas. Instead, the law requires the development of a plan for the Monterey Sub-basin and a separate plan for the 180/400 Sub-basin.

    So better wording of a pertinent question would be, “Who will be responsible for developing the sustainability plan for the Monterey Sub-basin?” (The other pertinent question is, “Who will be responsible for developing the plan for the 180/400 Sub-basin?”) And the answer to both of these questions is: Marina Coast and the SVBGSA. Since both agencies are either now (in the case of Marina Coast) or will soon be (in the case of the SVBGSA) exclusive GSAs over their respective portions of the Monterey and 180/400 Sub-basins, both agencies will be on the hook for a sustainability plan for each of those Sub-basins. The plan for the 180/400 Sub-basin is due in January 2020 and the plan for the Monterey Sub-basin is due in January 2022. How Marina Coast and the SVBGSA execute these responsibilities in accordance with the law are subject to discussions between the two GSAs, as there are some alternative approaches allowed by the law. I certainly hope that the SVBGSA will be enthusiastic about starting these discussions immediately with Marina Coast because the clock is ticking with respect to the 180/400 Sub-basin.

  • Janet Brennan June 3, 2017, 9:03 am

    I noted early on in the discussion that there was some disagreement between MCWD and SVBGSA regarding implementation of the Groundwater Sustainability Act. Tom Moore indicated the question was moot. However, in his most recent response he stated, “How Marina Coast and the SVBGSA execute these responsibilities in accordance with the law are subject to discussions between the two GSAs, as there are some alternative approaches allowed by the law. I certainly hope that the SVBGSA will be enthusiastic about starting these discussions immediately with Marina Coast because the clock is ticking with respect to the 180/400 Sub-basin.” Like Tom, I hope the two GSAs can agree on an approach that doesn’t leave a portion of the sub-basin in limbo.

  • bill leone June 6, 2017, 9:10 am

    Last night’s Public Water Now meeting was incredibly informative & encouraging. The message our friends from Montana (Not the Most Progressive state in the Union) made abundantly clear was:
    We have much to gain & nothing to lose by doing everything in our power to replace Cal-Am with a Public Utility. In the meantime, our community is a victim of corporate malfeasance & political irresponsibility & stupidity. The presentation was recorded, so no one has an excuse to be uninformed about this crucial issue.

    • Bob Oliver June 6, 2017, 7:27 pm

      I have an excuse. I’m looking for counseling. Where’s the link to the meeting?