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I have been fascinated by elephants ever since I was a small child and my parents rewarded me for good behavior with a wonderful trip to the circus. They were huge and I was so excited to see such a large animal actually do tricks. There were other attractions that day but I couldn’t have ignored the elephants. They were just so damned big and different.

As history tells us, the Romans ignored elephants, only to get trampled by Hannibal. There should have been a lesson there for the ages but local politicians, the California Public Utilities Commission and Cal Am Water have blatantly ignored the elephant in the room of water politics.

“There’s an elephant in the room” is meant to identify a major element of an issue that is ignored or deliberately avoided while the issue is being discussed. During discussions of how the Monterey Peninsula is to come up with a reliable source of reasonably priced water, the invisible pachyderm has been the cost that eventually will be paid by Cal Am customers. Neither our local politicians, the CPUC or Cal Am has been publicly addressing the overall costs of future delivery of water. The total costs are not clear, but among the costs looming for the customers is at least $280 million for the desalination plant Cal Am plans to build and numerous other expenses to be billed later. That’s an elephant that doesn’t get mentioned during the ongoing and long-running debate over the size, design and location of the desal plant.

Instead, the politicians merely praise Cal Am’s progress on the project while the CPUC and Cal Am simply ignore the elephant. Whatever the cost, the CPUC will allow Cal Am to pocket the money from ever higher rates. All the while, the huge animal with a big trunk and big feet fills the room.

Even the best eye doctors could not open the eyes of the politicians. The CPUC and Cal Am, meanwhile, seem to have glasses that digitally erase the elephant’s image. And it will remain that way until the grassroots efforts now in progress restore the vision of the people in charge. Fortunately for the customers, the groups Public Water Now and WRAMP and others have been fighting the high costs and are making headway toward making sure everyone sees the elephant.

The CPUC’s mandate is that it treat ratepayers and utilities equally. But the commissioners don’t get it and our elected officials don’t seem to want to get it. If you, as a ratepayer, don’t want to get trampled even more than you already have, you should join your water activists as they ride the invisible elephants into the center of the public discussion for all to see.  Let the unseeing trio become like the Romans.  Get on board, see what you can do to open some eyes

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tim Smith August 2, 2017, 8:09 pm

    Yes….Like Water for Elephants….in the room. Lets ‘red-light’ Cal Am. For all the conservative railing against government and ‘entitlements’, the corporate welfare sanctioned by the CPUC stands as a sturdy counter claim. Time to take back government and resources from the greedy.

  • Eric Petersen August 2, 2017, 8:50 pm

    But isn’t this really like so many other projects in the area, where there is a glimmer of some sort of gold and people immediately declare the project the greatest thing since canned beer? Look at Brian Boudreau with Sid Williams and all the other Veterans (and others) who were convinced that he was the savior of Monterey County? The Taylor Building and the brain trust of Salinas? Gerry Kehoe and the same brain trust of Salinas? Others? Cal Am is no different.

  • Jan Shriner August 2, 2017, 9:05 pm

    Not only are the investor owned water monoply regulated for the 9.9% return on investment, they are paying costs associated with CPUC process. American Water gives grants (gives out your money) while publicly owned water projects occasionally get grants. Additionally, publicly owned water services have no profit margin and no CPUC.

  • Carol Ryan August 3, 2017, 7:19 am

    The real elephant in the room is the fact that underground water just isn’t here anymore. It’s time to re-read Marc Reisner’s 1993 edition of “The Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water.” I emphasize the secondary title of the piece.
    Incidentally, Elephants are well known for their compassionate and empathetic social life AND their continual migration to water sources.

  • karl August 3, 2017, 8:35 am

    Cal Am knows that it will take a lot to get them out of here. A lot of time, money, politics, organization to name a few. They have the time, the money, the organization and certainly a firm grip on the politics meaning the PUC. This is a David and Goliath story. They show no fear in the face of PWN, and raise rates at will as per the direction of the share-holders. The real benefit of a public take-over is getting rid of the PUC oversight. There is zero track-record of protecting the public. From their view, we had a shot on the ballot not too many years ago…and passed on the opportunity. State managed over-sight of just about anything is a mess. It’s a public sector thing.

  • bill leone August 3, 2017, 9:25 am

    The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. T. Parker

  • Dan Turner August 3, 2017, 10:10 am

    Tony Parker? Doesn’t he play for the Spurs? I would have thought it was MLK,Jr.

  • john moore August 3, 2017, 10:29 am

    Let us not forget that it was the MBWMD and County counsel(silly opinion that law requiring govt. ownership of desal plant wasn’t so)that brought us to this point. If there is an initiative to buy out CalAm and put it under the stewardship of MBWMD, then shame on us. JMM

    • bill hood August 3, 2017, 10:42 am

      I guess, then, there are two questions: (1) are you satisfied with the direction your water rates have gone and will go? and (2) if so, what is your recommendation for stopping the tsunami? I’d be interested in hearing alternative solutions that really will protect ratepayers and will guarantee a reliable supply of water at a cost that is affordable to all, not just to those who are well-off.

  • Ed Mitchell August 3, 2017, 10:40 am

    For every general election for the next 4 years, upport a policy in your voting district to remove every elected official that has supported a non-competitive process to deliver a desal plant.

  • James Toy August 3, 2017, 5:06 pm

    The irony here is that when the public water management district was developing new projects the cost of these projects was on everybody’s mind. The Sand City desal plant was voted down after taxpayer advocates complained that the cost per acre-foot was much higher than the proposed new Los Padres dam. Then voters got sticker shock when they found out how much the dam would cost. That, combined with environmental and growth concerns sunk the dam.

    Perhaps Peninsula citizens are so embarrassed that they thought these cheaper projects were too expensive that now they’re afraid to challenge the cost of Cal-Am’s project.

  • bill leone August 4, 2017, 10:56 am

    No Dan, Theodore Parker founded the Unitarian Church, & did not play for the Spurs, & MLK was Quoting Parker (one of the earlier Abolitionists) in his speech.