Monterey County Farm Bureau

Peninsula Water Supply Project

Monterey County Farm Bureau is an intervener in the approval process for California American Water (Cal-Am) to build a desalination plant on property adjacent to the Monterey One Water facility north of Marina.  The intake wells for this facility are proposed to be located on the CEMEX site along the coast, utliizling slant well technology to obtain subsurface seawater.  The desalination facility is part of a portfolio of water projects (known as the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, or MPWSP) intended to relieve diversion of Carmel River water for municipal use, as ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board (the infamous Cease-and-Desist Order).  This project proposal follows the failed regional water project concept; Cal-Am filed for approval of the MPWSP project with the CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in March 2012, and Monterey County Farm Bureau joined as an intervener in that process shortly thereafter.

The main issue of concern was the protection of the Salinas Valley Groundwter Basin which extends out under the Monterey Bay for several miles, including under the site where the slant wells will be located.  Monterey County Farm Bureau joined the CPUC process ot ensure that Cal-Am complied with the Monterey County Water Resource Agency Act and did not export groundwater from the basin, either through intentional or unintentional consequences of their source water extractions.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held the project evidentiary hearing for the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (PWSP) during April 2013.  At this hearing, interveners in this process were able to cross-examine witnesses who have previously submitted 'expert' testimony about the various aspects of the project, from proposed user rates to design and construction, and to the public benefits.

Through cross-examiniaton it came out that most of the water experts are not aware of the extent of the Salinas Valley aquifer, its boundaries, and that alternative source water sites are also within the boundaries of the groundwater basin.  As a result of this hearing, additional studies to characterize the groundwater basin, in addition to the studies gained from the source water test well, were deterrmined as needed.

The CA Public Utilities Commission then held a workshop on the Groundwater Replenishment portion of the MPWSP project, supported by Monterey Regional Water Polution Control Agency (now known as Monterey One Water), on June 12th, 2013, in San Francisco.  Interveners discussed the various issues of waste water use for recharge, including public health permitting requirements.  What was not discussed was the need for additional water sources, as currently all reclaimed water coming from the Monterey One Water treatment plant are committed to other uses.

After months of meetings, a tentative agreement on terms (memorandum of understanding) was reached regarding source waters for the groundwater replenishment project (known as Pure Water Monterey), along with other water rights issues.  Participating in this MOU document were Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (MRWPCA), Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA), Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD), Marina Coast Water District (MCWD), and the City of Salinas.  This document then went before all the agency Boards for approval in October 2014.  Draft lanaguge for a definitive agreement, approved in Spring 2015, formalizing the provisions of the memorandum of understanding.  Read the memorandum of understanding document here.

The first draft Environmental Impact Report for the dealination facility was issued in December 2016 by the California Public Utilities Commission Energy Division.  In addition to the Executive Summary, chapters asess impacts to groundwater, surface waters, marine resources, land use, air quality, agriculture, and energy.  Public comments on the draft document were due to the CPUC by March 29, 2017.  After overwhelming comments received by the CPUC, it was determined that this first draft was insufficient and needed major reworking.

The revsied draft EIR is now due in mid-spring 2018, which will incuding a larger amount of technical information on impacts of the desalination project..  This project is on track to recieve approval from the CA Public Utilities Commission in Fall 2018, providing no further delays come into the process.

Monterey County Farm Bureau is also party to a settlement agreement with Cal-Am on 'return water flow' should a portion of the extracted source seawater be deemed as brackish (coming from the intruded groundwater basin).  In that event, return water (deslainiated) would be provided to both CSIP and the Castroville Community Services District in the amount of water determined to be brackish.  This settlement is pending approval by the CPUC and is expected to be acted on in September 2018.

In the past months, several interveners have raised the possiblity of expanding the Pure Water Monterey project, providing more potable water to defer the decision of approval of the desalination facility.

On March 30th, the FINAL version of the Environmental Impact Report was issues by the CA Public Utilities Commission.  It is expected that this will come before the Commssion's Directors for certifciation at a meeting in Summer 2018.  Download the EIR document, broken out into chapters, here.

In general terms, the EIR concludes minimal harm to the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin as well as local extractors from the basin near the source well intake facility, and supports the Return Water Settlement submitted to the CPUC in 2017.

Position of Monterey County Farm Bureau on Pure Water Monterey Expansion relative to the Approval of the Desalination Facility

Monterey County Farm Bureau does not support any delay to the issuance of the CPCN in the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (MPWSP) proceeding before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).  The fundamental basis of this project is the portfolio of projects that are intended to produce a reliable water supply for the Monterey Peninsula, including future growth, tourism and hospitality bounce-back, change of use, and lots-of-record not developed.  The portfolio of projects that includes desalination, reclamation, and aquifer storage and recovery provides the best assurance of a long-term water supply for the Monterey Peninsula.

Monterey County Farm Bureau supports a desalination facility providing a minimum of 6.4 MGD to provide stability to the Monterey Peninsula water supply.

Any delay in issuance of the CPCN will cause the purveyor to miss critical milestones of the modified Cease-and-Desist (CDO) order, causing irreparable harm to the Peninsula water supply, economy, and the greater economy of Monterey County.  There is no assurance that the State Water Resources Control Board will consider a modification to the CDO at this late stage of the proceeding; in contrast, there is general knowledge that the Monterey Peninsula has been unable to solve their water supply problems, even under threat of a CDO.  No assumptions should be made on how the State Water Resources Control Board will view any further delays in water supply development.

As good neighbors to the Monterey Peninsula, Monterey County Farm Bureau participated in two settlement proposals before the CPUC that address our concerns with the MPWSP.  The return water flow settlement is a win-win-win agreement that benefits multiple parties and possibly helps with the on-going seawater intrusion issue of the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin.

While Monterey County Farm Bureau could support expansion of the Pure Water Monterey project under specific circumstances yet to be determined, this expansion should not be considered in lieu of the desalination component, nor any delay in the issuance of the CPCN as scheduled for September 2018.

Additional evidentiary hearings on the expansion of Pure Water Monterey can be held at a time in the future and not as a distraction from the pathway to the CPCN deadline and the CDO milestones.

Monterey County Farm Bureau supports California American Water and their position stated in this Joint Case Management Settlement document.