Monterey desalination project seeks four-year deadline extension

US water supplier, California American Water (CalAm), along with local stakeholders has sought more time to complete its Monterey Peninsular desalination project.

CalAm has requested changes to the State Water Resources Control Board's (SWRB's) 2009 order which sets a deadline for the company's use of the Carmel River as a primary source of water for the people living on the Monterey peninsula. The company is looking for a four-year extension to the 31 December 2016 deadline.

The Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project was a central plank in the company's plans to comply with the order. The SWRCB issued its order requiring CalAm to reduce significantly the amount of water it diverts from the river after finding that the abstraction from the Carmel by Cal Am was having a detrimental impact on the river.

The proposed seawater desalination project is awaiting approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. The company has said it will not be able to make the state's 2016 deadline. It has worked with many local stakeholders to develop a proposal to extend the deadline to December 31, 2020 with incremental reductions in abstraction rates during the interim.

Were the deadline extension approved, the company has proposed that it should have to meet annual milestones in the project and face penalties if any are not met.

"The state's order was put in place in part to motivate the Peninsula to get serious about finding an alternative to the Carmel River as our primary source of water," said CalAm's central coast operations director, Eric Sabolsice. "Our current proposal to modify the order was drafted in line with that directive by providing clear milestones that must be met, while also allowing our community sufficient time to build a new project and avoid the untenable consequences of reducing Carmel River diversions dramatically before a replacement water source is available," he added.

The SWRCB will consider the proposed deadline modification and related proposals and they will be subject also to a public inquiry.

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