More twists in Monterey desalination saga

In yet another twist to the troubled Monterey desalination project in California, a judge on 19 December 2011 ordered a new environmental impact review (EIR) for the plan.

Monterey County judge Lydia Villareal decided that Marina Coast Water District (MCWD) should be the lead agency for the project, which also involves American Water and the Monterey Water Resources Agency. This means that, as lead agency, the MCWD must prepare and certify its own EIR.

The three partners were apparently near agreement on mediation over an alleged conflict of interest, financing and litigation, including the case which was ruled on, brought by Ag Land Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving farm land. The decision makes it highly likely that the project will now miss the 2016 deadline for a state-ordered cutback in pumping from the Carmel River, which it was intended to mitigate.

Meanwhile, charges of attempting to interfere with a witness were added to the conflict-of-interest case against former county water board member Steve Collins, which created the initial crisis for the project. A preliminary hearing is set for 18 January 2012.

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