Another legal blow for Monterey desalination alternative

California American Water’s (Cal Am’s) progress in developing an alternative desalination project for California’s Monterey Peninsula received yet another setback on 2 February 2012, when a judge issued an amended ruling on the environmental impact report (EIR) originally published for the abandoned Regional Desalination Project.

Cal Am was hoping that this EIR might provided a basis for an alternative project, but Judge Lydia Villarreal in the county superior court ruled that the original report had mistakenly skipped over the issue of water rights, among other errors.

The Monterey County Herald on 3 February 2012 reported the judge as saying that the EIR failed to address the issues surrounding the availability of groundwater for the desalination project and the potential environmental impact, especially after the Monterey County Water Resources Agency admitted that it still needed to acquire groundwater rights for the project.

The EIR’s assumption that this could be done later did not meet the goal of allowing full public review of potential consequences, according to the judge, who had previously ruled that Marina Coast Water District should be the lead agency for the project, not Cal Am.

The ruling found that Marina Coast, as lead agency on the EIR, would need to address water rights, a contingency plan, the assumption of constant pumping, the exportation of groundwater from the Salinas Valley basin, brine impacts, effects on adjacent properties and water quality.