New moves in Monterey desalination debate

The City of Pacific Grove’s council has voted to approve a preliminary agreement to take the lead on one of the two alternatives to the principal proposal for a regional desalination project by California American Water (Cal Am).

On 18 July 2012, the city agreed with developer Nader Agha’s Moss Landing Commercial Park LLC to lead scoping for a People’s Water Project on land owned by Agha. The “formation agreement” does not bind the city to proceed with the project, estimated to cost around US$ 130 million.

Meanwhile, the original Regional Desalination Project was officially laid to rest by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on 18 July 2012, when it issued a final decision allowing California American Water to withdraw from the project and closing the proceedings. This week, as hearings before the PUC continue, CalAm and many of the potential desalination project participants and opponents are presenting legal arguments related to Cal Am’s new project , and its two rivals.

A workshop will be held towards the end of the week by Cal Am to try to resolve questions related to water projections, project sizing, costs and, most crucially, a fall-back plan if the new project also fails. Cal Am has been told to reduce abstractions from the Carmel river by 60% by the end of 2016.