Commission approves California American Water test slant well

The California Coastal Commission has approved the application by water utility, California American Water, (Cal Am) to construct a test slant well for its proposed 48 Ml/d seawater reverse osmosis desalination project.

The well will be part of Cal Am’s Monterey Peninsula desalination project at the north Marina. Plans call for the well head to be buried in a vault 3 m below ground with the well extending 244 m at a 20° angle aimed beneath the ocean floor.

California American Water president, Rob MacLean, said: “We now have the opportunity to study the feasibility of the preferred intake location and method, as selected by a broad group of stakeholders, and to confirm modeling work that supports that selection.”
The commission’s decision came only days after Cal Am struck a deal with cement maker, Cemex, to allow the water firm to drill slant test wells, and possibly production wells, on Cemex’ north Marina sand mining plant site.

The settlement came after Cal Am filed an eminent domain lawsuit seeking to force Cemex to grant access to the site. Under the deal Cal Am will pay US$ 350,000 for the right to drill and operate its proposed test well programme to evaluate the impact of pumping from Salinas Valley groundwater subsea aquifers. The proposed test well could run for up to two years with concurrent larger scale project-permitting and design work.

The agreement avoided an extended legal battle over the Cemex site that could have caused further delay to the project which now expected to be finished by early 2019. That would be two years into a state-ordered cutback in abstraction from the Carmel River, which provides 70% of the peninsula’s water supply.

Cal Am and Cemex had been engaged in months of talks over the proposed well site, and Crooks said Cal Am believed it had an agreement before Cemex backed out, prompting the lawsuit.

Cal Am still requires state Coastal Commission approval for the test well programme following the utility’s appeal against a denial by Marina City council. But securing the test well site meets a key condition proposed by the commission which has recommended upholding the appeal.

Marina city and Marina Coast Water District officials, as well farmers in the area, have all registered their concern that the test wells and any subsequent production wells could spoil the area’s water supply.

Marina claimed also that Cal Am’s test well programme contravenes a 1996 ruling limiting Cemex to pumping 500 acre-feet of water (616,741 m³) a year from the site. Cal Am’s test well could pump up to 5 million m³ a year.