California green lights controversial desalinization plant
The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a controversial desalinization plant for the Monterey Peninsula on the state‚Äôs central coast that will solve the region’s water woes but at a high price.
The California American Water Company, known as Cal-Am, and local agencies will form a partnership to build and operate the $297.5 million desalinization project to replace supplies drawn from the Carmel River, the historical source of the region‚Äôs water.
To protect the Carmel River, the California Water Resources Control Board had ordered Cal-Am to stop diverting water by Dec. 31, 2016
‚ÄúThe Monterey Peninsula has been struggling to find solutions to the water supply deficit for decades,‚ÄĚ the public utilities commission noted in its decision issued Thursday. ‚ÄúWe emphasize the history to provide a context for our decision to reach outside the usual procedure and to approve a costly desalination project as a reasonable solution.‚ÄĚ
Commissioners acknowledged that the project, which will desalinate 3.4 billion gallons of water a year, will result in a 63 percent rate hike for local residents.
‚ÄúIt is critical to move forward with a solution to ensure that Cal-Am complies with the California Water Resources Control Board‚Äôs requirement to address the water supply issue or face losing most of its water supply from the Carmel River,‚ÄĚ Timothy Alan Simon, a commissioner, said in a statement.
However, the California Division of Ratepayer Advocates, a division of the utilities commission that represents consumers, argued that the water produced by the Cal-Am project will cost nearly four times as much as the current market rate for desalinated water.
The Division of Ratepayer Advocates ‚Äúhas long supported a sensible desalination project for Monterey customers of the California American Water Company but finds that the project plan adopted by the CPUC today does not meet basic requirements for ratepayer protection, and puts residents at real risk of incredibly higher water bill,‚ÄĚ Joe Como, the group‚Äôs acting director, said in a statement.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Pitcher.)