Hope you can send a message or show up tomorrow!
Desal Alternatives is sponsored by the Sierra Club of Santa Cruz and may be of interest to friends of the environment.
City Council Action Tomorrow, Tuesday Oct 8, 7:00pm
The Santa Cruz City Council will consider the Mayor and City Manager's proposal to "craft a new vision for the City's water supply". We need to show up to support the new direction.
If you can't attend, please take a minute to send an email message to [masked] .
The message is "Yes, we need a new vision. Yes, we need a new process for public involvement. No, we don't need to spend any more money on the desal project. $14 million is enough!"
See below for why the City would be better off without spending more money on a final environmental impact report.
Why the City shouldn't spend more $$ on Desal's EIR
Although the City Manager and Mayor are calling for a new vision for the City's water supply, they would like to keep desalination as one of several options. That's understandable, given the steady drum beat from the Water Department staff over the last ten years that There Is No Alternative. Desal Alternatives is not asking City leaders to rule out desalination as an option. What we're suggesting is that spending more money to get a "final" EIR doesn't make sense at this time.
There are three processes that are underway that should be completed (or at least better understood) before any discussion of spending more on the desal project:
1. The Habitat Conservation Plan negotiations with state and federal fisheries agencies that will determine the amount of water that the City can draw from area streams.
2. The Master Conservation Plan, the City's blueprint for reducing water use.
3. The County plan for water transfers between districts, also known to Santa Cruzans as "banking" water in the aquifers for use during drought years.
The draft EIR was completed at a cost of $1.7 million (and another $13 million in supporting studies). The Draft EIR made judgments about the need for a desal project without the benefit of a new Master Conservation Plan, or an accurate description of the potential yield and timeliness of water transfers. The Draft didn't even use the water supply analysis that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) had earlier proposed. As a result, the CDFW questions whether the Habitat Conservation Plan will have a significant impact on the City's water supply:
"Without an accurate representation of the effects of the different flow proposals on the City’s water supply, the analysis provided in the draft EIR may not be sufficient to support statements that the bypass flows in the Habitat Conservation Plan will have a significant impact on the City’s water supply or that alternative infrastructure improvements are not sufficient to provide water reliability."
There is a common misconception that spending more money to get a final EIR would answer the comments on the Draft. However, the most important of those objections cannot be answered by URS, the consultant for the project. Only City Council can answer the following by setting policy:
1. Will the City Council restore 25% as the maximum tolerable level of water supply shortfall in a worst-case drought? (The goal was changed to 15% once the decision to pursue desalination was made.) FYI, the City's Water Shortage Contingency Plan calls for businesses to be cut back by 8% during a drought of 25% shortfall.
2. Will the City Council enact a water-neutral development policy that prevents growth from eroding our current water security? The current estimate for growth in water demand is a net (after conservation) increase of 8.5% by 2030. Soquel Creek Water District estimates a drop of 7.5% in water demand over the same period.
3. Will the City Council authorize spending funds to explore recycled water or north coast groundwater, as recommended by respected engineers and geologist in their comments on the Draft EIR? Such an exploration would require engineering studies that a "final' EIR could not accomplish.
These are the questions the Council and community should discuss before any discussion of spending more ratepayer dollars on desalination.
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SC Desal Alternatives
157 Van Ness Ave. #5
Santa Cruz, California 95060