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Cal Am Desalination Plant Gets Unanimous Support From CPUC

Krista Almanzan
Cal Am's desalination plant is slated to be built on the coast in Marina.

With unanimous support from the California Public Utilities Commission, California American Water can move forward with plans to build a desalination plant on the coast in Marina.

More than two decades ago, the state ordered Cal Am to stop over pumping the Carmel River and find an alternate water supply. 

On Thursday at its meeting in San Francisco, the California Public Utilities Commission approved Cal Am’s proposed desalination as part of the solution.

“This is a major moment for water supply in Monterey,” said Commissioner Liane Randolph before calling for the vote.

In the 5-0 decision, the commission cited the necessity of the plant.  While current water demand on the Monterey Peninsula is around 9000 acre feet a year, the CPUC estimates future water demand at 14,000 acre feet.

“We must do our best to ensure that in a period of drought there will be water available during the maximum months day and peak hour annual averages are one thing, but we need to ensure that when the tap is turned on water comes out,” said Randolph.

In this decision, opponents of the desalination plant did get one thing they wanted.  The CPUC agreed Cal Am needs to explore the potential expansion of the water recycling plant known as Pure Water Monterey.  

“This is a project that seems to have a lot of merit and something we only got a little bit of information on towards the end of this process,” said Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves.

Still the Commissioners said that even with an expansion of Pure Water Monterey, the desal plant will be needed to meet projected water demand on the Monterey Peninsula.

Even with this decision, the desal plant is not a done deal.  The project still needs to get a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission, as well as, other local permits.  This decision will also open the door to a 30 day period where lawsuits can be filed. 

“So the window before the bulldozers can line up and actually move earth is still you know six to nine months away, but the first opportunity to file a meaningful lawsuit is that 30 days,” said Dave Stoldt, General Manager of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. 

Krista joined KAZU in 2007. She is an award winning journalist with more than a decade of broadcast experience. Her stories have won regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and honors from the Northern California Radio and Television News Directors Association. Prior to working at KAZU, Krista reported in Sacramento for Capital Public Radio and at television stations in Iowa. Like KAZU listeners, Krista appreciates the in-depth, long form stories that are unique to public radio. She's pleased to continue that tradition in the Monterey Bay Area.
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