Cal Am desal project in “home stretch” at CPUC
Monterey >> More than six years after being formally proposed to the state Public Utilities Commission, California American Water’s desalination project is in crunch time.
A CPUC proposed decision on the proposal is less than a month away. It will be a precursor to the commission’s consideration of project permit approval and certification of the project’s environmental impact document, likely to occur some time in September just before a critical Carmel River cutback order milestone deadline.
All this as Cal Am faces a second public takeover campaign and ballot measure led by Public Water Now this summer and fall.
Cal Am spokeswoman Catherine Stedman said the project is at a critical juncture this summer.
“We really are coming into the home stretch,” Stedman said. “In the next few months we will get important decisions that get us closer to a replacement water supply (for the Carmel River). At that point (if the project is approved), we will be further along than ever before.”
The defunct Regional Desalination Project garnered CPUC approval in December 2010 before it collapsed amid revelations of a criminal conflict of interest involving a former county water board member who was also working for former project partner Marina Coast Water District.
According to the CPUC’s schedule, the proposed decision, issued by a CPUC judge or judges, must be submitted by Aug. 1. The proposed decision could also be submitted earlier than that. The proposed decision requires a 30-day public review, which could stretch through the end of August, and leave the commission with two meeting dates to consider the project, Sept. 13 and Sept. 27.
That would be just weeks or even days before the Sept. 30 river cutback order milestone deadline for CPUC project approval. If the milestone is missed, the state water board’s cutback order requires a reduction in river pumping of 1,000 acre-feet unless Cal Am and other local officials can successfully argue the failure to meet the milestone was not their fault.
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