Cal Am Desalination Project
The Special Hearing scheduled for Thursday, September 17, 2020 is cancelled.
The project applicants have withdrawn their permit application and there WILL NOT be a hearing.
You may read the withdrawal letter here.
Cal Am, a private for-profit water corporation, has proposed a desalination plant that would be located in the City of Marina – the plant would use slant wells to draw brackish (salt) water, and also tap into significant fresh groundwater sources that Marina residents rely upon for 100% of their drinking water.
The proposed Monterey Peninsula Water Supply desalination project is currently being reviewed under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The California Public Utilities Commission released the project’s Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the Project.
The City of Marina has been engaged for years in the regulatory review process for the project, and has raised a series of concerns regarding project impacts.
- Harm to the Coastal environment: The desal project would bring industrial development to an area that should be protected for coastal habitat and public access.
- Risk to the groundwater basin: Research by experts at Stanford University shows that the desalination project would tap into freshwater sources. Those groundwater supplies must be responsibly managed under new requirements of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Furthermore, as the water is pumped from the targeted aquifers it will lead to increased seawater inrusion and contaminate the regional groundwater supply.
- Incorrect assumptions on groundwater demand: CalAm’s application to the CPUC was based on outdated water demand information that ended in 2016. Now that three more full years (2017-2019) of recorded water demand data is available, multiple experts have confirmed that true water demand is much lower than CalAm’s historic projections and found that the Pure Water Monterey Expansion project, along with other existing sources, could meet all future water demand for the Monterey Peninsula until about 2050.
- Violation of binding legal agreement on water use for the project location: In 1996, the City of Marina entered into a legally binding agreement regarding annexation of the CEMEX property where Cal Am wants to locate their project, and the agreement included very specific provisions regarding groundwater use. It was intended to reduce seawater intrusion and protect the groundwater resources in the Salinas River Groundwater Basin. It stated that the CEMEX property users were limited to extraction of 500 afy of groundwater – and it also prohibited exporting any of the extracted groundwater to users outside the Basin. Cal Am’s planned use of the CEMEX property directly violates both the limitations of groundwater extraction, and the absolute prohibition on exported extracting groundwater to users outside the Basin.
- Better alternatives are available: The Pure Water Monterey Expansion Project presents a reasonable and sufficient alternative option to supply the long-term water needs of the Monterey Peninsula – at much less cost and with much less risk.
The desalination project would be located in the City of Marina and tap into Marina’s drinking water supply, yet the plant will not serve water customers within the City’s boundaries. There is no plan regarding how local water supplies and local water rates for Marina residents would be protected.
The City of Marina Planning Commission voted against the Cal Am project permit, and found that the project is inconsistent with the land use plans and principles held by the City and the State. Next, the California Coastal Commission is set to consider granting a Coastal Development Permit to overturn the City of Marina’s permit denial. This decision will be issued at the Coastal Commission Meeting September 17, 2020.
Information on watching and participating in this hearing can be found at: www.coastal.ca.gov
The final EIR/EIS is available online at the National Marine Sanctuary’s website at www.montereybay.noaa.gov
Links to Related Documents:
- Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project Website (CPUC)
- Comment Letter by City of Marina on the Draft EIR
- Comment Letter by the Marina Coast Water District on the Draft EIR
- City of Marina Project Fact Sheet
- City of Marina Project Infographic
- City of Marina Frequently Asked Questions Document
- City of Marina Fact Sheet on Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
- City of Marina Fact Sheet on Environmental Impacts
- Fact sheet on Lon House report: supply and demand analysis
- Lawsuit on violation of CEMEX annexation agreement: “Complaint for Breach of Contract, Declaratory Relief Under the Agency Act, and Tortious Interference With Existing Contract”
- Letter to Monterey County Board of Supervisors (December 10, 2019) re. GSA and compliance with SGMA
- Handout: THE CAL AM DESALINATION PROJECT THREATENS TO DEPLETE AND CONTAMINATE THE CITY’S GROUNDWATER RESOURCES
- Joint letter by Monterey County elected officials
City of Marina Press Releases:
- Coastal Commission Report Recommends Denial of Cal Am Desalination Coastal Permits, October 29, 2019
- Marina Files Lawsuit to Prevent Illegal Extraction and Exportation of Groundwater for CalAm Desalination Project, May 11, 2020
- Coastal Commission Publishes Report Confirming Risks of Groundwater Depletion from Cal Am Desalination Project, November 5, 2019
- City of Marina Appeals Improper CPUC Approval of Key Environmental Document for Cal Am
- Desalination Project to California Supreme Court, October 23, 2018
- City of Marina Denounces Decision by CPUC to Approve Cal Am Desalination Project as Inconsistent with Community and Environmental Values, September 13, 2018
- Final Environmental Impact Report Released for Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, Public Comment Period is Open – April 9, 2018
Related News Coverage:
- Op-ed: “Coastal Commission should deny Cal Am appeal,” Monterey Herald, October 28, 2019
- Op-ed: “When it comes to water, be a good neighbor,” Monterey Herald, April 16, 2018
- Daily Journal article on Marina lawsuit, January 3, 2020
- Marina bears heavy burden in desalination dispute