Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Sep 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

H2O in Limbo

water splashAfter postponing vote on desal, Santa Cruz moves forward in water supply discussions

While the City of Santa Cruz has hit pause on a proposed desalination plant, many are still wondering what that will mean for the city’s involvement with CalDesal.

CalDesal is a pro-desalination advocacy board comprised of numerous water agencies, with a mission of advancing the use of desalination in California. Bill Kocher, the city’s long-time Water Department director, was a founding member. But Kocher retired earlier this year, raising questions as to whether the city would continue its membership with the organization.

“My understanding is that there hasn’t been a renewal,” says Eileen Cross, Water Department communications specialist, of the city’s membership. “That’s the latest I know as of late.”

Cross says she isn’t entirely sure whether or when the current membership has expired, but she hasn’t heard of any plans to renew. Membership costs $5,000 annually.

Cross was hired in April to help with the city's communication needs on the draft Environmental Impact Report preparation for desalination. 

Membership in CalDesal has been a controversial issue in an already-contentious debate. Opponents of desalination have argued that it creates a conflict of interest for the city.

“CalDesal is essentially a lobbying group,” says Gary Patton, a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor and land-use activist.

Membership in such an organization supports its efforts, he says.

“I think it’s not appropriate for the city to back that (organization) before they’ve even made a decision on desalination,” Patton says. “They should withdraw.”

He says that particularly in light of the City Council’s decision to basically put a reset on desal discussions, the city shouldn’t retain membership in CalDesal.

The City of Santa Cruz is still listed as a member on the CalDesal website, along with a lengthy list of other public agencies, including the water districts of Alameda, Solano, San Diego, Orange and Sonoma counties and the cities of Santa Barbara, Oceanside and San Clemente, among others. The Sacramento-based advocate for desal development also counts more than 40 private firms among its members.

Absent from that list is the Soquel Creek Water District, which was exploring a desalination plant jointly with the City of Santa Cruz. The district’s board voted in June to quit its membership with CalDesal.

Directors of the board decided to drop its membership because, essentially, they didn’t feel it was appropriate to be members of an advocacy group for something on which they were still trying to reach a decision.

Another founding member of the advocacy organization, the Marina Coast Water District Board, voted in July to drop its annual $5,000 membership in CalDesal.

Kocher remains involved with CalDesal, which he’s previously said isn’t accurately described as a lobbying group.

The organization’s website, however, has a clear mission statement outlined.

"CalDesal is the only advocacy group in California solely dedicated to advancing the use of desalination," the site says. "Other organizations choose not to engage, or address desalination as part of broader policy platforms. CalDesal's narrow focus allows for the most targeted, credible and persistent support for this important technology.”

Ron Davis, executive director of the organization, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Meanwhile, city officials are still in the process of hiring someone to take over Kocher’s position. The nationwide recruitment period is over and officials are in the process of screening candidates, Cross says. Interviews will likely begin in mid-December, and the hope is to hire someone sometime early next year, according to Scott Collins, assistant to the city manager for Santa Cruz.

Linette Almond, the deputy director of the Water Department, is serving as the interim director. She plans to retire after Jan. 1, however, eliminating her as a potential candidate for the full-time director slot.

While city officials work to hire a new water director, discussions about what to do about water supply issues continue. The Santa Cruz Water Department and Soquel Creek Water District’s joint desalination task force was scheduled to meet Nov. 20, but that was canceled due to “a lack of business,” according to the SCWD2 website.

The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 18. The agenda has not yet been published.

Additionally, the City Council of Santa Cruz was scheduled to vote at its Nov. 26 meeting to move forward with an extensive community engagement effort on the city’s water supply. In other words, a framework for the so-called reset on the water supply discussion. Councilmembers were expected to motion to establish a yearlong Drought Solutions Citizen Advisory Committee with the purpose of analyzing and formulating recommendations.

The proposed membership for the 19-member committee would include two city councilmembers, two water commissions, one representative of the educational community, two representatives of local businesses, one member of the Sustainable Water Coalition, one member of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, three members from environmental organizations, one representative of the recreation industry, two city residents, one county resident, one representative of the industry and manufacturing sector, and one representative of the hotels and tourism industry.

The advisory committee will be considered a major component of the discussion, and will focus on community engagement and topical discussion pertaining to water supply planning. The committee will be tasked with coming up with recommendations to the City Council.  

Comments (1)Add Comment
Talented Design Group Needed
written by Bill Smallman, December 06, 2013
Desal is like the River Street Sign. A designer lacking talent gave it to an engineer to build. Both the sign and desal work. The sign looks like c#$%^, and desal is a c#$%^y plan. I’m concerned this group is also going to lack talent; either too slow, or still favor desal. For one, “Drought Solutions…” title is wrong. Be specific to the mission; “Alternative Water Plan to Desal” will do. Second, Rick Logonotti should serve and be the main recruiter. He knows the legal, environmental, engineering, etc. talent to effectively brainstorm and come up with the best solution.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.