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P.G. council backs Agha desal plan

By KELLY NIX

Published: April 20, 2012

INSISTING IT had “nothing to lose,” the Pacific Grove City Council Wednesday night voted to back a desalination plant in Moss Landing proposed by businessman Nader Agha.

In a 6-1 vote, with councilman Robert Huitt dissenting, the council voted to adopt a resolution establishing Pacific Grove as the lead agency for what Agha calls the “People’s Moss Landing Water Desal Project,” a plan he promises will be the least expensive project to deliver water to the Monterey Peninsula.

Before the vote, Agha offered to write a check for $50,000 to cover staff and other city costs to get the project going.

“I will never let you down,” a delighted Agha told the council. “And you will never be disappointed.”

Most of those who addressed the council supported the Agha plan.

Former P.G. City Councilwoman Susan Goldbeck said the city could make some “big profits” from the desal operation.

“I don’t see any downside risk for you guys to step to the plate and do something as forward-thinking as this,” said Goldbeck, an attorney. “This is really an exciting proposition.”

While most people echoed what Goldbeck said, several were skeptical about the Agha project, wondering what liability the city could face, the cost, whether permits to draw seawater at Agha’s Moss Landing site are valid, and other issues. One woman said she was concerned “it’s a deal too good to be true.”

Huitt said taking on a water project would require immense amounts of time, attention and energy.

“I’m not objecting to the merits of the project,” Huitt said, “but it does have to be assessed, and who is going to do it? And who has the time to do it? I don’t.”

The project was brought to the council by councilman Dan Miller, who, along with councilman Rudy Fischer, sat on a subcommittee to look into the plan.

They said the Moss Landing location — to be located on Agha’s 200 acres of property — was ideal for a desal plant because there is already an intake and outfall for the plant and a building to house the facility.

Mayor Carmelita Garcia reminded the skeptics that the city’s agreement with Agha isn’t binding.

“This is the first step,” Garcia said. “And like any other venture ... there is a lot of information to gather along down the road. If it ends up not working out, we get out of it. That’s all there is to it.”