Editorial: The businesses got it right
Published: December 28, 2012
AS THE Monterey Peninsula moves at
glacial speed towards a new water project, most of the attention
remains focussed on who will build it and where. But the most
critical issue is actually how big it should be.
There are a couple of reasons why size is the preeminent issue.
First of all, whether the project is desal only or a
combination of desal, wastewater reclamation and underground
storage, the water it produces is going to be very expensive.
Fortunately, desal plants and other water projects provide
economies of scale — that is, the more water they produce, the
cheaper the per-gallon cost. So the bigger the plant, the less
its impact will be on your monthly bills.
Even more important is the fact that only a large desal plant
will actually benefit the public. A small one will cost tons of
money without delivering anything tangible in return. And why
should the public be asked to pay hundreds of millions of
dollars for something that does them no good? They shouldn’t.
The Cal Am plan, you see, was produced under pressure from
environmentalists and does nothing more than replace Carmel
River water the state took away in 1995. And while the Cal Am
project would take care of the fish and the frogs in the river,
it would do nothing for people (except give them large bills to
That is no good. As pointed out by a coalition of local
business groups in a letter to the California Public Utilities
Commission last month, what this community requires is a desal
plant large enough not only to take care of the river, but
provide for the basic needs of people in Carmel, Carmel Valley,
Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, Monterey and Seaside.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to actually have enough water?” the
business groups ask. Yes, it would.
First of all, as the businesses point out, vacant legal lots of
record must be served. Scattered throughout every part of the
Monterey Peninsula are vacant lots with no water, which means
they can’t be used for anything. This is grossly unfair to the
owners of these lots. Furthermore, thousands of homeowners would
like to remodel and add a bathroom or two. Because of the water
shortage, they can’t.
Similarly, many commercial properties are vacant or underused
because of the water shortage. Downtown Carmel needs more
residents, which can only happen if apartments are added above
some stores. In Pacific Grove, the American Tin Cannery and
Holman Building should be transformed into mixed retail and
residential projects. Monterey wants to revitalize the Alvarado
Street corridor, and bring the Conference Center into the 21st
century. In every community there are businesses that would like
to expand to meet customer demand.
But none of this can happen because there is no water. And Cal
Am’s current project won’t let any of these things happen,
The decision about how big our water project should be will be
made by the California Public Utilities Commission. The business
coalition — consisting of local hotels, restaurants, commercial
property owners, contractors, realtors and chambers of commerce
— says the desal plant needs to be big enough to take care of
people as well as fish.
We heartily agree.