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Editorial: Hypocrisy on parade

Published: February 14, 2014

ONE OF the annoying things local activists do is hide their real motives. Time after time, they claim to have virtuous or altruistic reasons for acting the way they do, even as those very actions prove that they’re really working toward something else entirely. And what they usually want is some kind of autocratic rule in favor of their pet causes.

The people who gave the Monterey Peninsula its water shortage, for example, said they were fighting for restrictions on local water use to protect the Carmel River and its native plants and animals. But as soon as those draconian restrictions were in place, the activists started doing (and are still doing) everything they could think of to stop alternate water sources from being developed, thereby leaving the river in its parched state and proving that their real motive is to stop development — even the small amounts of new development  the majority of citizens believe their communities need.

The same exact thing happened with the small group demanding that Flanders Mansion be retained in public ownership. At first, their demand was that the mansion not be sold without a public vote. But when the vote happened, and the citizens decided by a sizable majority that the mansion should be unloaded, the activists immediately disclaimed the vote and sued to have it overturned. Now, you never hear them call for a public vote on the future of Flanders Mansion.

The latest example of obvious hypocrisy by our local activists was on full display this week at the Marina City Council, as a small group trying to prevent a desal plant from being built bent themselves into pretzels trying to come up with reasons why even tiny, preliminary test wells for the desal plant shouldn’t be allowed to be drilled.

Their gambit started when the first version of an EIR was completed for the Monterey Peninsula’s desal plant. The anti-desal activists sued to overturn that EIR because they said it insufficiently analyzed the impacts a desal plant in Marina might have on the Salinas Valley aquifer, which the valley’s farmers rely on to grow their crops. The lawsuit claimed that in-depth analysis was required to measure the possible harm the desal plant might do to that aquifer.

At which point, the California Public Utilities Commission agreed, and decided a series of test wells were required to determine what harm, if any, the desal plant would do to the Salinas Valley’s water supply.

But when preparations were made to drill test wells to measure that impact, the anti-desal activists decided that the test wells themselves would harm the aquifer and must be stopped.

At the Marina City Council Wednesday night, an attorney for the activists argued that something called a “cone of depression” would be created around the small test wells, thereby damaging the precious Salinas aquifer. Of course, the real cone of depression was the one that descended on the audience as they listened to his gratuitous advocacy.

If these particular activists trying to stop the desal plant were sincere about their claimed motive — protecting the aquifer — they would support the test wells, because the harm the test wells would show (at least, the harm the activists are certain they would show) would be the surest way to stop the desal plant from being built in Marina, now and forever.

Obviously, what they really fear is that the test wells will show that the harm doesn’t exist, and that such a finding will help clear the way for the desal plant. But that would also be a victory for the activists — wouldn’t it? — since they could then go to bed happy every night, secure in the knowledge that their aquifer was safe. No, it wouldn’t, but only because their true motive is something other than what they claim.

We’re not sure if these particular activists support some other desal method, are no-growth simpletons, or are just on a power trip.

Whatever their true motive is, the Marina City Council is to be congratulated for ignoring them, sticking to reason and logic, and upholding its obligation to promote the public welfare.

Now, can somebody please get started drilling the test wells?