MARINA, Calif. - The Marina Coast Water District is taking California American Water and the County of Monterey to court.
They filed a lawsuit to prevent the construction of a controversial desalination plant in the city of Marina.
It was filed after the Monterey County Board of Supervisors approved use permit for the desal plant in a 3-2 vote last month.
The Marina Coast Water District’s General Manager Keith Van Der Maaten said they filed the suit to make sure that the desal project’s impacts, mitigation and alternatives are looked at through the proper environmental review. But Cal Am Spokesperson Catherine Stedman said those studies have already been done. Now, it will be up to the court to decide.
The two companies are in conflict over the source of water in Marina that Cal Am plans to use to supply drinking water to 100,000 customers on the Monterey Peninsula, yet it won't go to Marina residents. The plant will convert saltwater to drinking water–Cal Am's cure for a water shortage.
“The project’s slant wells are going to be taking that ground water and replacing it with sea water," Van Der Maaten said. "This is the ground water we depend on–will now become sea water in this area and so that is one of the largest obvious concerns for us. That is our drinking water, and we certainly don’t want to see this area polluted with sea water. “
The Marina District argues that the Monterey County Board of Supervisors approved a use permit before Cal Am demonstrated it had water rights and before the County completed required environmental review.
But Cal Am said the review is complete.
“Both state agencies, a federal agency has done a thorough review of all of the environmental impacts of this project. The issues that are being raised by Marina were raised multiple times during that process. They were studied in the environmental report, and they were found to be without merit,” Stedman said.
"The original EIR done a while back depended on information that was completed at the tail end of a drought. We know so much more since then," Van Der Maaten said.
Stedman said its important the desal project move forward as the company has been ordered to stop pumping from their main source of water, the Carmel River.
“It’s an emergency. We’re under a cease and desist order," Stedman told KION. "If we do not meet certain construction milestones to get to that final project then we will face cutbacks, water cutbacks.”
The desalination plant would help replace the river source. Stedman said the Marina location is needed for them to draw in enough water for customers on the peninsula and complete water treatment.
In a statement to KION, Supervisor John Phillips highlighted the need for the project after the demolition of Los Padres Dam in the Carmel Valley, saying “for decades the Monterey Peninsula has been looking to find an alternate source of water to replace drawing from the Carmel River – and it seems like we’ve finally found one.”
Stedman said Cal Am still needs approval from the California Coastal Commission but the company plans to start construction of some components next month.