Cal-Am is the Monterey Peninsula’s Abusive Boyfriend

October 23, 2018

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It’s not news that Cal-Am will do anything, say anything and spend pretty much any amount to dissuade Monterey Peninsula ratepayers from studying the feasibility of taking over the water system. They made that clear four years ago when they spent about $2.4 million to defeat Measure O.

Oddly, the intensity of Cal-Am’s opposition may be the best reason to believe a public buy-out will be feasible. After all, if it was really as impractical as they say, why would they be so desperate to block any serious study?

In any event, a no-holds-barred, no-expense-spared approach to defeating Measure J was always to be expected from Cal-Am. Yet the blizzard of delirious anti-Measure J flyers Cal-Am’s political consultants are currently fire-hosing into our mailboxes still manages to amaze. It’s as much a show of force as it is an effort to persuade. By now there’s probably a clear-cut somewhere with a plaque honoring Cal-Am’s dedication to preserving jobs in the Forest Products industry.

But what, exactly, is the message Cal-Am is spending so much to promote?

Sifting through the pile, we find glowing descriptions of Cal-Am’s love for the Monterey Peninsula and commitment to its prosperity side by side with deranged threats to go out of their way to financially destroy this same beloved community should its voters not do whatever Cal-Am tells them to. The more you read, the clearer and more familiar the message becomes. It’s something along the lines of, “we love you more than anyone else ever will and want to stay with you forever, but if you even think about breaking up with us we’ll bankrupt you and grind you in the dirt and it will be all your fault for making us do it.”

Now there’s certainly no reason why a private water company couldn’t try to persuade their customers to stay with them by providing high quality service and reasonable prices and, if their customers still wanted to go their own way, there’s certainly no reason they couldn’t simply negotiate a reasonable price and let them go.

Behaving like an abusive boyfriend is a choice and, in this case anyway, apparently a matter of corporate policy.

Ending an abusive relationship is dangerous, and Cal-Am is clearly serious about making a breakup as painful as possible, but staying in an abusive relationship is usually worse.

Are the voters now ready to stand up to Cal-Am? We’ll find out on November 6.

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Local Streams Shrug Off Atmospheric River

March 22, 2018

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The rain is still falling out there, but it looks like our multi-day storm is beginning to wind down.
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New Seawater Intrusion Maps Confirm that Water Runs Downhill

July 31, 2017

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The Salinas Valley has a seawater intrusion problem for a very simple reason. Groundwater levels are lower than sea level. As long as this remains the case, it’s pretty obvious that seawater will not stop flowing downhill into the Salinas Valley aquifers. See this post, from 2015, if you’re interested in the details.
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Cal-Am Announces Coal-Based Water Source for Monterey Peninsula

April 1, 2017

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The Cemex site: Future location of a Coal-Fired water plant?

The Monterey Peninsula must act quickly to end its reliance on illegal water diversions from the Carmel River. Otherwise the State Water Resources Control Board, which has stood by doing nothing about the illegal diversions for more than 30 years, will likely issue a new set of empty threats and just might, eventually, order mandatory rationing – something we all know would destroy the local economy. After all, without plenty of water, how can our visitor-serving industries serve our visitors?

After more than a decade of planning, the desal plant the community had pinned its hopes on remains little more than an ever expanding library of expensive studies. Beset by problems with its unproven slant-well technology and a battle over water rights, it is unclear when, if ever, the plant might break ground, let alone produce water.

So it is welcome news that the creative minds at Cal-Am have identified yet another highly speculative, energy intensive, and ruinously expensive solution to the Peninsula’s water woes. The idea is to build a large coal gasification plant on the Cemex property north of Marina (alongside the proposed desal plant). Hydrogen produced by the gasification process would then be combined with oxygen and ignited in a combustion chamber to form water. Coal would be imported by rail from mines in the Midwest, helping to realize the President’s dream of putting coal miners back to work.

Cal-Am says they’re very excited about this new project and, given that they make their money through a guaranteed return on their investment in the water system, why wouldn’t they be? The more they spend, the more they earn. The fun only stops if the PUC decides the spending is no longer reasonable and necessary. And who knows what it would take to reach that theoretical limit?

After all, they’ve already found it reasonable and necessary to site the desal plant miles up the coast from where the water is needed, requiring millions in new infrastructure to transport the water back to the users. They’ve found it reasonable and necessary to place the wells where some of the water they’ll capture already belongs to the Salinas Valley, adding millions to the cost of running the plant (since it will have to desalinate far more water than Cal-Am’s ratepayers actually need). They’ve found projected costs that far exceed the costs of similar desal plants reasonable and necessary. They didn’t even have a problem with ceding their oversight responsibility to a water board elected by people entirely outside the Cal-Am service area – and with zero personal stake in keeping Cal-Am water rates under control.

And what’s the big deal about cost anyway? The rate structure carefully protects water hogs in the business community from the punitive rates applied to residential customers who stumble over the line into higher tiers.

The “conventional wisdom” may be that technical problems with producing sufficient water in this way are far too numerous to make it feasible. Naysayers may point to the massive air quality and global warming impacts. Bean counters may complain that the water would be more expensive drop for drop than HP Printer Ink. But you don’t know what you can accomplish until you try!

And even if Cal-Am never manages to solve every problem, as long as they spend plenty of the ratepayer’s money working on it, they’ll have done their job.

Cal-Am’s profits, let us never forget, are based on how much money they can get away with “investing” in the water system. The amount of water they actually produce and deliver is irrelevant.


More Water Needed in South County Reservoirs

March 15, 2016

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High water doesn’t last long on the volatile Nacimiento River

News of reservoirs reaching capacity has been coming in from around Northern and Central California this week but, for the Salinas Valley, water remains a problem.

As of this morning, the San Antonio Reservoir holds a measly 18,875 acre feet of water. That’s just 6% of capacity and more than 4,000 acre feet less than what’s considered to be its “minimum pool.” Since the lake hit its all-time low of 10,254 acre feet at the beginning of the year, El Niño rains have added less than 9,000 acre feet to storage. And there isn’t a lot of rainy season left. Read the rest of this entry »


The Sorry State of Water Conservation on the Monterey Peninsula

February 5, 2016

For years local officials have waived off suggestions that the Monterey Peninsula could do more to save water by falsely claiming that “residents of the Monterey Peninsula use less water per person per day than anywhere else in the state.” They’ve even gone so far as to publish fraudulent figures purporting to support this claim.

The purpose of this grandiose bragging has been to promote approval of as large and growth-inducing a new water project, whether dam or desal, as possible. That effort appears to have succeeded, but at the cost of undercutting efforts to increase water conservation. Read the rest of this entry »


More Monterey Peninsula Residential Water Use Data

October 14, 2015

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Throughout the year, we’ve been posting, on a monthly basis, the average number of gallons used per person per day by residents of the Monterey Peninsula’s Cal Am service area, together with how that compares to other cities and water districts throughout the state.

Why? Read the rest of this entry »