In the News

Residents Seek Alternatives to Desal Plant

By Kimberly White

Santa Cruz Sentinel, 12/09/2010

CAPITOLA -- Residents want officials to not only put more thought into alternatives to building a desalination plant -- including water sharing, implementing additional conservation measures and rebate programs -- but also to take into account the health and environmental impacts of the plant on both humans and animals.

The comments came from more than a dozen county residents during a public meeting Wednesday evening at New Brighton Middle School, where officials with the Santa Cruz Water Department and Soquel Creek Water District took public input on what should be included in the draft environmental impact report for the project.

Aptos resident Rhonda Solick, representing the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said she's opposed to the plan, in part because of the large amount of greenhouse gases and energy costs associated with the process, and suggested as an alternative raising the production capacity of the Loch Lomond reservoir to 90 percent

David Stearns, a Santa Cruz resident, said he understood that all parties want the same thing -- to protect the water customers in case of a drought and ensure the availability of an adequate water supply -- but building a desalination plant is not the best answer.

"I think it's important that we exhaust all possible alternatives," he said, urging officials to further review conservation measures and consider sharing water between the two districts and improvements to existing infrastructure.

Laura Brown, general manager of the Soquel Creek Water District, said about 18 comments were received during a meeting held earlier Wednesday afternoon in Santa Cruz. The meeting drew a crowd of between 40 and 50, and many spoke about the amount of energy the plant would use. Commenters at both meetings expressed concerns about the cost of the project and urged officials to consider advances in technology that may allow the districts to conserve more water.

When the scoping period ends on Jan. 10, 2011, officials will collect all the oral and written comments and use them to determine the breadth of the draft EIR. Once that document is completed, expected in the fall of 2011, another scoping period will be held. Chris Colwick, the public outreach coordinator for the EIR process, said officials will not respond to the comments received during this period, but will respond to those collected after the draft EIR is presented.

Meanwhile, officials still are trying to determine the best location for an intake system. They are concentrating on the west side of the San Lorenzo River, Mitchell's Cove and the Santa Cruz Wharf. The preliminary plan calls for a pipeline to go from the mouth of the river on Beach Street, along West Cliff Drive and then onto Delaware Avenue.

Ann Sansevero, a consultant with URS Corporation who will prepare the draft EIR, said officials have identified two potential sites for the plant, one at the east side of Natural Bridges Drive and the other on the east side of Shaffer Road.

Comments may be submitted in writing through Jan. 10, 2011, to Heidi Luckenbach, SCWD Desalination program coordinator, 212 Locust St., Suite C, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 or e-mailed to

For information, call 475-8501, ext. 153, or e-mail Melanie Schumacher at

Share Thoughts on the Proposed Desal Plant

Plans Inch Forward; Tell Water Officials By Jan. 10 of Things They Should Study.

By Genevieve Bookwalter - Capitola-Soquel Patch, 12.9.10

Those concerned about fish, water rights, pipeline locations and more surrounding the desalination project proposed by Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek water districts have until Jan. 10 to recommended those issues be addressed.

Officials with Soquel Creek Water District and Santa Cruz Water Department received a host of suggestions on Wednesday, between two meetings that allowed residents to learn more about the project—in the works for two decades—and voice their concerns. Nearly all of the evening comments came from those opposed to the project and suggested ways to conserve more water instead.

"We're trying to get the alternatives into the conversation," said Rick Longinotti of Santa Cruz.

For example, said Beverly DesChaux of Santa Cruz, "Is it necessary to have a shower every day? It's a recent phenomenon. People in Europe don't."

The two districts have ordered the environmental studies necessary before building a desalination plant, and the day's sessions were an early step in preparing that report. The proposal includes a plant on Santa Cruz's Westside industrial land with pipelines snaking down the county to serve Soquel Creek Water District. The location of those pipes has not been determined.

The report should be finished next fall, at which time the two districts could certify it and approve the project.

Laura Brown, executive director of the Soquel Creek district, noted that the two agencies boast the highest conservation levels in the state. The extra water from desalination is necessary to make up for the over-pumping of Soquel Creek's reservoirs and prepare Santa Cruz for future drought, said Brown and Santa Cruz Water Department head Bill Kocher.

"Our customers have embraced conservation," Brown said. However, "we must diversify. We must look at alternative supplies."

About 100 visitors stopped by the afternoon's session at First Congregational Church in Santa Cruz, while about 40 attended the evening's Capitola meeting at New Brighton Middle School. A handful of folks stopped by both events.

Under the agencys' strategy, the water produced by the plant would, in most years, help Soquel Creek recharge its underground reservoirs. In drought years, it would provide drinking, washing and shower water to Santa Cruz Water Department.

Santa Cruz Water Department serves about 100,000 people and stretches from Davenport to 41st Avenue. Soquel Creek Water District serves about 50,000 people and stretches from 41st Avenue to La Selva Beach.

For information on the proposed desalination project visit

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