In the News

Council Agrees to Hold Desal Vote No Sooner Than June 2014
Santa Cruz's desalination discussion takes one more surprise turn

By Jacob Pierce

Santa Cruz Weekly, 2/29/12

The city’s discussion of desalination took another surprise turn at the Feb. 28 Santa Cruz City Council meeting. The change has to do with two competing plans from activists and city officials to put desalination to a vote. Originally it looked like the plan advanced by Mayor Don Lane and Councilmember David Terrazas would call for a vote in 2013, while the activists' measure would call for a vote in 2014, a delay that  Lane had insisted could cost the city millions of dollars.

The council's preliminary approval of the Lane-Terrazas proposal calls for an election no earlier than June 2014, and could coincide with the activists' preferred timing—essentially nullifying the main justification for Lane's and Terrazas' proposal. Lane now says city staff assures him that a delay until June 2014 won’t hurt the project because planners will be able to focus on design, energy use and other aspects that come before construction.

Council also approved a separate proposal to keep the project carbon neutral as far as the city’s usage goes. If the plant is approved, Santa Cruz will share it with Soquel Creek Water District, which plans to use the plant at about half capacity for more than 90 percent of the time. The Santa Cruz Water District will use the plant only in dry summers. Ron Pomerantz and other activists pressed council to make the entire desal plant carbon neutral—not just for the city's usage.

“For a project to be carbon neutral, it means it has to be offset by nonrenewable energy use,” Pomerantz said. “That means the whole project. I’m just hearing you talk about the city of Santa Cruz’s responsibility. The bulk of the use is going to be Soquel. I think they must be obligated also to participate in a carbon neutral use, operation, maintenance and construction of this project.”

Councilmember Ryan Coonerty said the council can only focus on its responsibility and that this method is the best option for the two districts.

“All we have to do is offset the summer months once every 10 years, so it’s going to be a challenge for our partner,” Coonerty said. “We could go it alone and tell them to build their own plant because it’s going to be more challenging for them to offset carbon. But that’s not environmentally friendly to construct two totally different plants—nor is it economical.”

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