Thursday, November 10, 2005

SewerWatch Responds to This Morning's Trib Story

Some choice takes, SewerWatch style, on the Trib story this morning:

From the Trib:
Onlookers have been mystified at how the charge to stop polluting the federally protected Morro Bay estuary has devolved into an antagonistic debacle spanning three decades -- with no end in sight.

From SewerWatch:
Dear onlookers: Mystery solved.

From the Trib:
(The CSD) also plans to have its facility contractor, Monterey Mechanical, resume work at the Tri-W site near the middle of town.

However, that company will not do anything related to the treatment building itself, a modern, $49 million structure complete with an on-site dog park and a decorative wave wall.

From SewerWatch:
Along with the dog park and "decorative wave wall," (and the Trib should know this, but, unfortunately for quality journalism, does not) there are a couple of other odd things included at the site of the "modern, $49 million" sewer plant, like an amphitheater, tot lot, community gardens, play field, walking paths, public restrooms, public parking lot. You know, all that expensive stuff that Los Osos never wanted in the first place and is dictating the downtown location and is adding tens of millions of dollars to the project and that has ripped the town apart. Yea, those things.

From the Trib:
"They (the State Water Board) knew how much controversy existed, so why did they let the money out 20 days before the election?" (Lisa Shicker) asked. "Why did they do that?"

From SewerWatch:
Excellent question Lisa. Here's my answer: Because they are directly responsible for letting this mess fester to this point, and they can't bury their past mistakes fast enough.

From the Trib:
When asked if it was irresponsible to fund the sewer project right before a heated recall election, (Rukeyser) skirted the question.

"We've been absolutely prudent with the state's money, and like I said, we followed the law and we expect everyone else to follow the law," he said.

From SewerWatch:
Oh, Ruksy, Ruksy, Ruksy. "Absolutely prudent with the state's money?" Are you kidding me? For God's sake, your own policy that regulates the SRF loan says that "decorative items" are not eligible for SRF funding. Yet, you are ready to fund an amphitheater, tot lot, community gardens, play field, walking paths, public restrooms, public parking lot, dog park and yes, a "decorative" wave wall "with the state's money." I don't live in Los Osos, but I do live in this state, and, trust me Ruksy, that is not being "absolutely prudent with the state's money." In fact, if I lived in Mariposa County, where they are trying to get SRF funding for their wastewater facility, yet, to date, have not secured a dime of state money for that $3 million project, and I see that SRF money is going to pay for an elaborate, multi-million park in Los Osos, I'm friggin' pissed.

Funding a treatment facility without all of that frivolous crap that Los Osos never wanted in the first place would be "absolutely prudent with the state's money." And that is exactly what the new board wants to do.

Talk about backwards government. The only way they will fund the project is if it includes millions of dollars of park pork that Los Osos never wanted. Perfect.


(Addendum: Is Ruksy out of the loop or is the CSD popping out ill-advised press releases? We'll shall see at the Water Board's November 16th meeting. The CSD IS on the agenda: (Item 8)

But, as of 11/10/05, there's no staff report available on-line, even though all other items have a link to their staff report (now, there's your mystery). So, we won't know what they'll be talking about until either the staff report is posted, or Nov. 16.

Two days ago, I e-mailed Water Board staff asking for their report, but, of course, they have not replied. Ahhh... that's the State Water Board I've come to know and love. It's amazing I get any questions answered at all.)


  • Good catch, Ron.

    I had forgotten that origninally the park component of the project could not be funded with the SRF money but that everything else could. Now it does look like the park is part of the SRF loan. Perhaps looking at the 78442 page contract a bit more carefully would reveal whether the park is included or not.

    As you point out, the state might not have been prudent to release unsecured funds just minutes before a recall vote. If they care about fixing the water (and not about sound financial planning) it was maybe a good idea to release the funds but if they care about being prudent, it was a bit silly because there was no promise that they would get paid back ... the same sort of 218 promise that Polhemous added into the negotiated deal.

    I've argued before that the state really is in no real danger of losing their money ... if the CSD were to not pay them back, they would lose all ability to borrow any money from anyone in the future, thus killing the CSD off entirely. I doubt this CSD would choose to vote themselves out of existence and force the project to TriW. If it has to be moved to TriW I am sure they want to manage the process so they can raise our bills even higher than if the County were to take over.

    Hey ... I've got an idea. How about recalling the current CSD board after they get as much built as possible before a 218 vote and putting in candidates who have the stated intent of defaulting on the loan and dissolving the CSD just before the project is finished. The bulk of the project would be paid for by an unsecured loan. If the County then is the group to take over, we would only have to pay to construct the last 10% of the project.

    "It's sneaky ... and it just ... might ... work!"

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 11:39 AM, November 10, 2005  

  • Ron:

    Hmmmm.....all that "park pork stuff" you mentioned comes to only about 1% of the total cost of the wastewater project. Shaving a mere 1% ($1.4 million)of the project cost in the vain attempt to move the treatment plant out of town; when compared to losing the State loan (adding about 50%-$65 million-more to the cost of the wastewater project); is just plain dumb.

    That's what I love about your blog.....your fanciful rewriting of history, skewed facts and just angry rhetoric towards trying to justify your conspiracy theories about the wastewater project are laughable; No wonder all the responsible journalists I know shun your work as tabloid junk.

    But heck, keep on writing. You make me laugh.

    signed, a Citizen in the Know

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:20 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • Ron,

    Thanks for the great posts. You are keeping us all informed. The link to the Water Board's November 16th Agenda has a wonderful item just before Los Osos. Item 7 has to do with the "Load Repayment". Check it out. No one can tell us that the Water Board doesn't goof when they can't even use spell-check. Or is it a load of something when it come to them?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:22 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • Ron,

    It is interesting when you check the "Load" repayment and sell the entire dollar amount "loaded" out since the inception of SRF "loads".
    Then factor in the Los Osos "load" and it is unbelievable what percentage this small little hamlet is receiving in comparison to all the other close to 300 "loads" made. I am not good at math but it looks like our "load" represents l/15th of all the "loads" ever made by them.
    Why us? We don't want a big "load". What would we do with a big "load"? Can't upload it or can't download,or can't spend a load. Maybe we should unload it and let the Canadian company building ponding systems all over the world, build us a system out of town, affordable that does the job. We could accept their financing and forget the "load" of you know what from the State.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:43 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • The reason Los Osos got such a large loan is that the job was too large to do without such a large loan and the SWRCB feels that protecting the groundwater in Los Osos is a high priority. Like discussed in the Trib, if the CSD had to finance this on the open market it would run some $70/month more.

    If Los Osos goes with a system that is not approved of by SWRCB staff they will likely fine us far more should nitrates not come down quickly. If we go with a system that they approve and the nitrates don't drop quickly, they cannot fine us for the lack of change ... the system they insist on buys us some safety.

    Even if Al's plant costs $13M instead of the $30M system the current board has promised us, it only saves $17M, not even a break even proposition if you consider we've already spent $19M on the TriW design and will be fined another $11M. Oh, and we would lose the low interst loan too, resulting in payments skyrocketing.

    Even if the system would work, it doesn't make financial sense to walk away from the $19M already spent on designing TriW and SRF that keeps the project somewhat affordable.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 3:56 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • Bravo bloggers! Best laugh I've had in a long time! This "load" has been nothing but a s____t load of problems for us! Sharkie: What do you think of the oxidation ditch idea?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:59 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • Sharkey for president of Los Osos!! I love your plan! Anything to stick it to the PERPETRATORS of this whole mess! The SLO county board of supervisors and the Coastal Commission! But instead of a recall, just have the CSD resign in mass, it would be cheaper, better, faster! Mike Green

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:11 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • God this

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:34 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • Sorry about that. I was going to second the motion for Sharkie for President. I need some HOPE. This is all so depressing and frustrating.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:37 PM, November 10, 2005  

  • Dear "anonymous" 1,

    When I was younger I was responsible for 75 million dollar a year budget. We
    provided support for 75 researchers at the Supercomputing Research Center
    at the time in Lanham, Maryland. I was taken aback by a bid by one contractor.
    They wanted us to buy a 2 headed VAX 6250 for $800,000 that I knew we
    would never use. My immediate supervisor said what you said. "Its just 1
    percent of the cost of the entire bid". But $800,000 of tax payers money!!!!
    The director, Paul B. Schneck came down and talked to me about it. You know
    what he said? He told me to always remember "$1,000 is a lot of money".
    It is a lot of money. Even today. And "good republicans" like the "Dreamers"
    should have used that as their mantra instead of a "tax and spend" approach.

    - a former researcher

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:51 AM, November 13, 2005  

  • Did you know that in the candidates statement for the 2002 LOCSD election, Gordon Hensley said he didn't think Los Osos residents should have to pay for parks and recreation facilities WITHOUT A PROP 218 vote? Jeeeeeez.
    This loan really is a big loser. I just hope it all comes out where everyone can see the hypocrisy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:46 AM, November 13, 2005  

  • Considering Hensley's statement ... it seems that the CCC disagreed with him and required the park should be part of the project. This is possibly why the park was included in the SRF loan.

    If you don't like the park, thank your boardmember Julie Tacker. She is the one who led an effort to lobby the CCC to put the park back into the project.

    The CCC staff suggested removing the park to save money. The LOCSD board asked to remove the park to save money.

    The CCC requred the park to be put back in because one of the original reasons (years ago) for starting with TriW was that if we were to have a ponding system in town, we could do it up nice with a park. Julie complained about the lack of park so the CCC required it put back in if we were going to stick with TriW. The board then faced a choice ... do they put the park back in as the CCC required if they were going to stick with TriW, a project that had essentially been approved by every regulatory agency and already funded or should they start over with from ground zero, lose the SRF, likely be fined and have to face another several years of fines while they consider other options.

    The choice is obvious, eat the $2.5M park costs and continue with TriW because the cost of doing otherwise is too high. Maybe Julie knew this would be the case and was just using this issue as a stalling tactic. Maybe she is just dumb and/or unwise and thought that the CCC would somehow require us to move the project site. I don't know.

    I know that Ron and I disagree about many aspects of what happened years ago about the whole park/plant fiasco, but I would suggest that:
    1. Citizens would have liked a park with the ponding system originally proposed.
    2. The SRF money locked us into the location.
    3. The ponding system was determined to not be appropriate by the group that gave us the loan so they required we change to a more industrial plant.
    Thus, the SWRCB is the group who both insisted that we go with TriW but didn't allow us the sort of system we wanted at that location.

    We could have gone with an out of town solution at considerably higher cost (due to the change in interest rate) back around 2000. It may have even been good for the board to tell us the options then and asked our opinion on the matter. On the other hand, we elected the board to make decisions for us and they made a reasonable one ... (choosing to pursue a then $80M project at 2.3% instead of an $80M project at 5.5%, saving about $25/month per household). If the previous board had been a bit more forthcoming about the choices we would have seen fewer people bitching about the location because they would have known more about the tradeoffs.

    Finally, I must insist that while it is good to be financially prudent and because of that I sort of resent Julie putting the park back into the project, it still makes far more sense to go ahead with the (now more expensive thanks to Julie) TriW project than to pursue the idea of moving the plant out of town where the costs are most likely considerably higher, even if the SRF money can be kept.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 8:50 AM, November 14, 2005  

  • To the Anonymous that wrote this:

    "all that "park pork stuff" you mentioned comes to only about 1% of the total cost of the wastewater project."

    Why don't you tell that to the fine folks in Mariposa County. I'm sure they'll understand.

    Anyhoot, that 1% of the total cost argument is completely irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, without the park in the plan, there is no rationale to site the facility at Tri-W, so all the expensive logistics associated with siting an industrial sewer plant in the middle of your beautiful town is on the park, and that's about $30 million. That's why your facility is about $46 million, and the California Men's Colony sewer plant, that serves about the same amount of people, is roughly $16 million. Because CMC never identified a "strongly held" value amongst the prisoners, that the facility also double as a "centrally located" "recreational asset" (Aye-yai-yai... what were they thinking?).

    I wrote about all of this stuff (that can not be argued away) here.

    "No wonder all the responsible journalists I know shun your work as tabloid junk."

    There are responsible journalists covering Los Osos? Since when? Although, the fact that "responsible journalists" are even aware of this blog, brings to mind the great Gandhi quote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

    "That's what I love about your blog..." and, "You make me laugh."

    Hey, I try.

    By Blogger Ron, at 11:16 AM, November 14, 2005  

  • Dear Mr. Sharksterspeare Inlet,

    As I pointed out to Director Briggs, and project Manager Sorrel Marks, the only problem with your argument is that Tri-W et al ** is the wrong waste treatment system ** for Los Osos from the get go. This conclusion is something based on some odd alternative web site that contributes to This is the federal government, GW Bush's EPA:

    1.7 Current status of decentralized wastewater management

    In 1997 USEPA issued the Response to Congress on Use of Decentralized Wastewater Treatment
    Systems. This report was a milestone: USEPA acknowledged for the first time that sewering the entire
    country was not feasible and that decentralized wastewater systems were a viable alternative to
    centralized facilities. The report also described the inherent benefits of properly managed decentralized
    wastewater systems:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:26 AM, November 14, 2005  

  • Ron,

    There you go comparing apples to oranges again (The Tri-W treatment plant to that of the Men's Colony).

    The Tri-W treatment plant is an ALL NEW TURNKEY FACILITY including service yard, admin buildings, labs, receiving buildings, treatmernt buildings, park space (At a very marginal cost by the way), etc.


    The Men's Colony already has all these facilities built....they are merely ADDING A NEW TREAMENT TRAIN ONTO AN EXISITNG WASTEWATER FACILITY to resolve their wastewater issues.

    You cannot compare the two in terms of cost; or imply that if the treament plant was moved out of town that a treatment plant for Los Osos would be less expensive or even approcaching the cost of that of the Men's Colony.

    signed, In the Know

    PS. Cute quote from MG...but Ron, your no Gandi. Peace

    PPS. Ditto this argument for the Pismo Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion project too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:58 AM, November 14, 2005  

  • Ron,

    You have a good point about the rest of the state not necessarily wanting to fund the fancy bits of TriW. I don't want to pay for them either. The problem is that the CCC essentially required them to be added back in when they told Los Osos to include them because they were part of the original, ponding plan. Yes, we would have had the choice then to move the plant out of town and lose some of the fluff, but at a cost that would be far greater. Even if the process of EIR/approval/permitting went smoothly without finding snails or salamanders or lawsuits, losing the SRF would swing the total bill to be likely larger than at TriW.

    Again, at least some of the thanks should go to Julie for this ... pretty much everyone wanted to cut the pork except her ... and she only wanted it in as a way of trying to get the facility moved. She took a risk and now we are all paying.

    About decentralized management ... do you really think that you can find some 20 parcels large enough to handle small plants scattered throughout the town where they could do processing and aquifer recharge? Just because the USEPA states that "sewering the entire country was not feasible and that decentralized wastewater systems were a viable alternative" doesn't mean that every community should adopt this new model that might be viable for some communities. Maybe a good idea, but I doubt that even if we could find these parcels that the neighbors would be happy with the many plants in their many neighborhoods.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 1:27 PM, November 14, 2005  

  • About whether Rukeyser is out of the loop or not. Ron (and others), did you catch the Trib online Saturday? They posted a pdf from the SWRCB that says that Dan was lying in his press release of Nov 9.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 1:40 PM, November 14, 2005  

  • Just wanted to let everyone know that the Item 8 (Los Osos) on the Water Board agenda - well, the staff recommendation has been posted to the web site.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:41 PM, November 14, 2005  

  • Thanks for the "heads up".

    Reading the resolution it sounds like the staff is suggesting simply witholding funds from the LOCSD until work continues on all three portions of the project.

    Staff isn't recommending termination of the SRF loan yet.

    Staff is not recommending anything to do with the Oct 31 agreement. That item is not on the formal agenda at all.

    The board may choose to add some language to this resolution Wedensday night to suspend the SRF money entirely or to adopt the agreement to allow the LOCSD to explore an out of town plant. On the other hand, I suspect that they will simply follow the staff recommendation.

    In other words, until Dan can get contractors back to work, no money. If Dan can get the contractors back to work without a promise of payment, the state may (eventually) turn the money faucet back on.

    The wording in the resolved clause provides both some hope and some fear ... the phrase "in compliance with relevant laws" would suggest that if Measure B is somehow deemed illegal, the state can turn the money back on. Until Measure B is determine to be illegal, the LOCSD cannot provide official notification that the work is resuming on all three contracts, as previously approved by the SWRCB.

    As I've argued before it would be good to get a clarification of Measure B from the courts ASAP.

    On the tombstone of this CSD it will say "They dug their own grave" because every single one of them campaigned for Measure B.

    Let me remind the inattentive reader that every single ramification of this election was predicted in advance by those opposed to the recall and opposed to Measure B. Let me further remind us all that those campaigning for Measure B and the recall told us that we would not lose the loan and that there would be no fines and that they had a plan to put in a plant out of town that would save us money. Where is that plan?

    If this one blows up on Wednesday (as I suspect it might), who will be to blame? Certainly not the previous board ... their actions were what kept us in the good graces of the state and kept our 2.3% loan. If Measure B doesn't get overturned immediately so that the current board can go back to the TriW construction whole hog, we can blame those who campaigned for Measure B ... including the current board. If B is overturned and the board can decide to continue construction at TriW, I suspect the state will require them to show intent to finish up the project at TriW before any money is given out again. If the current board doesn't affirm an intent to build at TriW, the current board will be to blame for losing the money.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 4:38 PM, November 14, 2005  

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