Saturday, August 11, 2007

3... 2... 1... Buh-Bye Tri-W

Let me see if I have this sequence of events straight:

Last Tuesday, August 7, at the County Board of Supervisors meeting, every single county official, from every staff member on up to all the Supervisors, essentially say, "Look, we don't want anything to do with that embarrassing, unpopular, probably illegal, expensive, mid-town Tri-W sewer plant mess."

And then on Wednesday, August 8, the very next day, an official county report is released that shows that the Tri-W project is an embarrassing, unpopular, definitely illegal, expensive, mid-town sewer plant mess.

What an amazing coincidence.

If you haven't seen it, the county's Technical Advisory Committee has released their Pro/Con Analysis (pdf file / 509k) for viable sewer options in Los Osos, and it's just flat-out embarrassing for the Tri-W project, and it was released ONE DAY after county supervisors, following their staff's recommendation, ruled to NOT extend the Tri-W coastal development permit (CDP) -- a permit that had over $24 million thrown at it by the previous LOCSD Boards -- even though to request the extension would have been relatively easy to do, and wouldn't have cost taxpayers a thing, other than a little staff time.

Just a guess, but something tells this reporter that county supervisors caught wind of the TAC's pro/con report long before their meeting on Tuesday.

[Interesting note: In his cover letter, TAC chairperson, Bill Garfinkel, writes, "The final report will be online by Wednesday (August 8)." However, the date on the report's cover is August 6, 2007. The day before the Supervisors' meeting.]

First things first...

When the Tri-W CDP expires at 11:59:59 p.m., August 11th (tonight), as it will due to the non-actions of county supervisors last Tuesday, then at 12:00:01 a.m., August 12th, the Tri-W project -- a project that has ripped the community fabric of Los Osos apart over the past six years -- needs to immediately be removed from consideration as a possible location for a sewer plant in Los Osos. Why? According to official documents, it is illegal to build a sewer plant at that location.

Here's how:

In the Pro/Con Analysis, one of the many, many "cons" for the Tri-W site is:

"ESHA – sensitive dune habitat"

That single "con" makes it illegal to build a sewer plant at the Tri-W site, because in the Tri-W CDP -- the permit that supervisors just let die on the vine last Tuesday -- it reads:

"(Coastal Zone Land Use Ordinance) Section 23.08.288d allows public facilities within ESHA only where there is no other feasible location." (page 42)

I'm going to repeat that. It gets a little tricky here, and I want to make this as clear as possible, because this is a very important point.

Again, according to the staff of the California Coastal Commission:

"CZLUO Section 23.08.288d allows public facilities within ESHA only where there is no other feasible location."

So, do you see what's happening there? One government agency, the Coastal Commission, is saying that, according to state law, a sewer plant (a.k.a: public facility) can't be built where there's ESHA (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area), and another government agency -- the County of San Luis Obispo -- is saying that the Tri-W site is nothing but ESHA, "sensitive dune habitat." Apparently, the only thing needed now to make it illegal to build a sewer plant at the Tri-W location is another "feasible location" for the plant.

So, is there one?

According to the TAC, there are THREE, and not one of them contains an ounce of "sensitive dune habitat" or ESHA, according to the report, and they are ALL out of town, downwind, can accommodate a facility that will be much cheaper to build and operate, will use much less energy, and they are all much, much cheaper lots than Tri-W.

Time to run down the "Why Tri-W is Illegal" check list:

Tri-W on ESHA? Check.

Other feasible locations that don't include ESHA? Check.

Illegal to build a sewer plant on ESHA when there are other non-ESHA sites available? Checkmate!

Buh-bye, Tri-W. Been nice knowin' ya.

Now, what in the hell happened? How did an illegal project get permitted? I know the answer to that question, but the District Attorney's office needs to know the answer to that question, and I don't think they do. Investigation time, methinks, and strengthening my argument for an official investigation into what happened with the Tri-W project, is all of the other embarrassing information found in the pro/con analysis regarding that ridiculous "bait and switchy" project.

For example:

"(Tri-W's) downtown location (near library, church, community center) and the high density residential area require that the most expensive treatment technology, site improvements and odor controls be employed."


"It has high construction costs..." ($55 million. The next highest treatment facility option is estimated at $19 million.)


"Very high land value and mitigation requirements"


Tri-W energy requirements: "Highest"


"Small acreage and location in downtown center of towns (sic) require most expensive treatment"


"higher costs overall"


"Limited flexibility for future expansion, upgrades, or alternative energy"


"Source of community divisiveness"


"All sites are tributary to the Morro Bay National Estuary and pose a potential risk in the event of failure. Tri-W poses a higher risk..."


"NOTE: It was the unanimous opinion of the (National Water Research Institute) that an out of town site is better due to problematic issues with the downtown site."


"ESHA – sensitive dune habitat"

Highly embarrassing. No wonder every single county official couldn't distance themselves fast enough from the Tri-W mess last Tuesday.

Paavo Ogren, of the public works department, and director of the TAC, said, "We (the county) didn't develop the (Tri-W) project." Ouch!

Even one of its few "pros" isn't a pro at all. Pro: "The advantages of the Tri-W site are that it is central to the collection system."

Their reasoning for calling that a "pro" is that it saves money because everything doesn't need to be pumped out of town, and that saves energy. But that's a ridiculous argument, because, according to their own numbers, building the treatment facility in town adds over $30 million to the cost to make it "urban compatible."

According to past LOCSD documents, the cost of the energy to pump everything about a mile or so out of town is about $30,000 a year.

Where's my calculator? Let's see here... $30 million divided by $30,000... yep... that's what I thought. That $30 million bucks worth of "urban compatibility" would pay for 1,000 years of the extra pumping costs.

The TAC even admits that Tri-W has "higher costs overall." So, why do they say things like this: Pro: "Lower cost for collection piping to treatment center"? Nice logic, guys.

It makes no sense, and it looks like they were just trying to show something, anything as a reason why the site was originally selected by the 2001 LOCSD in the first place, when the hard truth is, there was/is no rationale whatsoever behind the Tri-W siting, as the pro/con analysis clearly shows.

So, that's that. Tri-W's D-O-N-E. Someone put a fork in it, please.

It's a very good thing that the project was stopped when it was in 2005, shortly after the recall election, or else the situation would have grown about a thousand times worse than it is today, as that whole "illegal" thing, along with a bunch of other "fatal flaws," would have become crystal clear about half-way through construction.

The county's Technical Advisory Committee meets on Monday, August 13, and one of the agenda items is:

"Presentation of sample projects by County Project Team..."

I have to wonder, what is Tri-W's presentation going to be like?...

"Yea, well, sure the project is illegal, and waaaaay more expensive than the others, and it's got all kinds of environmental issues, and the community hates it, but, hey, it does include a picnic area, tot lot, and amphitheater in the sewer plant."

Hmmm, now that I put it that way, I have to wonder if it will get a presentation at all. What's the point? It's not going to work.



  • Ron,

    Because turnabout if fair play, I didn't read anything you wrote other than your first sentence but I'll insult you anyways ... doofus!

    Had you read and listened to Paavo's comments you would understand that whatever you wrote is chock-full-o-shit.

    Again, because turnabout is fair play, maybe later I'll actually read what you wrote and then refuse to comment out of embarassment, but I'll likely just continue to insult you for no reason.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 1:54 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • Ron, the irony here is so thick I can't help but laugh... your writings about behavior based marketing and coordinated efforts are so apparent here.

    The only response the Tri-W group can come up with to your arguments are personal attacks and diversions.

    Some time ago a coordinated effort went out among their group to try and trivialize your opinions.

    They refuse to respond to your points. They pretend that they dont even read your articles. They claim that since you don't live in Los Osos that you can't possibly know what is happening here.

    Instead they insult you, call you names, make fun of your writing...

    The Tri-W group has done this from day 1... when you have good strong arguments, and they can't refute them, the personal attacks begin.

    The stronger the personal attacks, the better your argument must be.

    I love it when they start calling people pot heads, or fat asses, or whores... when that's the best they can come up with you know you must have hit the nail right on the head.

    So Tri-Wers... continue to "ignore Ron Crawford" and "stay off of his blog". That type of advice worked so well for you during the recall campaign.

    In the mean time Ron, keep up the good fight... while they are busy ignoring you, you are gaining traction.

    And enjoy the personal attacks... the nastier they get, the righter you are.

    By Blogger Steve, at 3:08 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • Steve,

    Please don't get me wrong.

    I am only responding to Ron the way he appears to want to be treated ... assuming he believes in the Golden Rule.

    Had Ron ever bothered to reply to the pointed crystal-clear insightful comments I've made and questions I've had for him he would certainly have more respect. It is just plain sad that he simply doesn't bother following up on the logical questions that have been asked of him.

    Before you jump in and think that poor Ron is so unfairly attacked ... just ask yourself two questions.

    Has he ever trotted out proof of his claim that Steve Monowitz says that any WWTF at TriW is illegal and that because Steve is pissed at the Solutions Group LOCSD boardmembers he'll vindictively prevent any plant from ever being built there?

    Also, has Ron ever addressed the nuance of various conflicting laws ... for example the one which says ESHA cannot be destroyed and the one that say AG land cannot be destroyed and the one that says that public utilities must be affordable? No ... he stands behind only the ESHA one and pretends that no other factors ever have and ever will matter. The fact that the CCC even once has approved the destruction of ESHA property because of overriding concerns shows Ron's argument to be of little value. Oh yeah ... has Ron ever discussed the current ESHA-ness of TriW? Nope. It would seem that all Ron's protestations of the illegality of TriW seem to depend on whether TriW is ESHA and he doesn't even know that it is.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 4:25 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • "Instead they insult you, call you names..."

    Wow Steve, you obviously live in a cave or something. Check out Conspiracy Boy/Keepemhonest, etc etc etc at Ann's blog if you want to read insults and name calling. Check out CSD/BOS meetings for the past 2 years or so if you want to see insults and name calling. You've got to be kidding. The obstructionist movement is rife with those who do nothing BUT insult and name call. You need to get out more. Or get honest.

    By Blogger Area51, at 5:36 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • Steve wrote:

    "Ron, the irony here is so thick I can't help but laugh... your writings about behavior based marketing and coordinated efforts are so apparent here.

    The only response the Tri-W group can come up with to your arguments are personal attacks and diversions.

    Some time ago a coordinated effort went out among their group to try and trivialize your opinions."

    That's nothing new. Discrediting the messenger simply because that messenger happens to show their message is wrong, is a KEY component of any good behavior-based marketing campaign, just ask Norm Hantzche at Questa Engineering. He couldn't have been more right in 1998, before the election that formed the LOCSD, and Pandora publicly shredded him apart that year. That's how her little game works.

    Of course, The Trib wouldn't know that, because they have NEVER gone against Pandora's message.

    "They claim that since you don't live in Los Osos that you can't possibly know what is happening here."

    Now THAT's irony. Trust me, NO ONE knows more about this story than I. Not Paavo Ogren, not Noel King, not even Julie Tacker, although she's second.

    Before my two New Times cover stories, I was editor of The Bay Breeze in Los Osos from 1996 - 1999. That's where I started the original SewerWatch, and before that I was a reporter for the The Bay News in Los Osos from 1990 - 1992.

    And through ALL of that, sewer coverage was a huge part of the job. 17 years worth.

    Plus, everyone in Los Osos has been so saturated in behavior based marketing over the past eight years that you HAVE to be an outsider to get a clear picture of what's going on. If you live in Los Osos, then you have no idea what's going on, at least that was the case from 1998 - 2005. Another irony.

    "Instead they insult you, call you names, make fun of your writing..."

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you, then you win."
    -- Ghandi

    Anonymous commentor wrote:

    "I didn't read anything you wrote other than your first sentence..."


    "Oh yeah ... has Ron ever discussed the current ESHA-ness of TriW?"

    Boy, did you pick a bad time to continue to steal my jokes. Because if you had actually read my piece, you would have noticed that the source of my "Tri-W is currently ESHA" take, is straight from the pro/con report. Of course, that assumes you actually have the wherewithal to comprehend that report, and that's a BIG assumption. In fact, the only time ESHA comes up in the report, is in association with Tri-W. Yikes!

    "... the one that says that public utilities must be affordable?"

    Tri-W: "higher costs overall"
    -- The pro/con report


    By Blogger Ron, at 9:54 AM, August 13, 2007  

  • Okay Ron, you caught me.

    The one time I don't bother reading your original comments first is the one time recently that you've added any content that was something other than 100% smack.

    So it seems that the TAC is under the impression that TriW is ESHA. Why is this the case when all the ESHAness of the site was bulldozed away two years ago? The whole of Los Osos, even the "out of town" sites are about as much coastal dune habitat as is TriW. I don't buy it. Perhaps a biological assessment of the current site would make it clear. Has one been done?

    Also, it looks as if the TAC report is using TriW numbers from actual bids (many would say over-bids) to compare to other sites. Should the whole thing go out for re-bid, those who argued earlier that the bids were too high would have to now argue that the bids should be lower.

    That being said, I am glad that the County and TAC are now doing the sort of comparisons that will allow us to choose the cheapest option today and it looks (to me) as if TriW doesn't even have much of a time advantage over the other possible sites. However it is good that the County is keeping as many options open as long as possible so that the marketplace will allow us the cheapest solution.

    If the County does go with another, cheaper option, we'll only end up with sewer bills of about $200 per month ... just like we would have with TriW ... but now we'll get to pay for the cost of the bankruptcy and we get another five-ten years of pollution as well! Oh joy!

    Ron, if my total bills down the road are noticeably lower after the County finishes the job, Julie can claim a partial victory ... more pollution but lower costs and out of town. However, if my costs are higher, the victory will be Pyrrhic. Out of town, more pollution and higher costs is only good for the rich who don't care much for the environment. Let's call those folks Republicans for the moment. Is Julie a Republican?

    For the sake of argument, let me grant you the point that the Solutions Group LOCSD board was a lying sack of weasel dung when they told the CCC that TriW was supported by the community. As I asked you a year and half ago, isn't it wiser to live with a dent in your car fender than to insist on getting it fixed if the cost of getting it fixed is too high?

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 1:27 PM, August 13, 2007  

  • ESHA is an Environmentally Sensative Habitat Area... it is not endangered species. It is an AREA that either does, has or HAS THE POTENTIAL to support endangered species.

    You cannot get around the ESHA regulations just by bulldozing the land. If you could, then people would scrape all life off of their land... pay a little fine and then claim it no longer is ESHA.

    Try that and see what happens...

    What will end up happening is, you will have to restore the land... and allow the endangered species to return. Whether they return or not, it is still ESHA.

    You dont need a red legged frog, or silver lupine to have ESHA... Coastal Dune Habitat is preserved because the red legged frog and silver lupine can live there if they choose to.

    I am sure there is some wildlife that has returned to Tri-W... if there isnt, it has the potential to return. Either way, it is still ESHA.

    Nice try sharky... but your argument is weak... and you will have a hard time convincing anyone that Tri-W is not ESHA... it would be kind of like, oh, I dont know... trying to claim the Tri-W sewer was underground.

    How did that work out for you?

    By Blogger Steve, at 6:38 PM, August 13, 2007  

  • Um ... Steve ... I replied to you over in Ann's blog.

    I find it confusing when folks put the exact same comment in two places so I tend to reply only once.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 8:42 PM, August 13, 2007  

  • Okay, answer me this...

    Most would agree that delaying the sewer is bad for two reasons...

    1. The cost goes up
    2. Pollution continues

    Respond to this... for the sake of discussion...

    For every month of delay, there is approximately $1 million dollars in rates/fees that are not being paid by Los Osos PZ residents. ($200 Tri-W estimate X 5,000)

    Lets assume, for the sake of argument that instead of paying that money it is used for something else... that something else has value, whether it prevents a check from bouncing and incurring an overdraft fee... or it is used to pay a bill early or on time and prevents a late fee... or is used to pay down a credit card and saves interest... or it is invested and earns interest... or is just spent on a vacation... it has value.

    Let's assume that AVERAGE value is equal to earning 12% interest in the stock market... so now your $12 million dollars in annual savings is returning to you about $800,000 in compounded interest, roughly.

    Now over time, money becomes less valuable due to inflation. All things being equal, it is always better to defer spending when you can. Entire companies exist for just this reason (Google JIT).

    So your $200 is worth more to you today than it will be in 10 years, right... so considering inflation we are now up to $13.1 million in annual savings for just the first year of delay (it will be more the next year because of compounding).

    Now, I am not saying this TOTALLY justifies the delays... but it DOES offset them... lets keep that in mind when we talk about delays.

    I have more but thats it for now... discuss.

    By Blogger Steve, at 8:57 PM, August 13, 2007  

  • So the county announced cost estimates today and it looks possible for us to get a project the price as Tri-W or even less...

    It looks like with their timeline that the "on-line" date for the project will most likely be 5 years delayed from that of the Tri-W project... although that is probably debateable either way.

    With the "deferred savings" I discussed above, we just deferred about $60 million for 20-30 years...

    and we "saved" $22 million.

    Let's not forget to factor that into our criticizms.

    By Blogger Steve, at 9:12 AM, August 14, 2007  

  • Great question Steve!

    First, on pollution. There is a hidden cost of pollution of our aquifer ... the saltwater intrusion problem is worsened because we need to harvest from the lower aquifer. It is tough to quantify the cost of this, but maybe one way to at least discuss the issue is that toasting our lower aquifer raises the chance of us needing to sign up for state water, something like a desal plant or harvesting from the upper aquifer and denitrifying at the wellhead. Those costs are sizable.

    Your discussion of costs is right on but the logic suggests we should never build a sewer. Assuming we need a sewer, the best way to evaluate the various options is the present value of each potential project ... including P&I and O&M, what is the discounted total cost over, say, 40 years?

    For cost comparisons I've been using 8% for the inflation rate in construction (not too inaccurate) and 5% for the inflation rate (which is more commonly done than the stock market return rate which is about 10%). Essentially, in "real" terms, a dollar not spent today will cost us $1.03 next year, $1.06 the year after that and $1.16 in five years.

    As you point out, folks who have rising incomes (like the younger homeowners) find the higher future payments less of a problem and others (like folks on fixed incomes) find the higher future payments for of a problem.

    Then there's the likely timeframe one is likely to spend in one's home, the impact the costs will have on the value of the home ... and the impact on the rental market to consider.

    Suffice it to say, even with some economic, accounting and financial thought applied, it still is a difficult decision and there will be people who would benefit from delay and others who will be harmed.

    I would suggest that the best thing to do is what helps the average resident most.

    Oh .... if you're going to say that "we 'saved' $22 million" you've also got to say that we've not got some additional $40M in debts from the stopping of TriW and/or the way that was handled.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 9:43 AM, August 14, 2007  

  • Sharky... "Your discussion of costs is right on but the logic suggests we should never build a sewer."

    I never suggested that... I am suggesting that we take my argument into consideration... becaus eit makes a difference.

    For example, when you said... "if you're going to say that "we 'saved' $22 million" you've also got to say that we've not got some additional $40M in debts from the stopping of TriW and/or the way that was handled"

    If you agree with that statement then stopping the Tri-W project only cost us $18 million, right?

    And I am not conceding to your $40 million figure... for a number of reasons.

    But, if the bankruptcy relieves us of any of that debt, then there may be a point where delays actually saves us money.

    Finally... you said, "I've been using 8% for the inflation rate in construction (not too inaccurate) and 5% for the inflation rate"

    Are you inflating construction costs by 8% AND THEN inflating that number again by 5%?

    That sounds like Richard LeGros math.

    Construction inflation inclused standard inflation... you cand inflate it twice...

    And I think 8% is a little innaccurate... unless you're a Chinaman buying concrete.

    One more thing... "there will be people who would benefit from delay and others who will be harmed" AND "I would suggest that the best thing to do is what helps the average resident most."

    So which is the average RESIDENT? (I noticed you did not say homeowner)

    By Blogger Steve, at 11:25 AM, August 14, 2007  

  • Steve,

    No, I did not add 5% to 8%. If construction is going up 8% per year but things in general are only going up 5% per year, the difference, 3% if the real inflation rate for construction.

    Eight percent inflation in the construction industry has been about right over the last ten years. In some years it has been considerably higher ... especially for public works projects.

    About what is best for the folks in our town .... dunno exactly. I suspect that the quickest, cheapest and best solution is better than ones that will take longer, cost more and are inferior. What do you think?

    Seriously, one cannot know just yet. I would like to know more about how the various County plans will deal with saltwater intrusion and appropriate recharge of our aquifer.

    Even if some have to move out of town because it'll cost about $200 per month ... it is better than arguing about affordability until it costs $300 per month. That would certainly be worse.

    I was not a huge fan of TriW in particular, but by 2005 it had the advantage of getting done sooner than any other possibility and the other possibilities had the disadvantage of having to pay additional costs associated with stopping TriW (RWQCB fines, lawsuits from contractors, etc.). Even though the County is saying that we'll have to pay about $200 per month for sewer services even if STEP, out-of-town and no park, we need to add to that cost the costs associated with stopping TriW (the various debts) before we can say what was best.

    As I've been arguing with Ron and Ann for two years now is this ... it will cost more than TriW (per month) to have an out-of-town plant and we ought not pretend that it will be cheaper elsewhere.

    Ron was crowing rather loudly over the TAC's seeming support for other sites and technologies as proof that TriW was too expensive. The problem is that the various debts we've incurred while moving the plant have made any other plant more expensive than what TriW was going to cost. (Ron will dispute that, of course, but that should not be a surprise to anyone.)

    Bummer ... for us. Ron might not care because he doesn't have to pay the bill and because he seems more concerned with phrases like bait-n-switchy than he seems with what the real costs to real people are going to be.

    No matter ... the sewer continues turning and we'll find out in a few months and a year and five years more details about the next part of this neverending saga that the County has given us.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 12:20 AM, August 15, 2007  

  • OK here is the Mike Green version of snarkey post:

    Recipe for "Save that Dreamer Crow Pie"

    Two fresh corbies plucked naked and gutted
    cut into small pieces and roasted untill meat falls off bone.
    de-bone crows and place in pie crust, bake until way way way after done.
    Bon apitite!

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 4:15 PM, August 15, 2007  

  • Mikey,

    With all due respect, the Dreamers (by-n-large) weren't saying TriW was the best, just that delay would cause additional (and avoidable) pollution and that the total costs would be higher. It seems that on those two counts, the Dreamers are quite likely correct.

    And while Ron ("I'm not an engineer so I can't answer the question of whether the other possible hypothetical plants are comparable to TriW or not from the point of view of aquifer recharge") says that the other plants are less expensive, he doesn't really know whether he's comparing apples to other apples or to kumquats.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 6:04 PM, August 15, 2007  

  • Sharkey, maybe a case of the few bad apples?
    Extra pollution? sure, but how much? and what damage? (where are those blue babies?)
    Start figuring in money saved by delay and benefit of superior project smells like chicken to me, Crows are birds!
    Maybe a little tough though!

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 6:29 PM, August 15, 2007  

  • Ron, R.Briggs needs to be right up there with Pandora.

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 7:30 PM, August 15, 2007  

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