Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hilarious Dynamic On Display in Los Osos

Now that the County of San Luis Obispo has just spent three years and some $6 million proving my reporting over the past four years right -- specifically, that there is no rationale whatsoever to build a sewer plant in the middle of Los Osos -- I'm starting to see a funny dynamic emerge.

It's this...

On one hand, every single official document coming out of the county these days regarding a sewer system for Los Osos, shows that the "Tri-W" project -- a plan for a mid-town "sewer-park" that the 1998 - 2005 Los Osos Community Services District spent over $20 million and seven years developing -- was a a terrible project, on every level, just like I reported it to be, beginning in 2004.

Then, there's the other hand, and here's where that dynamic gets great.

On the other hand, there are the people that either supported the nonsensical Tri-W project, or, much worse, were directly responsible for its development, and they still reside in Los Osos.

Which means, of course, that, today, the people that were responsible for the Tri-W project, and continue to reside in Los Osos, in the face of all of the recent official evidence, still have to... they are forced to... stick with their original Big Lie -- that their mid-town Tri-W "sewer-park," that they spent over $20 million and seven years developing, was a good idea -- that there actually WAS sound rationale behind their project, when, as I have repeatedly shown, there wasn't, and every county document produced on this matter over the past three years proves me 100-percent right.

It's the nature of a cover up -- once you're locked into it, you have to commit to it, even after you've been officially shown wrong.

Which brings us to today, and it's hilarious. The people that either supported or developed the nonsensical Tri-W project, now have to continue to defend their decisions, when there's a mountain of official evidence that shows they were wrong.


Call it a "guilty pleasure," but I can't tell you how much entertainment value I'm getting by watching this play out.

For example, in the comments section of Ann Calhoun's excellent blog, an anonymous, long-time, pro Tri-W honk, with the handle of "Sewertoons," recently wrote:

"That is why I like Tri-W - in town, not expandable - oh, and cheaper."

Here's why that's hilarious:

The Tri-W project, when scrutinized by objective officials (read: NOT 1998 - 2005 LOCSD officials), didn't even make the short list for potential projects.

Furthermore, the National Water Resources Institute, comprised of some of the top water quality professionals in the world, were unanimous: "Given the number of problematic issues with the downtown site (Tri-W), it is the unanimous opinion of the Panel that an out-of-town site(s) is a better alternative."

So, when a Tri-W project developer/supporter, these days, says something like, "That is why I like Tri-W - in town, not expandable - oh, and cheaper," what they are also saying is that every SLO County official is wrong, and every NWRI member is wrong, and they (in this pathetic case, an anonymous blog commenter with the handle of "SewerToons") are right.

To add to the hilarity, nowadays, the only people willing to stick their necks out for the failed Tri-W project, ARE anonymous commenters on blogs... which is exactly what they will do in the comments section below this post. I already know they will, because they have to.

They HAVE TO keep the Big Lie going.

Without it, it will immediately become clear to everyone that the 1998 - 2005 Los Osos CSD wasted over $20 million and seven years on a technological embarrassment, and ripped the town apart in the process.

Also, without the continuation of the Big Lie in some form -- not only am I shown right, but also that the recall of the elected officials responsible for the Tri-W project in 2005 was the exact right thing to do, and the stoppage of the Tri-W project by the officials that replaced the recalled three, was also, the exact right thing to do.

And the people that developed the Tri-W project can never let that happen... at any cost.

They will never be able to say, "Whoa, what were we thinking? A 'sewer-park' in the middle of Los Osos? What a dumb idea."

They can never say something like that... ever.

So, just to emphasize the hilarity that's about to ensue in the comments section below, I'm going to copy-and-paste some of the bio information for the NWRI members, that brilliantly concluded, "Given the number of problematic issues with the downtown site (Tri-W), it is the unanimous opinion of the Panel that an out-of-town site(s) is a better alternative.":

  • GEORGE TCHOBANOGLOUS, PH.D., P.E.: For over 35 years, wastewater expert George Tchobanoglous has taught courses on water and wastewater treatment and solid waste management at the University of California, Davis, where he is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

  • BLAKE P. ANDERSON, P.E.: Blake Anderson is an independent consultant specializing in strategic planning, describing environmental public policy, drafting public policy, providing senior level planning advice on public infrastructure decision-making, organizational development, facilitating conflict resolution and addressing regulatory matters related to water quality protection, public infrastructure, water supply and environmental issues.

  • MARTIN B. FEENEY, PG, CEG, CHg: Martin Feeney has been a consulting hydrogeologist since 1997, providing hydrogeologic consulting services to water agencies, private industry, and engineering firms.

  • ROBERT JAQUES, P.E.: Bob Jaques has been a private engineering consultant since retiring from the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency in September 2005 after 30 years of service.

  • VALERIE J. YOUNG, AICP: Valerie Young is a senior environmental planner and water reuse specialist with 29 years of professional planning experience. Since 1993, she has focused her environmental planning work (CEQA/NEPA) on recycled water and water-related projects in California.

  • And the remaining Tri-W supporters, exclusively anonymous commenters on blogs, that are now in the comical place of being forced to disagree with all of those respected professionals (and, every county official) by clinging to the failed Tri-W project, are...???

    Let the hilarity ensue.



    • Ron,

      If TriW was so bad and so expensive that it should have been rejected ... why is the County plan, which chose an out of town site ... more expensive?

      A lot of us who were fussing back in 2005 about the recall were fussing because delaying the project would end up costing us more money. If the project is more expensive, we have to pay more than we would otherwise have to have done. And this is not counting LOCSD fines and other debts.

      Has the effort to move the treatment plant out of town been successful? Likely yes. Is it now considerably more expensive than before? Yes. Some people woulds say the trade-off has been worth it and others not. The question I have is really this ... were we informed by those supporting the recall that their actions would end up costing us money?

      That being said, why didn't you, back in 2005, address the issue of whether delay would end up costing us money or not? Some (like me) claimed that it would and others pretended that it would not. Why did not the journalist investigate this key issue?

      By Blogger Shark Inlet (a.k.a. Stiv Neener), at 7:12 PM, November 22, 2008  

    • Regarding the comment above. We don't yet know what the costs of this project will be. It's too soon to tell. So, if that's the only difference, we'll have to wait to finally know if this project is more expensive and if so, by how much.

      By Blogger Churadogs, at 6:53 AM, November 23, 2008  

    • Shark Inlet

      Regarding the costs of the county project---

      I guess you didn't attend the Contractor's presentations at the Community Center on Friday. The alternatives gave me hope that we can find a compromise that all can accept. Thank goodness Patterson and Hill were in attendance and asking questions.

      By Blogger Kim, at 7:35 AM, November 23, 2008  

    • It is interesting that when the County started working on the project after the passage of AB2701, many of the contraries here in Los Osos ranted about how the County was just going through the motions and planned, all along, to build at Tri-W.

      Amazingly, to some, the County has conducted a fair and objective project analysis and, as Ron notes, Tri-W has all but been officially eliminated as a site. This is why the County was the right agency to do this project all along.

      By Blogger TCG, at 9:43 AM, November 23, 2008  

    • An anonymous commenter wrote:

      "A lot of us who were fussing back in 2005 about the recall were fussing because delaying the project would end up costing us more money."

      See what I mean?

      The Tri-W developers are in such a funny place.

      They have to keep supporting their project in the face of a gigantic stack of evidence that shows their project was a gigantic, technological embarrassment, and so, these days, they're forced to go with this ridiculous argument: "We should have built the technological embarrassment in the middle of town because it might have saved us money."


      I love it.

      By the way, it wasn't going to save Los Osos a penny, because it was never going to work.

      Remember? I had made an arraignment with the staff of the California Coastal Commission, that if the Tri-W project were to ever be officially pursued... again, I would get a hearing with the Commission to revoke the project's development permit.

      I was going to win that, and the staff of the Coastal Commission, specifically, Steve Monowitz, knew I was going to win it, because we had discussed my arguments in length, both on the phone and via e-mail, and he knew I was right. That means the Tri-W project was never going to work, period.

      So, the cost comparison issue is completely irrelevant. It's even worse than "apples to oranges," because there are no oranges. There's nothing to compare.

      Kim wrote:

      "Thank goodness Patterson and Hill were in attendance and asking questions."

      Was Gibson there? He could use the information.

      TCG wrote:

      "This is why the County was the right agency to do this project all along."

      Uhhh, Solution Group? Response?

      ""The County couldn't care less about the Los Osos Community..."
      -- Solution Group co-founder, Gary Karner, February 2005

      By Blogger Ron, at 10:09 AM, November 23, 2008  

    • ron, the project has left the hands of the CSD. In doing so, It has lost control over the size of the community via a limit to the size of the wastewater plant. The out of town location is expandable. Do you really think that the ag land out there will always be ag land? Does Santa Margarita Ranch ring a bell?

      1/3 of the treated wastewater will be going back into the ground at Broderson. All 3 water purveyors get to figure out how to reuse the 2/3 of the water that is left and charge us for the reuse of that water because that that 2/3rd of it is going to be wasted on sprayfields until they do something. Why does that matter? We have no mechanism to recharge the lower aquifer from which we drink except for the 1/3 going back in at Broderson. Not enough to balance the basin. So the payment for the clean-up and reuse of that water will be on a 218 or water bill in the future.

      You might ask about ag exchange. First, no one knows how much water is really out there. There might not be enough. Second, there is no mechanism to force farmers to take the water except marketing - under the guise of education. Now since taking that water is done in perpetuity, and since people might want to sell for big bucks to a developer, which way do you think that will go? It took 20 years for farmer buy-in in Salinas. The Project could purchase land and only lease it to farmers who would accept that water, but that would cost money, wouldn't it? Might be moot until testing assures us of the quantity of water under that land. That testing will cost money.

      You might argue that there is not enough water for development - - How about Lake Nacimiento water? Couldn't that project still need a few new customers down the road?

      We will be getting secondary treated water from the WWTF, so we will pay to clean it up to tertiary at some point for the 1/3 that is being returned to Broderson. More future expense.

      Who is crying big tears over all the water not being returned to the community? Julie Tacker.

      And do you know who is crying big tears over Los Osos not having enough parks - LOCAC. They want Montaña de Oro to remain free to Los Osians because WE HAVE NO PARKS!

      Oh yes, if we purchase Tonini for the project, every acre of Class A prime ag land will need to have an acre purchased elsewhere to offset it. That will cost some extra money, too.

      Kim, the contractors meeting sounded good from the outside, but when you see that land acquisition, permits, and other things were left off the estimates, you can see how they arrived at those low figures. Also, those technologies wound up with a C rating from the County (except for the 200 houses that will need grinder pumps if we go gravity) and were off the list as cost-viable alternatives. I was there - Nice try Al.

      I really liked the NWRI Report where they said either step or gravity would be OK.

      Sorry ron, you really are pushing your tired old rant just a little too hard and with too few facts.

      You say if Tri-W were to be pursued that, "I would get a hearing with the Commission to revoke the project's development permit." Fine. Did you also get a guarantee that you would win?

      The County is going to get us a treatment plant all right, of that I am sure. Will we pay less? I really don't think we will be comparing apples to apples anytime soon - so many charges are left to the future - they are estimating $178 million just for what we are getting, which as you can see, isn't as much. No fault of the County, they are following the process to the exact letter, it just happens that all of this looks to cost more, with a whole lot of headache to get there.

      BTW ron, I am not anonymous, I was outed by a "friend." Guess you don't read Ann's blog all that carefully.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 12:13 PM, November 23, 2008  

    • Sewertowns
      You forget that the BOS makes the final decision, and it will be a new board which places environmental concerns at a premium. The technologies presented allow the county to keep its gravity without the digging required by big pipes. (And without the costs.) A potion of the savings could be used for conserving our groundwater, since this is suppose to be our primary objective.
      If we could all stop bitching at each other and find consensus, we can get whatever we want. A level C on the EIR means nothing. Paavo can dictate the direction of the EIR, but the BOS calls the final shot.

      By Blogger Kim, at 5:35 AM, November 24, 2008  

    • Yes, the BOS calls the final shot.

      Consider this. With step we mitigate our methane gas production 15%. With gravity we mitigate our methane gas production 40%. That is an environmental concern to consider. Any technology that has gas release valves scattered throughout the town at high points raises suspicion.

      The primary objective is to clean up the nitrates in the groundwater. Having wastewater treatment does that. Conserving groundwater is secondary.

      I guess I'd rather have the street torn up than my entire front yard demolished for step. The project does not pay for yard restoration, and the O & M costs are higher. I don't want to pay for a new electrical panel if mine is not up to snuff.

      As to the other technologies, they fell to Level C due to cost issues and community acceptance issues. After all, if half the town wanted the plant moved out of town for aesthetics (although that could be argued that it was due to the promise of $100), no one would expect anyone would want to live next door to a mini treatment plant.

      The cost is very important to most of us. I believe the BOS will be sensitive to that.

      Don't believe what salesmen are trying to sell you. This isn't necessarily true! The County team will follow the process and that is where we will find our best answers. The BOS will respect staff's expertise.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 9:08 AM, November 24, 2008  

    • sewertoons

      Did you hear what Larry Raio was saying? We need to minimize all digging in our dunes. The vacuum system uses no electricity and small collection pipes can be bored. Vacuum pumps would be located in the street with three homes connected to each pump. Avoiding all the trenching would result in huge monetary savings, and a greatly reduced environmental impact.

      Why are you so adamant regarding Paavo's gravity scenario? As a member of TAC you should know that the EIR for a public works project will obtain the desired outcome of the project director/team. To continue to obstruct all superior options for an inferior project makes you appear to have something to gain from a big pipe gravity collection system. Unlike TAC, the BOS is an elected position with the responsibility to serve the people. They will continue to educate themselves, and will make the final decision based on all the information.

      Also you say that, “Conserving groundwater is secondary.”

      If we choose the right project, maybe we can afford both……..

      By Blogger Kim, at 4:42 PM, November 24, 2008  

    • Kim, thanks for attending Friday evening. Of the 4,500 invitations we mailed out, only a few actually arrived. Funny how that can happen around here.
      Bottom line. If we choose the right project we most certainly can do it all, protect our resources and do it for 100 million less than an antiquated gravity project. It's that sustainability thing Lynette,... remember? We have been through this before. At least Kim is paying attention. I wonder how many more would be if those invitations would have arrived!!!
      Look out Lynette, the truth might actually get out and you might be the first to have it bite you in the ass. :)

      By Blogger Piper, at 10:04 PM, November 24, 2008  

    • Kim,

      Boring is 2 or 3 times more expensive than trenching.

      I am NOT a member of TAC! I have attended all meetings but one however.

      Truth certainly bit in the meeting I was attending tonight. The big lightbulb has finally gone off that our water is leaving the basin to be sprayed on fields and either evaporate, to be taken up by plants to be mowed and discarded OR to trickle down into the aquifer that is out at Tonini which is not ours. Only 1/3 of the water is coming back for the leach fields at Broderson to recharge our lower aquifer. That truth is very painful right now - but hey - "we" wanted it out of town, and out of town it will be. How's that for sustainability?

      I would wait to see what the costs will actually be - it is a little dangerous to trust salesmen that have not actually bid on this project. Even they admitted that all the costs were not covered in their estimates. I don't want our town to be an experiment for a technology that has never had this many installations en masse, or done a retrofit of this size.

      I guess the question is which "green" do we want? Gravity's methane release is 40% less than what we are doing now, and step's is only 15%. The actual cubic footage of excavation for gravity or step is about the same.

      Which costs do we want? Higher installation costs or higher homeowner on-lot costs PLUS higher O & M?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 10:30 PM, November 24, 2008  

    • Well I hope that we can all agree that throwing our water away and buying into Paavo's Naciemento water is insane. It is possible to have an out of town site and keep our water.If collection and treatment are less than 50 mil. I think we can afford purple pipe- don't you think- Also Trenching is far more expensive and hazardous than directional drilling. That is a FACT. In regards to treatment, that "salesman" Friday night was a local guy whose pond is a tertiary treatment for 1/2 the price of the County's secondary plan.(he is also CCRWQCB compliant) Basic economics; keep the businesses and contractors local and you help your own economy in a multitude of ways.

      By Blogger Piper, at 5:59 AM, November 25, 2008  

    • Purple pipe is very expensive as Linde pointed out in last night's meeting. Purple pipe does not recharge the aquifer by using less good water for landscaping, as most water use in LO is indoor water use. We currently have groundwater seeping into the bay from the overuse of septics, so watering landscaping isn't going to fix the lack of water going into the lower aquifer.

      I keep wondering what people think they are going to do with the water even if we do get it all back. Broderson, the only area where we can recharge the lower aquifer, freaks a certain segment of the population out, despite engineering reports. Nobody wants to do injection wells - another way of recharge - because of expense. We can't conserve our way out of the mess either, as people will not buy into showering with a bucket's worth of water, or drive in to a San Luis laundromat.

      What do you propose to do with the water if it all comes back? You can be assured there will be another 218 involved - oh, and tertiary treatment, too.

      Trenching is LESS expensive, BTW.

      $50 mil? Are you including land purchase, permits (and lawsuits if it is not at Tonini)? (And offset land purchase too, as that is Class A ag land.)

      You might want to consider green house gas emissions off of a large pond, too.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 8:48 AM, November 25, 2008  

    • Shark,

      "Has the effort to move the treatment plant out of town been successful? Likely yes. Is it now considerably more expensive than before? "

      With all due respect, you miss one important point. Had the folks who thought you needed a CSD, not meddled in the countys plan, you would be on the road to finding something else (and someone else) to complain about.

      Plain and simple the only folks responsible for the dilemma is Pandora and company....period. Everyone and every thing else that has transpired is just moot.....except Stan, Richard, Bruce and Gordon helped a little in screwing things up pretty good also. You and others mock and ridicule Ron because, I believe, he is, and always has been so-o-o-o right, y'all can't stand it!

      By Blogger franc4, at 1:38 PM, November 26, 2008  

    • franc, no matter what we point out, you will always defend the "new" board as having no fault in this mess, so there is not much point in blogging with you.

      ron just brings in the same tired old disproved stuff and is caught in a tragic 2005 time warp. Ditto.

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 2:54 PM, November 26, 2008  

    • BayNews (that pillar of Journalism according to Ron) reports the Tri-W project contracted cost to complete was $116 million. BayNews reports the 2008 County 'environmentally preferred project out-of-town' is estimated to cost $165 million. So the increase in cost for changing a project is now at $50 million, does not include the Bankruptcy cost, does not return as much water as the Tri-W project, and does not include the continued environmental costs of pollution until a plant gets built.

      By Blogger Frank, at 4:09 PM, November 26, 2008  

    • No offense Franc, but, you seem to be saying that because Stan screwed things up, it was okay for Julie to screw things up even more.

      That makes no sense.

      By Blogger Shark Inlet (a.k.a. Stiv Neener), at 11:38 AM, November 27, 2008  

    • Classic shark inlet deflection.
      Nowhere in Franc's post did I read Julies name. Nowhere did I read or get an inference of approval of current actions.
      Your post just makes no sense.
      Sincerely, M

      By Blogger M, at 7:48 AM, November 28, 2008  

    • Okay M,

      I was writing to Franc and not to you and you may have misunderstood what Franc and most every other individual following this discussion found really clear.

      I'll rephrase.

      Franc is blaming Stan and every board member elected before Julie was. My point is this ... even if the formation of the LOCSD was a mistake and even if the selection of TriW was a mistake, it is not necessarily a wise choice to "move the sewer" in 2005 ... in fact, the evidence at the time ... and since ... seems to make it very clear that the actions of CCLO and the recall board were a huge and costly mistake. That is, unless, one is so wealthy and self-centered that horribly increased costs don't matter to you.

      The past history of Franc's comments along with the comment "Plain and simple the only folks responsible for the dilemma is Pandora and company....period. Everyone and every thing else that has transpired is just moot..." make it clear that Franc is blaming only the pre-recall boardmembers and is unwilling to admit that Julie and the post-recall board bear any culpability for the magnitude of the problem.

      That being said, Ron has some points that are really valid. The problem with his comments are that he has refused to consider many important issues (like the cost of moving the sewer) before writing commentary advocating certain actions. Right in so many ways and yet wrong overall.

      By Blogger Shark Inlet (a.k.a. Stiv Neener), at 5:59 PM, November 28, 2008  

    • So you are saying that everything Pandora and company did was alright, and everything post recall was all wrong?
      Sincerely, M
      P.S. How exactly do you know that everybody else following this discussion found it clear?

      By Blogger M, at 9:10 AM, November 29, 2008  

    • in fact, the evidence at the time ... and since ... seems to make it very clear that the actions of CCLO and the recall board were a huge and costly mistake. That is, unless, one is so wealthy and self-centered that horribly increased costs don't matter to you.

      Words from shark inlet.
      Everything pre-recall, is moot. Everything post recall is a horrible nightmare.
      I am not wealthy, but I will admit to being a little bit self centered. When I was being asked to bend over and be serviced, I balked.
      Sincerely, M

      By Blogger M, at 9:22 AM, November 29, 2008  

    • Pre and Post aside M, do you regret your balking now? Do you wish you'd had more information?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 12:10 PM, November 30, 2008  

    • M,

      I am not suggesting that Pandora and the Solutions Group made no mistakes. Not at all. I am suggesting that the mistakes of the post-recall board were based on far less thought and were far more costly to our community. Rephrased: after in office, Stan and Gordon realized that their ponding scheme would not work as they originally proposed and they adopted a plan which would meet RWQCB, CCC and SWRCB requirements. As Ron points out, they should have known in advance that the ponding scheme would not work (although, with Ron's recent track record, I wonder how reasonable it is to apply his 20-20 hindsight conclusion to folks at that time).

      Nope, the Solutions Group people are not blameless ... just old news by comparison to the folks who are still telling us that the recall was a wise choice.

      By Blogger Shark Inlet (a.k.a. Stiv Neener), at 11:48 AM, December 01, 2008  

    • Ron, now that we have the Solutions group blamed, the County, AND the Water Board - care to add anyone else to that list? Or was all action blameless and justified after October 2005?

      By Blogger Sewertoons, at 5:07 PM, December 01, 2008  

    • Don't believe what salesmen are trying to sell you. This isn't necessarily true! ......but we are to accept that 'toons diatribe and dribble is????? oh, yes, add Richard, too.
      I'm still trying to figure out who is more frustrated, vengeful,hate filled, rude, full of mis-leading and just plain wrong information..,a recalled CSD member(s) or some one who ran for a seat on the CSD and didn't make it.

      By Blogger franc4, at 11:29 AM, December 09, 2008  

    • Shark,
      "No offense Franc, but, you seem to be saying that because Stan screwed things up, it was okay for Julie to screw things up even more."
      Like so many times, you read into any comment what YOU want it to mean.
      I don't think I ever defended Julie or the BOD she was on,of anything,other than the personal attacks by folks who had nothing worth while to contribute. Whereas, you were, more or less, civil in your "attacks" on them, staying focused on their decisions rather than their character, which is what I expected when I looked into this "dicussion".
      Your assumption that I believe two wrongs make a right, is not what I meant, at all. I don't know if you ever held public office, but IMHO it was the stress involved, particularly in the situation both she and Lisa found themselves, that contributed to some of the things they did that appeared irrational to others. In other words, due to the stress, their thinking and lives were muddled.(Julies leaving her husband, for example.) I'm sure Lisas' married life faced some obstacles, also, but evidently she handled it better than did Julie. IMHO, perhaps Lisa had more morals and character, considering the time and effort put forth by both ladies. I know...before you say it, "They brought this on themselves"....another point I hardidly disagree with. The other thing which has been brought up, is that "they were members of the Stan BOD when all this went down." What was/is continually never brought up, is that they were not the MAJORITY. If you would check their voting record, I'm sure their opposition would be evident.....other than the "shovel" incident, which way too much was made of.... sorry for the length, I digress sometimes.

      By Blogger franc4, at 12:15 PM, December 09, 2008  

    • Franc,

      Fair 'nuff.

      I was too quick to lump you in with others who have more or less said that because the Solutions Group board made mistakes it justifies going to any expense to correct those mistakes ... even if it ends up costing more than living with the mess.

      By Blogger Shark Inlet (a.k.a. Stiv Neener), at 2:28 PM, December 09, 2008  

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