Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tri-W's Dead -- Now, Behold, as I, the Amazing SewerWatchini, Magically Make Governor S.'s "Signing Statement" Disappear

It doesn't get much cooler than this.

Over four years after my New Times cover story, Three Blocks Upwind of Downtown was published, where I was the first (and, still, only) reporter to show how there was no documentable rationale whatsoever for why a sewer plant was being constructed smack-dab in the middle of Los Osos, the agency now responsible for that project, the county of San Luis Obispo, will not be constructing a sewer plant smack-dab in the middle of Los Osos.

Sweee-EEEET!

County officials recently presented to the National Water Resources Institute the location options they've identified for a sewer plant for Los Osos, and, the mid-town Tri-W site -- the site where the 1998 - 2005 Los Osos Community Services District spent upwards of $50 million and over seven years planning their mid-town "sewer-park" project -- doesn't even make the list.

According to the NWRI report, the only treatment site options presented by the county were, "Branin, Cemetery Site, Giacomazzi, Tonini."

All four sites are east of town, and downwind.

"Those are the sites we are pursuing," said, Mark Hutchinson, environmental planner for the county, during a recent phone interview.

"Those are the 'A Level' sites," he said.

When I asked, "Then what category is the Tri-W site in?"

He said, "Well, there really isn't a technical term for it, how about we just say 'B Level' for lack of a better phrase."

Although Hutchinson wouldn't get into specifics on why the county isn't pursuing the 1998 - 2005 LOCSD's project, he did laugh at it.

I know he'd prefer that I not relay this story, but he knew he was speaking with a reporter, and this is great.

I was asking him if his office, the SLO County Public Works Department, had been lobbied by anyone to continue the pursuit of the Tri-W project.

The reason I was asking that question, is because I can see how the elected officials that spent all of that time and money developing that nonsensical, mid-town "sewer-park," could be highly motivated to see that their project be constructed, of course.

He told me that his office had indeed been "lobbied," but it wasn't from the Tri-W developers, it was, apparently, from a "few" folks east of town, which, I can understand.

So, after he said that, I asked, "Well, you can understand why I asked that question, right? I mean, put yourself in the shoes of the people that developed the Tri-W project."

And that's when Hutchinson laughed, out loud.

No doubt about it: The County of San Luis Obispo just spent nearly $6 million, and three years proving Three Blocks Upwind of Downtown right.

Next week, the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Los Osos sewer project is expected to be released, and it is also expected to be brutal on the former Tri-W "sewer-park," much like Three Blocks.

And, speaking of $6 million, and being proven right...

Sometimes I'll do something just to get it time-stamped.

For example, when the State of California was on the verge of cutting a $6 million check to the Los Osos CSD in 2005 so the agency could begin construction on a project that doesn't even make the short list these days, I knew, through my research from reporting on this great story, that the loan that the State was handing to the District was illegal.

I knew that that loan was illegally financing a multi-million dollar public park for Los Osos, and, here's the cool part, I was the ONLY one that knew that.

So, just before the State was set to release the first installment of that loan, $6 mil, I challenged it -- I contacted the office that oversees the State Revolving Fund loan, and formally challenged it, arguing that it was illegally funding things like an amphitheater, and picnic area for Los Osos.

When I originally filed my challenge, I figured there was about a 5-percent chance that the officials that regulate the SRF loan would have a moment of clarity, and actually see my tight, tight arguments, and the gigantic mistake that they were about to make, and do the right thing by saying something like, "Whoa. Hang on a second. We need to get this 'why is the State of California funding an elaborate, multi-million dollar public park for Los Osos?' thing straightened out."

They didn't do that, just like I predicted.

Instead, they wrongly argued that the amphitheater in the Tri-W sewer plant was "mitigation," and therefore, State taxpayers were going to fund it.

They were wrong, of course. I was right, of course.

And my tight, tight arguments are now sitting in some dusty filing cabinet in the State Water Resources Control Board's Division of Financial Assistance office, time-stamped.

As with a lot of posts on SewerWatch, here's where it gets interesting(er).

My challenge, if officially argued today, would save Los Osos a fortune, and make Governor S.'s signature disappear.

In the legislation he signed in 2006 that ripped control over the project away from the LOCSD and gave it to the county of SLO, the Gov added something called a "signing statement" to the legislation.

In his statement, the Governor wrote that Los Osos would not be able to get another low interest loan from the State, until they paid back the $6 million from the first loan.

Apparently, the Gov isn't a SewerWatch reader.

My argument these days is:

That loan should have never been issued in the first place.

After I formally challenged it, the officials that oversee that loan, namely, Darrin Polhemus and Barbara Evoy, should have stopped, and sorted out that whole "multi-million dollar park" thing.

They failed to do that.

So, now, I argue, that Los Osos shouldn't have to pay that $6 million back. Why should the good people of Los Osos have to pay for the SWRCB's Division of Financial Assistance's gigantic, $6 million mistake?

That doesn't sound fair.

Moreover, the Gov's "signing statement" is actually punishing the people of Los Osos for his staff's incompetence.

If county officials were to resurrect my challenge, and argue it, they would 1) win it, 2) get Los Osos off the hook for that $6 million, and 3) immediately pave the way for another low interest, SRF loan for the community, saving residents many more millions.

###

7 Comments:

  • Ron,

    It seems that yet again you are demonstrating that you don't understand the County was using different decision criteria than the LOCSD. The County is focusing only on treating wastewater and not at all on the aquifer recharge and saltwater intrusion questions. It was on those two questions which made TriW more attractive than these other sites.

    Even if Los Osos gets that $6M back, we're still out tons of money and we're getting less of a project than we would have ... if that makes you happy ... for us to have a more expensive and less beneficial project, you're either not paying attention or you're pretty twisted.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet (a.k.a. Stiv Neener), at 8:37 PM, November 08, 2008  

  • Ron,

    The County decided, based upon their own reasons (read 'criteria' or 'overriding concerns') NOT to build within the CSD boundries. The county could have just as easily chosen otherwise.

    To date, you just do not seem to understand that the governmental agency that controls the project has the legal right to chose whatever overriding concern they wish; and use those concerns to shape the project. There is nothing illegal in this. This is done all the time.

    In short, your theory about the past project is just a dog bite man story.

    -R

    By Blogger Richard LeGros, at 7:53 AM, November 10, 2008  

  • Richard (former Los Osos CSD Director, recalled in 2005) wrote:

    "In short, your theory about the past project is just a dog bite man story."

    Here's your problem these days, Richard:

    My "theory about the past project" is about to save your community over $6 million, and you seem to be fighting that idea.

    Why?

    By Blogger Ron, at 9:11 AM, November 10, 2008  

  • I know YOU LIKE the idea of riding in on a white horse to save Los Osos, rescuing fair damsel Julie and having the peasants swoon around you with hosanas and tankards of beer.

    In your dreams, ron. You won't be saving us anything. You are so full of yourself, its no wonder you can't see beyond your nose.

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 11:27 AM, November 10, 2008  

  • Ron,

    We all appreciate your attempt to return money to Los Osos...really. However, you're using a legal theory that will not prevail. I do not mean to be a downer.

    Why will your legal theory not work? Simple.

    The 'Statement of Overriding Concerns' was incorporated into the Final EIR back in 2001. The FEIR was legally reviewed, commented upon, approved and codified. Once the FEIR was approved, it and the SOC cannot be voided or canceled.

    Later, the State granted the SRF loan based upon a LEGAL & BINDING FEIR. The State loaned the money, work was performed (i.e. money spent), the project was stopped by the CSD...hence the State is entitled to, and will get, its money lent back on the SRF loan.

    To base a lawsuit to deny the State money on a SRF loan that was legal and bonding on the legal FEIR will not prevail.

    At this time there are much better legal means to ensure that money is returned to Los Osos for the damages it has suffered. I hope you will back those efforts as they begin to realize.

    -R

    By Blogger Richard LeGros, at 11:59 AM, November 10, 2008  

  • "‚Ķimmediately pave the way for another low interest, SRF loan for the community‚Ķ"

    Um ron, we have already been fast tracked to the top of the SRF list.

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 1:25 AM, November 12, 2008  

  • 'toonssez;

    "I know YOU LIKE the idea of riding in on a white horse to save Los Osos,"

    ....well, it seems he is trying to do more than you. If you feel he is doing what he is for the reasons you think, it just adds to the fact that you're just a frustrated wanna be some one important and it just ain't gonna happen with your sour disposition. It seems to me you are just "spittin' in the wind." No one that matters cares what you think. Sorry....that may be harsh, but none the less, true. Maybe you should just lighten up and let things take their natural course. What will be, will be...no matter how much noise you make. One would think you would know that by now. If you are a praying person, pray. If not, maybe you should start. Prayer works!
    ...almost forgot...."You are so full of yourself, its no wonder you can't see beyond your nose."...sez you of Ron.
    Your starting to sound like Mike.... accusing others of your own faults. peace and love

    By Blogger franc4, at 8:32 PM, December 09, 2008  

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