Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Was the Tri-W Project Permitted?

TO: Charles Lester, Senior Deputy Director, California Coastal Commission Central Coast District Office
DATE: 12/10/09

Dear Mr. Lester,

I'm researching a story that involves the sewer project pursued by the Los Osos CSD from 2001 - 2005 (the "Tri-W" project), and I'm hoping that you might be able to answer a couple of quick questions regarding that project.

As you likely know, the County of SLO is currently developing a wastewater project for Los Osos, and after some three years of analysis, County officials have selected a project that is vastly different than the LOCSD's Tri-W project.

As part of their analysis, County staff writes:

"Only (9-percent) of (Prohibition Zone) respondents chose the mid-town (Tri-W) location (as their preference for the treatment facility)."
-- Los Osos Wastewater Project Community Advisory Survey, March 27, 2009


"The Project team, given the clear social infeasibility issue associated with Mid Town (Tri-W) and the infeasible status of the LOCSD disposal plan, believes that if either of those options are deemed by decision-makers to be the best solution for Los Osos, then serious consideration should be given by the Board to adopt a due diligence resolution and not pursue Project implementation."
-- SLO County Project team, June 29, 2009

And, in 2004, when the California Coastal Commission was discussing the Development Permit for the Tri-W project, Commissioner, Toni Iseman, according to official transcripts, said:

"I don't remember anything with as many cautions and questions that came up with an approval, than this project."
-- California Coastal Commission member, Toni Iseman, August 11, 2004, discussing the Coastal Development Permit for the Tri-W project

and, Sara Wan said:

"It seems to me that what is driving this here, and what is driving this entire thing, is the timing, and it is not a question of the feasibility of the site, but the need to proceed forward with the timing... this is what the Water Quality Control Board is saying, and that is what is driving the site selection, or feasibility at this time, not (the) environmentally preferable alternative."
-- California Coastal Commission member, Sara Wan, August 11, 2004, discussing the Coastal Development Permit for the Tri-W project

Considering those quotes, here's my question:

If the Tri-W project was socially and technically infeasible, according to SLO County staff, and also very unpopular in the community because it included a sewer plant in the middle of town, and if it was not the "environmentally preferable alternative," and if it was also loaded with "cautions and questions" at the time of its permitting, why was it permitted by the California Coastal Commission in the first place?

That doesn't seem to make sense.

Why was a wildly unpopular, "infeasible" project that was loaded with "cautions and questions," and not the "environmentally preferable alternative" -- a project that the 2001 - 2005 LOCSD spent nearly $25 million and four years developing, yet didn't even come close to making the County's short-list of alternative projects -- permitted by the California Coastal Commission in 2004?

Do you know the answer to that question?

In the context of 2010, it seems like an important question.

Why was an "infeasible" project permitted?

I'm not clear on that.

Thank you for your time,


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