California Public Utilities Commission CalAm Coastal Water Project

CalAm Coastal Water Project

The Coastal Water Project (CWP) represents a golden moment in Central Coast water history when diverse entities with disparate interests came together and arrived at a solution that ensures the future of the community’s water supply. ESA was retained by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in 2006 to lead the environmental analysis of water supply project alternatives. We authored the EIR which was certified in October 2009, and the project was approved in December 2010.

In 1995, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued a Cease-and-Desist Order requiring the California American Water Company (CalAm) to find an alternative source for water being taken from the Carmel River/Carmel Valley Aquifer without legal right. This regulatory push created a sense of urgency and was the catalyst for stakeholders to develop a project balancing their needs and creating a reliable and environmentally sound solution to the community’s decades-long water supply deficit. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) evaluation of the CWP was led by the CPUC. The release of the EIR triggered a series of events which transformed the CWP into a Regional Water Supply Project.

The problem of seawater intrusion was first identified in the late 1930s. Excess diversions have existed in northern Monterey County for decades. A key purpose of the CWP and one of its basic objectives is to provide replacement water supplies to meet existing demands in light of SWRCB Order No. 95-10, which limited CalAm’s diversions from the Carmel River, and the Monterey County Superior Court adjudication of water rights in the Seaside Groundwater Basin. Both rulings reduced CalAm’s use of its primary supplies for the Monterey District by about 60 percent and provided the most immediate impetus for the CWP.

Following decades of local debate, the CPUC utilized the CEQA process to initiate community-based planning. The CWP EIR analyzed three main projects along the California coastline at Monterey Bay at an equal level of detail, including desalination projects that were proposed by CalAm, as well as an alternative developed by the community. The “Monterey Regional Water Supply Project” (Regional Project) was proposed by the community to integrate the development of several water supply sources, including desalination, to address CalAm’s needs along with needs in other areas of northern Monterey County.

The Regional Project ultimately surfaced as the preferred alternative and became the successful project, in part, because of the relationships that ESA’s team created and nurtured throughout the EIR process. ESA knew that including stakeholders was critical for success, and we reached out to the community prior to the public scoping process, generating interest from concerned citizens, community members, and businesses. As a result of ESA’s outreach efforts, local stakeholders were more willing to engage. We listened effectively and translated the complex science into understandable text, telling the story in a way that clarified the issues and led to a workable solution. The stakeholders persevered through the EIR process, which ultimately unleashed a succession of public and agency events and interactions that led to project approval. The Final EIR represented years of hard work and provided a record of the community’s interests.

Specialized Services

  • Development feasibility (constraints/opportunities, due diligence)
  • Environmental impact reports
  • Environmental scoping meetings
  • Greenhouse gas inventories, mitigation, and emissions reduction
  • Section 106 compliance and documentation
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Water quality analyses