How Much Is Enough?

“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of our time, How much is enough?” – Wendell Berry

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We don’t know how much money has been committed under contract on desalination studies—probably close to $20 million. (We know that $12.5 million has already been spent.)  It’s apparently not enough, says the Water Department.  We need to spend more money to start the permitting process “to help insure a robust EIR”. As Council member Lane puts it, “Without this early permitting work, there is a real probability that the EIR would have to be re-worked later to respond to permitters’ need for specific information. We can either do a weak EIR without the permitting advisor work and spend even more money later or we can do the EIR right the first time.”

There is already a $1.7 million contract with the URS Corporation to perform the Environmental Impact Report.  In its contract with the City signed in 2010, URS stated “Most permit approvals or reviewing agencies will require that key special resource studies or technical analyses be prepared to support a permit application…Some of these studies and/or analyses will be completed as part of the EIR, while others are not needed until the permitting stage of the project.” The way I read this contract, it doesn’t suggest a “weak” EIR.

Another explanation for the Water Department’s desire to contract with a permitting consultant before the EIR is complete is explained in the Integrated Water Plan, approved by Council in 2005. In order to meet a goal that the plant be “online in late 2009 or early 2010″, “the project level EIR and permitting would occur concurrently.” Doing the permitting concurrently with the EIR saves time.

Please email CityCouncil@cityofsantacruz.com, or come to the City Council meeting tomorrow (Nov 22) at 7pm and let the Council that you think “enough” has been reached.
And while you’re there, tell them that we  have enough water to satisfy our needs without turning to the fossil fuel solution, because we know how to conserve and how to share (with neighboring water districts).
- Rick Longinotti

PS.  If the Council votes to continue spending, let’s get together to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that would put the decision on desalination in the hands of the voters. Want to help? Write me back.

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