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News and Features
07.01.09

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Bullhorn:

Fred Geiger questions the process around a controversial topic. "The Powers That Be have already decided," he writes. "We will have a seawater desalination plant. And you will pay for it."

By Fred J. Geiger


THERE WILL BE no election. It won't be on any ballot. The Powers That Be have already decided. We will have a seawater desalination plant. And you will pay for it.

Yes, there will be a hearing someday, where the Staff--taking as long as They like--tells us why we have no other choice. You will then be allowed to speak for the usual 120 seconds. They won't listen. They already decided last January that They are sure there is a drought, even though our reservoir overflowed with water this spring. They are sure that the impact on the marine sanctuary will be negligible or at least, as when often approving violations of environmental laws, there are "overriding considerations."

It doesn't matter that desal takes eight times more global warming energy than our usual water supply per gallon. The university needs more water. UCSC will be taking half our remaining supply for their future growth. They have already done the necessary thinking for us.

There should be no further questions.

But there are questions.

Why should the ratepayers subsidize the (exempt from local tax) state university's expansion costs? (As we are already doing by paying the EIR and Local Agency Formation Commission costs of possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand the city's utility district to accommodate more of UCSC's campus.) No, we didn't get to vote on that one either, in spite of the nearly 80 percent approval by voters of Measure J's requirements for a vote.

Why can't the electricity for a desal plant (if it's proven to be really necessary) be from all-solar sources, which have no global warming contributions?

What has happened to the sea life near other desal plants' brine discharge outlets, and why should we believe it would be any different here?

And of course there is the big question: Why should voters be involved in making important decisions here in Santa Cruz anyway? Don't voters just get in the way of plans that are obviously good for us? Like when they voted against the 17-story hotel and 6,000-seat convention center at Lighthouse Point? Look at all the money we could have taken in with that project and used to help fund university growth so they could consume more local government services that they are exempt from paying for.

Why should we bother to have democracy in Santa Cruz at all? They know best. We are all ignorant.

Just ask Them.

Fred Geiger is a retired union electrician who has lived in west Santa Cruz for 36 years and is active in many environmental and labor causes.


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