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August 5-12, 2009

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Letters to the Editor

Desal and The Public Process

THE JULY 1 contribution in the Bullhorn section ("Desal and Democracy") contained a number of statements regarding the city of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District's exploration of desalination as a supplemental water supply that we believe deserve clarification.

Firstly, a decision on construction of a full-scale desalination plant has not been made. What was decided was to determine the feasibility of a desalination plant by building a pilot project and conducting other studies to inform the decision regarding pursuing a full-scale desalination project. The decision by the city of Santa Cruz to move ahead with a pilot project was the result of an Integrated Water Plan that took two years and 74 public meetings to complete. In attempting to prepare for drought shortfalls, the city council decided that the most feasible option to augment the local water supply was desalination of seawater. The Soquel Creek Water District conducted a similar in-depth and public evaluation of its options to address insufficient groundwater supplies that have resulted in overdraft and seawater intrusion of the mid-county aquifers. The issues and options considered are documented in that agency's Integrated Resources Plan.

Any decision about whether to construct a full-scale desalination plant will be made only after a thorough Environmental Impact Report is completed and reviewed. The report will study, among other things, the effects of a proposed desalination plant on marine life. The EIR will be subject to public hearings and review, during which time members of the public will be given ample opportunity to provide oral and written comments. Community members will continue to have the opportunity to be involved during every phase of the process.

Secondly, it was not the elected officials of either the city of Santa Cruz or the Soquel Creek Water District (referred to as "The Powers That Be") who decided there was a drought. California is in the midst of a third year of drought, and water districts throughout the state have implemented both mandatory and voluntary conservation measures to reduce water use. Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a drought last June and this February declared a state of emergency, citing the third straight year of below-average rainfall and the possibility of future dry years. Local water officials must prepare for the possibility of a prolonged drought.

Thirdly, the desalination project is in no way linked to any expansion of the UC-Santa Cruz campus. The desalination project is being studied for drought protection and to forestall seawater contamination of the aquifers. Any future water demands that result from UCSC growth will require a separate environmental assessment and city council decision. Ratepayers in the Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District will not be subsidizing the cost of the university's expansion, because the desalination project is not linked to future growth of that institution.

The Soquel Creek Water District and the city of Santa Cruz are committed to conducting their water supply planning and policy matters in a public and transparent fashion and encourage the public to take advantage of the many opportunities to shape that policy. More information is available at:

Bill Kocher,
Director, Santa Cruz Water Department

Laura Brown,
General Manager, Soquel Creek Water District

Save Big Blue Now

I APPLAUD the Weekly's attention to ocean issues. We live in a coastal town and many of us are here because we either obtain our livelihood from the ocean, enjoy our recreation in the ocean or just enjoy the peace of mind the ocean brings by seeing it every day or just knowing it is there. But all of us are also stewards of this resource. Why wouldn't we be if it helps us to have an income, have our fun or have our sanity?! I can't agree more with the title of last week's Bullhorn, "We Can't Afford Not to Protect the Oceans." Who can disagree with that? We believe that as a community we must all work together to ensure future protection of this precious resource. And we at Save Our Shores see it every week as we coordinate volunteers to run cleanups at local beaches or attend community events to get the word out about a healthy ocean. With the involvement of the community and the appreciation of this resource, we can be a strong force to protect the big blue.

Laura Kasa,
Executive Director, Save Our Shores

Those Who Cast the First Stones

IT BEGAN with an 8-pound river stone thrown at his trailer window frame, breaking two panes of its louvered glass a few feet from his head as he slept. The next nights the man stood in fear with a flashlight, hoping to thwart any recurring attempt by getting a glimpse of a license plate. About a month later two more river stones were hurled and hit his vehicle, one causing a large indentation and split in the body of the trailer. He could only assume his vehicle was targeted because of its size rather than the cars parked around him, and that of a large bus parked in the same proximity which was also hit, sustaining similar damage.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriffs' suggestion/remedy: to move on down the road. Sleeping in a vehicle on a public roadway is an infraction. Throwing a projectile from a moving vehicle at another is a felony, and in this case attempted murder. Does an innocent traveler have to get seriously injured or die before any serious attention is given to the aforementioned matter? Too bad there are not resources to put surveillance at the crime scene to catch the felon/s and put a stop to this senseless crime.

Sleepless in Santa Cruz

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