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September 2-9, 2009

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Letters to the Editor

Conservation Not Enough

WHILE IT IS TRUE that our local water users have considerably reduced consumption without great difficulty, and we applaud their mindful conservation efforts, it is important to put this year's drought in context. Despite a third straight year of below average rainfall, the more severe droughts of 1976-77 and 1987-1992 created a much more difficult situation for residents and businesses to cope with water restrictions. It is during periods like those of more critical shortages that a desalination option is needed.

Another important role of the desalination plant is to allow Soquel Creek Water District to reduce its annual pumping on the stressed coastal aquifers, which are currently its only water source. By supplementing groundwater supplies with desalination, the District will be able to limit groundwater pumping to within the sustainable yield and prevent seawater intrusion from contaminating the aquifers.

We agree that more conservation is possible, but when you compare the 70 gallons per capita per day used by our water customers with the statewide average of 130 gallons per day per person, it is clear that reliance on conservation as the sole solution to future water shortages in this region of the state is not a practical strategy.

Conservation will remain a cornerstone for both water agencies as we plan for the future, but it cannot be the only option we pursue.

Desalination is a reasonable component of a diversified water portfolio that includes existing water supplies and conservation, and is essential in planning for a sustainable water supply for the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District.

Rather than sidestepping the issue of adapting to climate change, the process of exploring the feasibility of desalination includes an evaluation of how effectively the two agencies can make this a "no-net-carbon increase" project with energy minimization through innovative design, renewable energy use and energy/carbon offsets.

Our local water supplies are not sustainable for the current population, and certainly would be inadequate to meet the needs for any modest amount of growth that could occur within each of our water service areas.

In the end, the question is not whether additional water is needed to pass on a sustainable supply to future generations. The question is which project to provide that additional water makes the best sense. Our rigorous examination of all factors has led our two agencies to the evaluation of desalination as the most feasible option.

An Informational Meeting about the proposed 2.5 million gallon per day desalination plant and the studies that we are currently conducting will be held Thursday, Sept. 24, from 6 to 8pm at the New Brighton Middle School Performing Arts Center. Representatives from the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District, and technical experts from the consulting firms of CDM and CH2MHILL will be making presentations. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions. More information is available at:

Bill Kocher, Director
Santa Cruz Water Department

Laura Brown, General Manager
Soquel Creek Water District

Who Does Punishment Serve?

IT SCARES me that our DA, a man who is supposed to uphold the law, speaks about "lifers" the way that he does ("No Exit," Cover Story, Aug. 19). Indeterminate life sentences are supposed to offer the possibility of parole if the prisoners meet the criteria established by law. It must be illegal for the parole board and the governor to repeatedly deny prisoners an honest hearing. Maybe the $100,000 a year we pay each parole board member (who are appointed by the governor: can you say conflict of interest?) would be better used elsewhere.

One reason sentencing laws exist is because our emotional reactions are not the best guide for decisions related to justice. As a mother I can imagine that if someone I love was murdered, I would not want to see their murderer ever be free. That's why I am glad that we have laws to uphold a moral standard. I would not want my pain and suffering to guide such important decisions. It's an age-old question: who does the punishment serve? How do we recover from terrible loss? Can such a debt be paid? I believe it can be.

S. Smiley,
Santa Cruz

Kennedy Was Right

IN THE dialogue around the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, some say that they assess him on "only one thing"--meaning Chappaquiddick. I want to address that, not as an expert but as someone who is concerned about such a narrow view.  I looked into his history by listening to recordings of what he said and accounts of what he did, and I did research on the Internet and listened to NPR and to television accounts.

I won't enumerate all of his achievements but I was amazed at his role in government and in the social progress we have made in the past 50 years.

I also looked into accounts of the Chappaquiddick incident. My conclusion is that he did what he said he did: he tried to save Mary Jo. Then he got others (two friends) to try to save her. When they could not do it and it was obvious she could not still be alive, he went to pieces and evidently and irrationally tried to cover up the accident, an obviously impossible task. He was investigated and found to have committed misconduct but was not prosecuted.

From what I have seen and heard of him, and from innumerable testimonials and the biographical information I've seen, he was a good and compassionate man, and also physically brave and capable of doing what he said he did at the accident scene, and morally incapable of leaving anyone to die if he could possibly help them. That doesn't excuse what he did in driving drunk or trying to cover up what happened, but he has rehabilitated himself by his dedication to serving the  people of our country, especially the underprivileged and middle class.

Ted Kennedy was right about the need for health care reform and the innumerable other social reforms he was so important in enacting, including parental leave for family medical crises. He was right to oppose the Iraq war and he was almost alone among Senators when he first did that.  And he was a hero for fighting so hard and so well for what he believed in.

I mourn his passing and pray that others will carry forward his and his brothers' crusade to extend the benefits of our democracy and social  and technological progress to everyone in the United States and the world.

Carol Long,
Santa Cruz

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