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Diablo Canyon Desal Pipeline Could Be Operating By Late Next Year

August 26,2015-

DC Desal 2015-07-21 at 10.55.47 AMSan Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 5 to 0 to move forward on planning to connect Avila Valley by pipeline to an existing desal plant at Diablo Canyon. The pipe could bring up to 1000 acre feet of drinking water annually to the south county on an emergency basis as soon as the end of 2016.

Supervisors also included the option to connect the PG&E desal plant to Los Osos down a road 11 miles away.The pipeline to Avila Bay where it would tie into a Lopez Lake pipe, is 7 miles away down a PG&E road.

Supervisor Frank Mecham said he favored this expedited plan remarking that ”people always ask when are we going to do something  about the drought instead of just talking about it.”

Key to the plan is that the county would move forward right away spending some $300,00 to $500,000 in staff time between now and January to insure the deadlines can be made if the county decides to move forward. They have set a deadline to begin construction a year from now if necessary.

With an eye on the weather charts Supervisor Debbie Arnold says she likes the idea of contingency planning based on whether the severity of the drought continues or we see relief locally from El Nino as hoped – by early next year.

Supervisors heard that water levels at Lopez Lake, drinking water source for numerous south county communities, continues to drop and if the drought continues could fall below minimum pool.

The county wants to move forward on planning, regulatory approvals  and possible grant funds for the south county pipeline on an emergency basis although they also want to study using an expanded desal plant on a consistent basis even if the current drought emergency is over. Supervisor Adam Hill said it makes sense we tap into a new source for water long term.

As to the plan to connect the desal plant to Los Osos there is a less clear path.Staff wants to do engineering costs on both a north and south pipeline to see what level the residents of both south county as well as Los Osos might have to pay for the water.

Some Los Osos residents like Richard Margetson spoke a the hearing saying he doubted that “imported water was feasible” as several studies have asserted.  Despite that claim almost every other town in the county gets some supply out of a pipe from somewhere else.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson for one, expressed doubt about the feasibility of a Los Osos pipeline.

Los Osos CSD chair Mike Wright said he looks forward to cost estimates from the study to bring water to Los Osos over the next few months as “we look for ways to push back seawater intrusion.”

”It has to be affordable, he adds although the county could help by securing grants to reduce the local costs, he hopes.People here are strapped, he says.

Supervisor Adam Hill says he thinks desalination makes sense on a larger scale and a permanent basis due to global warming.

A rough estimate  to connect the desal plant to Avila Bay would be $8 to $10 million says the county.

Worries over the presence of the nuclear power plant that supplies the energy to do the reverse osmosis process with seawater agitated a number of anti-nuke activists at the hearing with one asking if the water delivered from the plant might be akin to “radioactive lemonade.”

Admin Hill noted that desal water in use today at Diablo Canyon is tested as would any future supply.

Answering another question – if the costs are too high for residents in an area – they do not have to become partners in the venture, county officials say.

PG&E officials say they have room to expand the current desal plant  that could result in a significantly more productive operation if locals want the water.

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