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Cambria considers changing water emergency status 

During the Jan. 19 Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) meeting, its general manager called out a member of the public for harassing the district and wasting its time.

Before the CCSD’s board of directors could address the agenda—which included a discussion about lifting the district’s stage 3 water shortage declaration (it’s still firmly in place)—board President Amanda Rice had a difficult time maintaining decorum during a heated exchange between CCSD General Manager Jerry Gruber and avid public commenter Tina Dickinson. 

The issue began after Dickinson spoke during public comment on the manager’s report, saying she had alerted the Regional Water Quality Control Board about flooding near the Sustainable Water Facility after the recent storm. Gruber responded by saying that Dickinson’s reaching out to the water board is getting “really old.” 

“Now she can do whatever she wants, she’s a public citizen, but I gotta tell ya, she wastes a lot of our time. It wastes a tremendous amount of Regional Water Quality Control Board staff time; they have better things to do,” he said. “It borderlines harassment, and she knows it. And I got a call today from the regional water control board saying they have better things to do than be Tina Dickinson’s servant, and that’s how they feel.” 

He also said that she was disrupting the relationship between the two agencies and discrediting the district. His last comment was that Dickinson was the reason that former CCSD water supervisor Justin Smith left the district. 

A few months ago, Gruber also made comments about his issues with the public. In September 2016, Gruber reported to the board that seven Public Records Act requests were made by three members of the public in a period of a few weeks, saying those requests were overwhelming the CCSD’s “resources and time” and hampering its ability to provide good customer service to other residents.

After the public tiff on Jan. 21, the board considered lifting the stage 3 drought restrictions, which were declared in 2014 alongside conservation measures and penalties for overuse of potable water. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of rain the past couple of months and the aquifers are full,” district counsel Tim Carmel told the board.  

Lifting the stage 3 declaration would have also lifted the 50 gallons of water per-person per-day allocation of water, as well as halted the district from using its year-old brackish water treatment facility.

The facility is still operating under an Emergency Coastal Development Permit issued by San Luis Obispo County, which only allows the facility to operate under the declared stage 3 water shortage. The emergency permit also states that the CCSD needs to get a permanent permit for the facility, something the district is still working on. 

Many of the board members noted that although there has been a substantial amount of rain for the past a few months, the statewide drought emergency declaration is still in place. Therefore, the board voted to leave the water shortage declaration at stage 3.

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