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Commission approves Los Osos sewer 

It’s official: The Los Osos sewer project is moving forward.

With a unanimous approval from the California Coastal Commission on June 11 and coastal development permit now in hand, San Luis Obispo County officials are moving on to the next steps to put the controversial project in motion.

“It’s a major, major step,” said Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes the project site.

The project was appealed to the Coastal Commission after county supervisors approved it in September 2009. Coastal Commissioners approved the project with a few changes, but left the most divisive piece of the project intact: a gravity collection system.

Some residents argue the gravity collection method inflates the project cost $50 million more than what a Septic Tank Effluent Pump (STEP) collection system would cost. Though those residents hoped coastal commissioners would mandate a STEP option, the commissioners’ decision seems the final nail in the coffin.

“A revocation of the coastal permit is very hard to come by,” said Los Osos Community Services District Director Chuck Ceseña. “So I don’t know what’s next. I would hope that the county—no, I have no hope in the county. I am so utterly disappointed with [Public Works Director] Paavo Ogren that I have no hope with them.”

“Basically the [Coastal Commission] punted instead of running with the ball,” resident Piper Reilly said in an e-mail response.

Ogren commended the Coastal Commission staffers for their work and said the next steps will be to find interim financing for the project’s design before any actual construction takes place. He said a project update is scheduled to go before county supervisors on July 27.

The project is estimated to cost residents about $15 million, which will equate to about $200 to $250 per month for each household required to hook into the sewer. The county’s share is estimated at $167 million, which officials hope to pay through an $87 million state 20-year loan, a $16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the remainder through a 40-year USDA loan.

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