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Do this right 

Pismo Beach's Central Coast Blue might be dead on arrival

Pismo Beach is the lead agency and promoter for Central Coast Blue, a wastewater recycling project designed to provide an additional, sustainable source of water to the Five Cities area of SLO County. Because the Five Cities area discharges approximately 3.8 million gallons of treated wastewater into the ocean every day, recycling the water makes a lot of sense, and Surfrider Foundation San Luis Obispo (Surfrider SLO) has supported recycled water projects for many years. However, building the water recycling equipment in a coastal floodplain does not make sense. Why would Pismo Beach ignore risks to such an important project?

If sited in Oceano at South SLO County Sanitation District (SSLOCSD), our chapter does not believe the recycling equipment will gather the necessary permits from the California Coastal Commission or the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. After all, the SSLOCSD sewage plant in Oceano is already on a short regulatory leash. At a recent meeting, the regional water board considered reducing the period of approval for SSLOCSD's operating permit. Meanwhile, the Coastal Commission has required a coastal hazards monitoring plan, a life expectancy analysis, and a coastal hazards response plan to be completed in the next five years. If Central Coast Blue is to survive, Pismo Beach needs to recognize these regulatory limitations, save stakeholders time and money, and plan for water recycling at an alternate site. After all, no permits, no project.

Also, since the current plan for Central Coast Blue will prolong the risks of a sewage spill to the citizens of Oceano, Pismo Beach's plan to add infrastructure to the SSLOCSD sewage plant in Oceano is a classic case of environmental injustice. Cynthia Replogle, representing the Oceano Beach Community Association, is correct to outline concerns of environmental injustice that are baked into Central Coast Blue. Pismo Beach should be more friendly to its neighbors. After all, Oceano, Grover Beach, and Arroyo Grande are positioned over the groundwater basin where Pismo Beach wants to inject recycled wastewater from Central Coast Blue. Soon, those neighbors will be asked to help pay for it. No supportive neighbors, no project.

Pismo Beach could do better by creating a more interactive stakeholder environment. Surfrider SLO has been asking the lead agency to conduct meetings where Central Coast Blue promoters, the public, and representatives of Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Oceano, and Grover Beach can be together to hear the same message at the same time. So far, the lead agency has offered occasional presentations at SSLOCSD, Oceano Community Services District, and city council meetings. But very few citizens attend those meetings.

We believe Central Coast Blue should be more than a series of staff meetings and a glossy brochure. To save this project, let's get together and discuss the details—now. Δ

Brad Snook is the chair of the SLO chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter to the editor for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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