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Los Osos faces a long slog 

That wasn't Santa Claus tromping around the Estero Bay April 12, it was Rep. Pete Visclosky, an Indiana Democrat, who toured the area with area Rep. Lois Capps.

Those who are looking for an easy way out of the Los Osos sewer controversy, however, could be forgiven for confusing the two: Visclosky heads one of the money subcommittees in Congress that could pay a big chunk of a planned sewer's roughly $100 million cost.

Capps has asked for $35 million to fund the project, including some $5 million for the county for design work.

But all parties to the visit were quick to throw cold estuary water on hopes of a quick federal fix.

In a statement, Capps said she wanted "to caution folks against getting their hopes up too high that there will be an immediate, easy solution."

Not only is the budget in deficit, she noted, the sewer project will be competing for funding against similar projects throughout the country. And $200,000 worth of federal money already went to the area's last attempt at building a sewer.

The Water Resources Development Act, which includes Capps' request, is slated to come before the full House in the coming days, but that bill, even if approved by the Senate and President Bush, would merely authorize the money, not fund it. That's a separate, more difficult process.

Los Osos, a town of more than 14,000 that operates on septic systems, has been ordered to build a sewer as a result of groundwater concerns.

Though work on a sewer was begun in 2005, voters that same year stopped that project and threw out a majority of the Community Service District members who had supported it. Now the district is in bankruptcy.


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