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Morro Bay certifies the EIR for its wastewater treatment plant 

Amid potential impacts on Chumash sacred sites, the city of Morro Bay certified its final environmental impact report (EIR) to install a wastewater treatment facility on South Bay Boulevard at an Aug. 14 City Council meeting. Its next challenge is securing the funding for the project.

According to a staff report, the city's preferred alignment for the pipelines at the proposed South Bay Boulevard site are near several potential or known archeological sensitive sites.

City Manager Scott Collins told New Times that the city and The Northern Chumash Tribal Council have been collaboratively working on an alternative pipeline route with the approval of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

"After constructive negotiation and reviewing adjustments to the pipeline alignment, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Inc. is pleased to announce that a collaborative new project pipeline alignment satisfies the California Tribal Resource Preservation process, and has the support of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Inc.," Fred Collins, chairman of the tribal council, wrote in a letter to the city.

The city does anticipate additional costs with the alternative, but the city manager said there is a conservative amount in the overall $126 million budget already set to cover the costs of environmental impacts.

Five years and 17 proposed sites later, Morro Bay has finally locked in certification of the EIR for the wastewater treatment facility, but funding is still needed to get the project in motion—and that's up to the community.

At a July 10 meeting, the City Council unanimously voted on approving a Proposition 218 notice for a proposed water and sewer rate increase set for July 1, 2019. The protest period ends on Sept. 11, 2018. The fixed monthly surcharges billed per residential unit will total $41 per month for a single-family home. Multi-family and condominium units will incur a $32.80 per month total surcharge. Utility bills for an average single-family home could be as low as $168 or as high as $233.

"We encourage the community members that are eligible for the Proposition 218 protest or who are considering protesting to really research the project," Scott Collins said.

The last rate increase was in 2015. The city manager told New Times that the funds went to sewer and water services and planning and research of the proposed wastewater project. The city was able to reserve about $10 million of those funds for the project.

"That's $10 million in cash that we can put down rather than having to get a loan, and it winds up saving a significant amount," he said. "It results in a very big thing for the community, because we were also able to do all the studies to get us to this point."

The city is also under pressure from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, which issued an order on June 27 giving Morro Bay a maximum of five years to build a new facility to meet its new permit requirements. Morro Bay could face up to $50,000 a month in fines if it doesn't meet the deadline.

The existing wastewater treatment plant needs to be rebuilt due to age and condition as well as capacity and regulatory deficiencies. In 2013, the California Coastal Commission denied the city's permit to build a new treatment plant near the existing site due to coastal hazards. Δ

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