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Pro-scarcity 

Cambrians for Water is looking out for Cambria's future, which needs the sustainable water facility

In a Sept. 20 commentary endorsing Donn Howell and Dennis Perry for the Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) board of directors ("Pro-water"), Mary Webb makes a number of false statements about Cambrians for Water and about the water project it strongly supports, Cambria's sustainable water facility (SWF).

To list the most serious:

• Cambrians for Water is not a "public relations machine" for the CCSD, as Webb claims. It is a citizens' group that has never been affiliated with the CCSD in any way. It supports the SWF and, specifically, the granting of a regular coastal development permit that allows the facility to be operated in the most efficient way possible. The CCSD has shared that goal up to now. But should it change direction (as Webb seems to want), Cambrians for Water obviously would stand in opposition to it.

• Cambrians for Water never claimed that the SWF "would cost between $1 million and $4 million." If Webb has any evidence that our organization ever made such a statement, she should produce it.

• Webb says—correctly—that Cambrians for Water regards the SWF as "an insurance policy against running out of water in the future." Yet she says the organization is wrong about this. To the contrary, the SWF is exactly the type of supplemental water supply that Cambria needs to prevent future water emergencies. That's why Cambrians for Water supports it.

• Webb claims the SWF "is not working properly, and everyone knows it," and that it "was never finished." In fact, the SWF was finished and it does work—it produced a total of 92 acre-feet of potable water when it was operated in 2015 and 2016. The only reason the facility is not operating now is that we're not in a drought emergency, and its current permit prohibits running it in non-emergency situations.

Webb also trots out the old "bait-and-switch" argument that the SWF was really built in order to open the door to rampant development. Just to make matters clear: Cambrians for Water believes in abiding by Cambria's water master plan, which has been in effect for 10 years now. That document sets a limit of 4,650 residential units, about 20 percent above the current level. At likely growth rates, this cap would not be reached for at least 20 years. Cambria's water supply, including the SWF, will be more than adequate to serve that population, with current residents getting all the water they need.

Webb clearly disagrees with Cambrians for Water about the value of the SWF.

Unlike her, though, Cambrians for Water is clear about where it wants to go from here—toward fully permitted status for the facility that allows Cambrians to get their money's worth from it (to learn more, go to the organization's website at cambriansforwater.com). Webb doesn't say what she would like to see going forward. She holds out the prospect of having "hearings" to figure out "what we can do about [the SWF]." Does this mean she would like to see it mothballed or dismantled? Does she want to take it permanently off-line so that Cambria goes back to chronic water shortages?

She and others who say they are "pro-water" but anti-SWF have a way of avoiding these questions. Could it be because they see water insecurity as the best way to control growth? If so, they are not "pro-water" at all, just pro-scarcity. Δ

Tom Gray is a member of the steering committee of Cambrians for Water. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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