It's back to the drawing board for San Simeon wastewater



San Simeon is still looking for a long-term solution to its wastewater treatment plant after withdrawing a second application with the California Coastal Commission.

At the Oct. 12 Coastal Commission meeting, the San Simeon Community Services District was seeking authorization for an after-the-fact development permit for repairs the district made to the plant without commission approval.

The commission's conditions of approval included requiring the district to construct a public access pedestrian and bicycle bridge, authorizing new repairs to the plant, and native habitat restoration.

If San Simeon had agreed, the project would have been approved for 20 years, but, in that time period, the district would have had to fund and plan the relocation of the existing treatment plant.

"The district cannot simply afford to comply with the conditions of approval recommended by staff. The cost to comply with the conditions significantly exceeds the district annual revenues, which include water, wastewater, and service revenues," San Simeon Community Services District General Manager Charles Grace said during the meeting.

He also said that the commission's 20-year deadline was a prescription for failure.

San Luis Obispo County 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson spoke in support of a regional discussion about wastewater solutions at the meeting.

"The interests of the Community Services District, the county, state parks, and this commission are all aligned. We all see it's going to be necessary to relocate this plant; the question is how and when. That's the big question," Gibson said.

According to a commission staff report, the district made repairs to its facility in 1983, 1995, and 1999 without a permit or Coastal Commission approval.

"All of this development was undertaken without the benefit of a coastal development permit, and this constitutes violations of the Coastal Act and the San Luis Obispo County Local Coastal Program, for which the Commission's enforcement unit opened an enforcement case in 2001, which remains active today," the report stated.

In 2001, the commission began an enforcement investigation and released a notice of violation letter in 2004. The district submitted an after-the-fact coastal development permit application, which was then scheduled for a hearing in 2009, but the district withdrew the application before the hearing.

At the close of the meeting, Grace said the district wants to work with the commission and other agencies involved on a long-term solution for the district. He also mentioned the possibility of working with the Cambria Community Services District.

"The district believes it makes sense for the commission to examine the feasibility of the two districts coming together to determine whether one new wastewater treatment plant rather than two aging treatment plants makes the most sense," he said.

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