Opinion » Letters

Cambria's ongoing cost


Ever since being elected to the Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) board of directors in November 2016, I've endeavored to keep the ratepayers of our community informed as to the ongoing costs of the Facility off of San Simeon Creek Road known initially as the EWS (Emergency Water Supply Project), then briefly as the AWTP (Advanced Water Treatment Plant), and as of January 2016 as the SWF(Sustainable Water Facility).

According to the figures in the CCSD expenditure report posted in the monthly meeting agenda packet, at the end of 2019, the district had spent a little more than $17.2 million toward the facility, including the annual bank loan of roughly $660,000, as well as other assorted costs, from legal fees to annual permits, expected and unexpected maintenance, biological studies, and much more.

This past year, 2020, is the first year that the cost for the plant was less than $1 million, with the total being $970,958.13. In addition, three months of expenses were less than $10,000, the first time this has happened. So as of December 2020, the amount of debt accumulated by the facility is a little more than $18.2 million. (This amount does not include costs from July 2015, when no expenditure report was available.)

For years the California Coastal Commission has requested a coastal development permit application for the facility that was built in 2014, as it is located in a 92-acre environmentally sensitive habitat area. This past summer, the district finally submitted the application to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department. Soon after, county planning required additional information. As a result, the district has so far requested two time extensions totaling 270 days, and will likely need to make another request to extend the application period to the end of 2021. In addition, further outside consultant costs are being incurred to complete the application process.

As most residents of Cambria are aware, this facility has been a cause of controversy ever since it was constructed. Was it built for use only during a drought emergency as initially permitted by the county, or to allow for further growth in our town? No matter what the intention and ongoing reasons for the facility, or whether it actually ever operates, a yearly cost will continue to be incurred until at least 2034, when the bank loan will finally be paid in full. It's likely the coastal development permit, which needs to first be approved by the county Planning Department, then the Planning Commission, followed by the Board of Supervisors, will not be forwarded to the California Coastal Commission for a final decision until the end of 2022, eight years after construction of the plant was completed.

Harry Farmer


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