After an intense week of privately negotiating the liquid Drain-O cocktail of public policy compromises, drafting what would purportedly have been the grand elixir to ease the flow of a relocated sewer, the Los Osos CSD had its hard-fought deal soundly rejected by state officials.
With the help of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, Los Osos and the state had hammered out a painful compromise that would have required serious concessions from both sides. The CSD board had agreed to work on repealing Measure B (the move-the-sewer initiative narrowly approved by Los Osos residents) and to hold another election that would allow property owners to have their say in the plant's location.
The water board also conceded to grant the district an additional two years to complete its long-awaited project and left open the possibility of relocating the treatment plant out of downtown.
The CSD tentatively accepted the deal at a public meeting on Sunday, and the State Water Board had planned to address the proposal later this month.
But amidst widespread optimism surrounding the great compromise, the state faxed the CSD on Tuesday to say that, "There remains unacceptable risk to the State Water Board and we cannot accept the proposal."
CSD President Lisa Schicker was shocked and perplexed by the state's rejection. "We were bringing the community together with compromise," she said, "and they said 'no.'"
The $135 million in State Revolving Fund money was contingent upon building a sewer at the downtown site, the letter read. The state continued to say that it would "consider resuming funding" if construction resumes at the Tri-W site.
Now, more than ever, Los Osos has nowhere to turn. The community will lose its funding if it moves the sewer, as Measure B mandates. And if they build downtown - violating Measure B and their recall campaign promises - there's still no guarantee of keeping the state loan.
Ever the optimist, Schicker stated with a hint of desperation, "We'll figure it out."