It was like that uncomfortable conversation we overheard as children, when our parents’ relationship hit a rough patch and, despite high tensions, they eventually agreed to stick it out for the better good.
That was the gist of the Morro Bay and Cayucos Sanitation District Joint Powers Agreement meeting on Feb. 14—yes, Valentine’s Day—where both bodies decided they could continue to work together in constructing a new wastewater treatment plant that would serve both communities’ needs.
“We’re together until we’re not together, as far as I’m concerned,” said Cayucos Director Dan Lloyd.
The joint body’s harmonic balance lay in awkward limbo following a January decision by the California Coastal Commission, which rejected the construction of a new plant at its current location, sending everyone back to the drawing board following millions of dollars spent on design, consulting, and analysis of alternatives.
The new Morro Bay council majority favored moving the plant to a less environmentally sensitive location and out of a tsunami zone, among other concerns echoed by the commission, though the Cayucos board had historically supported keeping the plant where it is.
Morro Bay council members said the city has begun the process of getting appraisal for the 260-acre Righetti Ranch, a location favored as an alternative site for a plant in an analysis made by former project consultant Dudek.
Despite the collegial atmosphere, that step forward made by Morro Bay was a point of contention for some Cayucos board members.
“It should be the JPA looking at that property. We weren’t given that opportunity,” District President Robert Enns told Morro Bay officials, arguing that other alternatives should be reexamined. “You’re asking us to get onboard this train that’s already leaving the station.”
Morro Bay Councilman George Leage—who, even in the face of the coastal commission’s impending denial in January, voted against the city weighing in on the decision until meeting with the JPA—agreed with Enns and lamented the project’s change in direction after years of work.
“I’m disappointed—yes, I am—that we didn’t go after the coastal commission,” Leage said. “But let’s dig our heels in on this and let’s get to work.”
Both bodies are under the gun to get moving on new plans in light of the current plant’s discharge permit expiration in 2014, with an update to the Regional Water Quality Control Board due in the near future.
In the end, both sides agreed to separately draft discussion items for getting the ball rolling again at the next joint meeting, which will likely be held next month.