The Marin Municipal Water District Board of Directors unanimously decided not to proceed with the final planning and restrictions to restore a water line crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Instead, they will spend the next year preparing and analyzing a full environmental impact report on the potential pipeline and its alternatives.
Their excuse is that the water emergency is over. An âemergencyâ creates a legal exemption from the need to prepare an impact report. I think the directors of the MMWD are very relieved to have an excuse to postpone the review of new water sources.
The impact reporting process will continue after the November elections, when a majority of five board members face an angry electorate. Cynthia Koehler, senior four-term director of Southern Marin, Jack Gibson, seven-term director of Sleepy Hollow-North San Rafael, and Larry Bragman of Fairfax, representing most of the Ross Valley and southern San Rafael.
I believe the unexpressed hope of the incumbents is that the public will lose enthusiasm for additional water sources in the midst of a “normal” wet year. This would give MMWD leaders a pass for their decades-long failure to develop adequate and reliable water for all purposes in central and southern Marin. “All Purpose” includes water for landscaping and gardens.
No director found it necessary to ask fundamental questions about the environmental impact report. How long will it take to complete? How much will the paperwork cost? What impact will inflation resulting from years of delay ultimately have on its construction spending? After the meeting, staff revealed that the report will cost $ 1.5 million and take a year. This adds to an inevitable litigation claiming the environmental review is “insufficient”.
Marin is enjoying a wet winter with 41 inches of rain so far. The tanks are at 92% of their capacity. They will probably be full next month. At Kent Lake, water flows over the spillway. This is the excuse why the pipeline’s âemergency initiativeâ was suspended.
Oddly enough, this good fortune was not enough to end the “emergency” when it comes to repealing the draconian restrictions enacted when the potential drought loomed. Administrators didn’t want to “send the wrong message” about the growing need to conserve. When the subject comes back to the table, it’s a safe bet that ordinances banning most garden watering will continue.
The people of the Novato region are in better shape. The more pragmatic directors of the North Marin Water District have done their duty to see all water source options explored and implemented.
One of the touted benefits of the environmental report is that it will “give administrators sufficient time” to review new supplies. Gibson was elected water commissioner in 1994. He had 28 years to design additional water sources. Ditto for Koehler. She has been a member of the board of directors for 16 years and her only idea is more conservation. If there ever was a Marin government agency that needed term limits, it is the MMWD.
I am agnostic as to the best method. Alternatives include a transbay pipe to access water from the upper Sacramento Valley, desalination, recycling, and increased storage.
MMWD now has enough storage for two years of water. The administrators say it is insufficient; it should be four years. Although true, the district lacks the capacity to achieve this goal.
The first job increases storage. MMWD can do this by raising the dam on the Souajale reservoir, dredging the silt from Lake Phoenix, and locating another reservoir site.
The administrators in place have not implemented these options because there is always an environmental impact. Life is full of impacts. Lack of sufficient water has negative impacts.
What is needed is a list of water board candidates willing to tolerate relatively mild impacts in order to provide adequate water. They will face a hotly contested election against the three incumbents who argue that conservation – that is, limiting water use – is the only âgreenâ path to follow.