Marin County's water grab

Marin Municipal Water District is already the largest energy user in Marin. A desalination plant would increase its energy use from 40 percent to as high as 300 percent
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By Joan Bennett

OPINION In August 2009, the Marin Municipal Water District's elected board of directors conducted a public hearing to hear and discuss comments on a proposed $432.8 million desalination plant that would be built near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Despite overwhelming public opposition, the board unanimously approved the proposal. The stated reason: the dire need for a reliable water supply.

There is no truth to MMWD's rationale.

This is not just a Marin County issue. The plant would have major impacts on the bay.

The Pacific Institute's yearlong study, "Desalination, With a Grain of Salt," concluded that "most of the state's seawater desalination proposals are premature ... [such plants] fail to adequately address economic realities, environmental concerns, or potential social impacts."

James Fryer, the former head of MMWD's water conservation from 1992 to 1999 and a water management and conservationist expert with 20 years of experience in the field, concluded in a separate report that desalination should be pursued only as a last resort.

In response, MMWD paraded before the public the inevitable hackneyed specter of a drought. But MMWD's arguments are contradicted by the facts:

MMWD operates seven reservoirs with more than 79,000 acre feet of water. Annual ratepayer consumption is roughly 28,000 acre feet or less. Last year, consumers used 26,000 acre feet.

Two of those the reservoirs, Phoenix Lake and Soulajoule, have remained untapped for 17 to 20 years.

Since the 1976-77 drought, MMWD's reservoirs were expanded by 26,000 acre feet, nearly a 50 percent increase.

Marin tree-ring studies demonstrate that a severe drought occurs once every 400 years.

As Paul Helliker, MMWD general manager, recently noted: "This year we won't have any rationing because we are above our thresholds ... there is no reason to because there is no problem with water supply."

If these facts alone are insufficient to convince even the most dubious, there are more.

The water source for desalination is the polluted San Francisco Bay. MMWD insists that expensive filters and reverse osmosis membranes will block dangerous contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and Central Marin Sanitary Agency's 11 million gallons of treated sewage (not to mention untreated spills) dumped daily into the bay near the intended desalination intake pipe.

A desalination plant is an energy glutton. MMWD is already the largest energy user in Marin. The plant would increase MMWD's energy use from 40 percent to as high as 300 percent depending on the facility's size and operation.

For decades the water district has urged its customers to conserve, and its customers have complied. As a reward, in February, to erase revenue shortfalls from conservation efforts, MMWD ordered a 10 percent rate hike and simultaneously halved its conservation budget on the disingenuous grounds that "conservation doesn't work." This raises a conundrum: if rates were raised because of shrinking water use, then does MMWD even need a desalination plant? *

Joan Bennett is a lawyer in Marin. The Coalition for the Public's Right to Vote About Desalination (CPR-VAD) is circulating an initiative for the November ballot to compel MMWD to obtain voter approval for the plant. For more information, see www.marinwatercoalition.com and www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/california/marin.

Comments

Thanks, Joan for laying out the facts so clearly. I attended many MMWD meetings last summer including the August meeting where the four Board members voted to go forward with the Desalination plant even as impassioned citizens rose up and spoke of the numerous concerns you mention. The ultimate irony is while MMWD's Board has been intent on desalination and the hundreds of millions of debt dollars it will cost, they have recenty disqualified water efficient appliance rebates, a high impact conservation vehicle, due to - lack of funds! As a leading sustainability expert commented on MMWD's rush to desal, "it is taking a nuclear bomb approach to the issue of water supply and demand; improving efficiency is cheaper, cleaner, and more immediate."

Posted by Susan Hopp on Apr. 13, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

Great piece, Joan! Please see the campaign website, www.voteondesalination.org

Best,

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 7:29 am

The answer to your last question, Ms. Bennett, is "not immediately." As the MMWD Board decided on April 7, the District can pause its efforts to pursue a drought-proof supply of water from desalination, because demand for water by its customers has dropped to the point that new water supplies are not needed immediately.

MMWD will take the next year to prepare its 2010 urban water management plan, which will be the mechanism to evaluate future water use projections. Because use has dropped by almost 15% in the past year, existing supply could meet demand in another drought like 1976-77, with a "mere" 25% rationing in the second year of such a drought. That drought was much worse for Marin than was the 1988-92 drought, and is the worst case scenario that MMWD uses for planning.

Your allegation that MMWD reduced the conservation program budget this year because it was not working is exactly the opposite of what happened. MMWD faced revenue shortfalls because of the drop in demand, and cut its operating budget by $5.2 million - a 10% cut. A little over $1 million of that cut was from the conservation technology rebate program, which was suspended until July 1. This cut was a logical one to make precisely because customers had already exceeded the use reduction estimate that MMWD had projected, and remaining funds were needed to maintain other operations.

Your complaint about energy use is also misguided. First of all, the proposed 5 million gallon per day desalination plant would increase electricity use by MMWD by 40% in normal years and 100% in drought years - when it would be supplying 25% of MMWD's needs. ALL of this additional energy would be supplied from renewable sources, so that the plant would cause no increase in greenhouse gas emissions. MWMD uses about 2% of the electrical power consumed in Marin, and all of that power is carbon-neutral, because MMWD participates in PG&E's Climate Smart emissions offset program.

To address some of the other numbers you cite - MMWD has expanded its reservoirs by 26,000 acre-feet of storage since 1977, and 2/3 of that additional storage is unavailable for water supply, as it is released down Lagunitas and Walker Creeks to restore anadromous fish runs. The remainder of the increase is less than the new demand that has been created by the population growth in Marin in the past 33 years - so MMWD's water supply and demand balance is worse than it was in the 1970's.

Phoenix Lake provides a grand total of 200 acre-feet of supply - about 2 days' worth of demand in the summer. It and Soulajule Reservoir are the two most energy-intensive (and thus costly) sources of reservoir supply that MMWD has, which is why they are typically only tapped in drought years.

Finally, with respect to public sentiment about the desalination plant, I call your attention to the May, 2009 poll, in which 66-70% of the respondents expressed support for desalination. This poll has a margin of error of 4%.

Paul Helliker
General Manager

Posted by Paul Helliker on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

My. Helliker never mentioned the enviromentsl
impact the desalination plant would have on the bay.
It's not about providing enough water to the county it's
about allowing more develoment in the county.
As usual the board members will fleece thier pockets all in the name of providing water to it's customers.
Having grown up in San Francisco during the 60's and 70's and spent most summers in Marin, it sickens me to see growth run rampent. San Anselmo is full of houses built too big for the space, not to mention the 101 corridor.
with that said, the desalination plant is just another way to allow rampent growth. Thank god for people like Ms. Bennett to clarify what REALLY is going on!!!!

Posted by Guest Kate Christensen on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

In response to Mr. Helliker's attack letter (note the use of the second person possessive):

1. Your poll is a mystery. It was alleged to be a biased poll. The questions do not appear on the MMWD website (at least they are not easy to find). 34 people posted comments on the IJ webpage regarding the frustration of not being able to see the questions. It appears that the questionnaire is not available. Additionally, other than sample size and margin of error, no statistical data are provided. The IJ reported 68% favored desalination and the margin of error was 4.9%. You wrote that up to 70% favored it with a 4% margin of error. One of you is not telling the truth about the numbers. Validity, reliability, methodology, and analysis are not provided. This “poll” fails a basic stats class.

2. As for energy. Great, it is “green”. What costs will be passed onto the customer. How much more will you charge for water if the costs increase 40-100%. I know, since it is hypothetical, you cannot project a figure. Do you foresee an increase in water rates to recoup R&D, construction, and increased energy consumption? To quote you, “Ratepayers will have the opportunity to review and comment on all future board action related to the construction and operation of a desalination plant.”. That is enjoy the increase as we cut back your water!

3. As for the population change, per the U.S Census Bureau, the population has increased 18% from 1970 to 2006. That is an annual growth rate of .5%. That is half of the equation. The other half is an unknown as you did not state the increased volume of water that is available as of result of the expansion of the lakes. In your words, “The remainder of the increase is less than the new demand that has been created by the population growth in Marin in the past 33 years - so MMWD's water supply and demand balance is worse than it was in the 1970's.” Also, it is amazing how you “cherry picked” your history. Marin had it lowest population 33 years ago. The fact the you fudged on this stat does not help your credibility with your poll.

4. Your argument about the limited capacity of the lakes is pointless. You are presented with a fact concerning the capacity of the lakes. Your response is that the there is not as much water available as it may seem because the fish need the water. You also maintain that there are more people in Marin and that you cannot keep up with this demand. However, you provide no data. You simply say it is so. You are not Pharoah.

5. Finally, it is evident why MMWD opposes Prop 16. You know that you will have a difficult time obtaining a 2/3 vote and the way that you count, well, maybe 60% will close enough!

Posted by Guest Your humble servant on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 7:33 am

Response to Your Humble Servant:

My response was to Ms. Bennett, thus the use of the second person possessive. Stating the facts hardly represents an attack.

See the following link for the poll and data:

http://www.marinwater.org/documents/Public_Opinion_Survey.pdf

http://www.marinwater.org/documents/Public_Opinion_Survey_Tables.pdf

The results that I quoted come from Questions 42-46, although the range of support I should have referenced was from 58% to 70% (depending on which desalination-related issue is addressed).

MMWD has provided information on rate increases projected to pay for the costs of a desalination plant (which would include the cost of electricity for it). They would be in the 10-15% range.

Population has increased from 220,300 to 258,618 in Marin County between 1976 and 2009 (see California Department of Finance for reference). At today's water usage rates, the supply to serve this additional population would need to be at least 6,500 acre-feet per year (commercial, institutional, industrial and irrigation accounts would be in addition to that number).

Your other comment about water supply was unclear, but MMWD releases 12-13,000 acre-feet of water per year to restore fisheries. Over two years, with reduction in releases in a severe drought, approximately 2/3 of the 26,000 acre-feet of additional storage would be released for fisheries enhancement. As just noted, the rest would be required to meet the demand of the population increase since 1976.

Your other comment about Proposition 16 is unclear. MMWD, along with hundreds of other cities, counties, special districts, environmental and business organizations (including the California Manufacturer's Association and the Farm Bureau) oppose Prop. 16, because it is intended solely to protect the monopoly of its sole sponsor - PG&E.

Posted by Paul Helliker on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 11:01 am

If the desalinization plant is such a great idea, why not offer the rate payers the opportunity to vote on the issue? I think if there is an open debate with lots of chances to learn about the idea that people are unlikely to support it.
It is bit like the trains. Trains are popular but few people ride them. Surveys show that people like trains and may vote for them but few will use them.
Everyone would like to be sure there is enough water especially people who lived here in the 70's drought, but is this is probably not the right answer. Saying that it is ok to use such an expensive and environmentally disasterous solution because they propose to use green energy is disingenuous and ignorant.
Pushing salt water through a membrane uses a lot of energy and is probably the most expensive way to get water; perhaps more suitable to Saudi Arabia than Marin. The discarded high salt water will be sent back into the bay polluting the bay. So the idea is fundamentally fiscally, environmentally, and scientifically unsound and costly.
Let us think this idea over carefully and try to learn all we can about it but at this point it is a castle in the sky.
Ms. Bennett deserves credit for stimulating discussion of some of the issues related to another possible govenment boondoggle.

Posted by Guest peter barry m.d. on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

Why is MMWD so concerned about the piece Joan Bennett wrote in SFBG? If the polls on this whole matter of building a desalination plant are showing as much as a 70% support level by MMWD customers to move forward with the plant, why argue it's merits? If in fact the MMWD board's proposal is indeed supported by somewhere in the area of 70% of the voters, why would MMWD General Manager Paul Helliker even respond to someone who only represents a small fragment of the MMWD population and only a minority of the vote? It's obvious that the validity of the poll is questionable as pointed out by a previous comment and thus the argument. The only fair and just resolution to the difference of opinions being expressed at this point on whether MMWD voters support the board's plan, is for MMWD to support the issue being placed on the ballot. Once the issue is placed on the ballot, those who support the plan, including the MMWD Board, will have the opportunity to clearly present their position. Ultimately, we need the ballot to make the decision. We also need the MMWD Board to support those who elected them by supporting a public vote to confirm a proposal of this magnitude. Elections are decided by the vote, not preliminary polls.

Posted by Guest Sidney Baskin on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

Why is MMWD so concerned about the piece Joan Bennett wrote in SFBG? If the polls on this matter of building a desalination plant are showing as much as a 70% support level by MMWD customers to move forward with the plant, why argue it's merits? If in fact the MMWD board's proposal is indeed supported by somewhere in the area of 70% of the voters, why would MMWD General Manager Paul Helliker even respond to someone who only represents a small fragment of the MMWD population and only a minority of the vote? It's apparent that the validity of polling supporting the desalination plant is questionable, thus the argument. If the MMWD honestly believes, as they have stated, that the majority of the population served by MMWD is in favor of the plant as a possible resource, then why are they not an advocate of placing it on the ballot for approval? Polls are not votes, we need this on the ballot. Ultimately, we need our elected MMWD Board members to represent those who have elected them, giving us a chance to be part of decisions with the magnitude and potential consequences of a proposal such as this. Approval by the board alone on this proposal unacceptable.

Posted by Guest Sidney Baskin on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

The main question is - why did the Bay Guardian see a need to publish this opinion piece in the first place? It obviously has a multitude of errors in it, and MMWD had to respond twice to make sure the correct facts are presented.

Why Marin should hold a vote on desalination is never stated by those espousing that view. It's merely another component of water supply - which is a basic commodity without which life is not possible. San Francisco did not hold a vote on whether or not to upgrade its water delivery systems to survive an earthquake. Oakland did not vote on whether or not to add the Freeport project to its portfolio. Both of those cost far more than the proposed desalination plant. So, the MMWD Board should do the job for which it has been elected - make decisions on how to supply its customers with reliable supply. If people in Marin don't like the choices they make, elect new Board members.

Posted by James Carlton on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 10:51 am

MMWD ratepayers should have the right to decide where their drinking water comes from since the Bay is a complete change of supply source & is replete with contaminants not in the current supply. This is clearly different than upgrading pipes. MMWD is playing roulette with the public's health by attempting to supply contaminants of emerging concern (pharmaceuticals such as endocrine disruptors, hormone pills, etc.) for which there are no standards for safe human consumption in the form of swill. Marin's breast cancer rate is extraordinarily high already. Now pregnant women & children will have to beware of our water, unlike the current pure water we are lucky to have. And the hot water that will pour back into the Bay will have an impact on other counties around the Bay, especially since a pilot restoration project at the outfall location will be destroyed.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 2:36 am

I am against the desalination plant and should at least have an opportunity to express my opinion on this by a vote. This should not just be pushed on the Marin County citizens by the developers and the people who work for them or benefit from them.

Posted by Guest-Carol on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 8:55 am

More lies from the desalination Luddites. Marin's breast cancer rate is related to the amount of hormone replacement therapy that Marin women were using. When that stopped a few years ago, the cancer rate dropped.

The water supplied by the desalination plant would be so pure that MWMD would have to add minerals back in to keep it from corroding their pipes. Any pollutant in the Bay water would be removed by the desalination process, which is used to produce the cleanest water in the world. And the brine that would be put back in the Bay would be the same temperature as it came out of the Bay - with the same salt and other chemicals that were there in the first place. And there is no pilot restoration of anything at the outfall location - except maybe the dredging of the shipping channel. It's amazing that the opponents of this technology know so little about it, except for the distorted factoids that have been espoused by the anti-growth zealots.

Posted by George Mellor on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 9:02 am

Water dis- disinformation. The outfall will occur at an eelgrass restoration project, eelgrass being habitat for invertebrates which, in turn, would help filter the bay--but hard to do when your habitat is destroyed. ... The measurements MMWD did were not accurate (low) enough to detect for the level of pharmaceuticals. They tested at too high a level. What would one expect from a proponent of the project? Accuracy?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 10:27 am

Anti-desal = Anti-growth? Pleased the pro growth supporter of the desal project has emerged. Yes, natural resources are being pushed to the limit & contorted to serve constant more more more. Marin has held the line, as other areas have been unable to but should. MMWD would push it into growth for the sake of pro growth supporters by ignoring warnings.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 10:39 am

The eelgrass project is nowhere near the outfall diffuser. And if it were, the desalination brine would enhance it, because the water coming through the outfall now is fresh water, which is poisonous to the eelgrass. The brine would make it the same concentration of salts as the Bay, and the eelgrass would be much happier.

As for detection of pharmaceuticals, MWMD tested for those, as well as a host of other contaminants, at the level that is currently scientifically feasible. In many cases, it was parts per quadrillion. And they found nary a one. Most people get far more exposure to these compounds by sleeping (in the case of flame retardants) or by driving along the freeway (for a host of other organics) than they would from swimming in the Bay. And they wouldn't get an ounce of these in their drinking water, because reverse osmosis removes what little might be there in the first place.

As for growth, desalination would not affect it at all. The cities and the county in Marin are where those decisions are made, and water supply is only provided to meet the requirements of the people who live in Marin. Nevertheless, the desal opponents continue to raise this specious argument about "unbridled growth" - the fact is that Marin has had an inadequate water supply since 1970, and has suffered the consequences at least twice, much to the consternation of the residents there. Desal would solve this problem.

Posted by George Mellor on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 8:39 am

If the CMSA discharge is "fresh water", how do you explain the fact that, due to saline intrusion in the collection system, it cannot be used for water recycling? According to MMWD, the CMSA discharge it is so salty is would kill landscaping.

Your use of the phrase "at the level that is currently scientifically feasible" screams loudly. There are now thousands of chemicals released into the watershed and bay that we do not have good tests for detecting. Many credible scientists believe that the chemistry experiment we as a civilization are conducting on our environment and ourselves poises a greater threat to our future than any other single issue. For a great many of these, nearly an "ounce of these in their drinking water" is something you are welcome to enjoy from some other source, but not for me. The problems with membrane failures are well documented.

You are correct in stating growth decisions are made by the county and cities. However, you conveniently overlook the fact that the water supply is where southern Marin residents have successfully reined in the planning departments and developers for many decades. In 1991, in the midst of a so-called six-year drought, perhaps to your consternation, voters rejected a large new water project. It turns out that we did not need it then, it was never built, and we still do not need it.

If, as you state, we have "an inadequate water supply" for the existing population, why is it that many surrounding water utilities were forced to enact rationing programs during the recent dry years whereas MMWD did not experience a water shortage? In fact, MMWD could not sell enough water to support its free spending ways. And after only a slightly higher than normal year of rainfall this year, all the MMWD reservoirs are now spilling and we are presently at 111% of normal water storage?

Posted by Fair and Balanced on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

Fair and Balanced, indeed - Rupert Murdoch would be proud.

The salt level of the CMSA discharge (and inflow) is 1,000 - 2,000 mg/l, which can't be used on any but the most salt-tolerant plants. The Bay is 10-15 times saltier. Which is what the CMSA discharge would be with the addition of the brine. You ought to read MMWD's information - it would put to rest a lot of your misguided statements. www.marinwater.org

If we are all in such a horrible chemical experiment, why do life expectancies keep going up and cancer rates keep going down? Life expectancy rose from 47 years in 1900 to 79 years in 2000. That is a leap that has never happened in the history of mankind. And just peruse the CDC web site to see how not only cancer rates, but cancer incidence is dropping. The biggest fear-mongers in MMWD's area are the chemo-phobes, who would have you think that everyone is dying from chemical exposure. Exactly the opposite is the case.

And, in case you were not around in 1975, MMWD's reservoirs were full that year. Then they had the worst drought on record, and their customers suffered more than anyone else in the West. MMWD has one of the lowest water storage capacities in California,and faces the prospect of devastating droughts within two years of the end of any rainy season. That's why they are considering desalination.

Now, why is Joan Bennett not here to defend her allegations? Could it be that she was just parroting the disinformation on the Marin Water Coalition's website?

Posted by George Mellor on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

Mr. Mellor, your first post called those disagreeing with you "anti-growth." Then you inaccurately state desal won't affect it, ignoring that ABAG is looking for more growth & that zoning densities can be changed. Apparently you were for growth before you were neutral on it. Opportunistic logic, half-truths by omission. Sorry but you are too confused for me to find you credible.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

And stop with the Luddite term. That's been bandied about so freely in the past few years, it's like a tea partier using the word Socialist.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

Going where no man has been before - except perhaps the MMWD propagandists...

Mr. Mellor, if you were half the expert you present yourself as, you would know that more than any other reason, life expectancy has increased due to a drop in infant mortality. Also, some major diseases have been greatly reduced through good science, that many of us who oppose desal do support. How much malaria, plague, TB, etc. now happens here? To cite cancer as the sole reason for increasing life expectancy is preposterous beyond description. You would also know that many diseases (not always fatal, but still highly undesirable) other than cancer are on the rise and, although not yet proven, many are suspected by experts to be associated with chemical exposure. But then it is clear that you only cite a very limited case and then claim that represents the full range of issues.

You would also have noticed that this is not 1975. MMWD now has a pipeline to Sonoma, Kent Lake was enlarged, and Soulajule was added to the system. You also fail to mention that the MMWD reservoirs fill very rapidly compared with other parts of California. Also, even though there is now additional storage capacity, water use is much lower now than in 1975. With modern water saving appliances, people can easily use less water than allowed for rationing in the 1976-77 drought. Your drought scare tactic/fear mongering is not valid and Marin residents are not so naive to believe the MMWD propaganda you recite.

By the way, since apparently you did not notice, the "Fair and Balanced" is satire on YOUR statements!

Posted by Fair and Balanced on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

George Mellor was a Luddite hanged in England in the 19th century, so these comments are a pseudonym for a very dedicated desal proponent....hence the skewing of his or her comments. Bye bye, George.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

Yes, Mr. Mellor is almost certainly Mr. Helliker, MMWD's so-called General Manager. If only he spent his time managing MMWD well and implementing sensible water management programs supported by the community rather than spewing propaganda about his desal dream on all of the blogs.

Hr. Helliker's previous profession was as a pesticide advocate. That explains his hopelessly biased rant about people who are sensible enough to avoid unnecessary exposure to the great many new chemicals about which we have very little knowledge, particularly for long-term health implications.

Posted by Fair and Balanced on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 12:12 am

As the CDC statistics show, mortality rates in the U.S. continue to drop for all of the major causes of death, now mostly due to people living longer at the end of their lives, not at the beginning. Visit www.cdc.gov/nchs for more information.

And there is no new pipeline to Sonoma - the same pipeline exists today as existed in 1975. Most of the new water supplies that MMWD has developed since 1975 are now used to supply the fish in Lagunitas Creek.

I'm just a Marin resident working to make sure that the real facts are presented on this issue, since it seems to attract a certain cadre of TEA party types. I am no more Paul Helliker than you are Sean Hannity.

Posted by George Mellor on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 5:27 am

The pipeline was not completed until 1976. And once again, you conveniently fail to mention key truths. MMWD has now contracted for a much greater amount of water through the pipeline and removed numerous constraining bottlenecks. In fact, a couple of years ago the MMWD board gave SCWA an additional $5 million or so (I'm sure Helliker has the spare time to look it up for us) to make the SCWA deliveries a "firm" supply.

But isn't that just great, people will now live forever because mortality rates for ALL the major causes of death are decreasing, even old age! If not for the Obama death panels we would all happily live forever drinking desalinated water...

Oops... back to reality. Just so readers understand how bogus Helliker and his cronies are, have a look this latest report, dated March 31, 2010 and titled "Death: Leading Causes for 2006" at the CDC website:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr58/nvsr58_14.pdf

Have a look at Figure 1 on page 8. It ranks the five leading causes of death. Cancer, the number 2 killer, INCREASED from 20.9% in 1980 to 23.1% in 2006.

Table C, in the same report, shows that cancer INCREASED from 22.8% in 2005 to 23.1% in 2006, with more actual deaths.

The public should be outraged that Helliker and his cronies continue to use paid staff time to disseminate inaccurate propaganda to promote their pet desal project. The only way to stop their madness is to vote down the unneeded desal project, and replace the board and senior management with the fall 2010 election.

Posted by Fair and Balanced on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 9:28 am

It is also worth noting that Soulajule is a reservoir that did not exist for the 1976-77 drought. It became operational in 1979. It holds 10,532 af of water for a service area that now uses 27,000 af of water per year. It IS NOT connected to Lagunitas Creek.

Posted by Fair and Balanced on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 9:37 am

As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) informed MMWD, it “remains concerned with potential impacts and level of analysis regarding the proposed project….” It urged MMWD to conduct “a proper evaluation of impacts through a at least a full year of coordinated entrainment and source water sampling. This information should be used to minimize the impacts of the proposed project through technical and operational means, and mitigating for remaining impacts. The project, as proposed in the EIR will appreciably adversely impact EPH (Essential Fish Habitat).”

Is this agency wrong too?

Posted by Sarah Dolphin on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

You must be talking about some other water district - the pipeline from Petaluma to Novato was built over 50 years ago. it hasn't changed in size in the meantime. It's true that MMWD signed contracts in the 1990's for additional water supply, but the amount they buy has been going down and is now well under half of the amount for which they have contracts. So, there's no help on that front - the situation there is just getting worse.

If you want to quote the CDC, at least pick the right report. Here's the relevant information:

"Age-adjusted death rates decreased significantly in 2006 from 2005 for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death, and increased for 2 of the 15 leading causes. Rates for the top three leading causes—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—continued a long-term decreasing trend. Significant increases occurred for unintentional
injuries and kidney disease."

That's from the "Deaths: Final Data for 2006" report at the following link (the most recent data they have) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_14.pdf
See page 2.

The public should be outraged that you and your cronies in the Marin Water Coalition continue to raise spurious issues and quote irrelevant data, in a fruitless attempt to stop the (anything but) "rampant" growth in Marin.

And congratulations on your geography skills. Even though Soulajule Reservoir is on Walker Creek, a large part of its annual storage is released downstream to restore fisheries.

Posted by George Mellor on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

Mr. Mellor (who was actually hanged for misdeeds in the 19th century)

You just might want to check Figure 6 on page 9 of the document you cite. If you closely inspect the actual trend lines, you will see that the cancer trend is actually very flat. You will also see that the trend line for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are steeply increasing. You may also want to make note that the vertical axis is a logarithmic scale. The actual trend is much steeper without the logarithmic scale.

Then you may want to consider that the very premise of your point is entirely flawed. As I previously noted, many diseases that may be caused by chemical exposure are not fatal. In addition, thankfully, science is providing us with better treatments. So the when death rate for cancer is flat, and for these other diseases is increasing, and better treatments are saving more and more people, it becomes clear that the rate people are contracting these diseases is actually increasing. While you may believe it only counts if someone dies, I, and I suspect many others, believe otherwise. Citing only death rate data is a horribly flawed premise for your argument.

Then you may want to consider that "rampant" growth is far from the only issue of concern with desalination. These have been well articulated by others and you have had no credible response so I will not go back into them.

However, since you are clearly a MMWD staff member with lots of spare time with which to attempt to justify your existence there, perhaps you would be kind enough to provide real data to answer these questions:

1. Exactly how much water was released down Walker Creek each year since 1979 for fisheries?

2. Exactly how much water was in Soulajule each year at the end of the wet season?

3. Also, how much water has spilled from Soulajule each year during the wet season during years when Kent did not spill?

4. If the system was reoperated so that Soulajule was actually utilized for water supply, thereby capturing more of the spilled water the following winter, how much would yield increase?

5. Exactly how much electricity is required to use an acre-foot of Soulajule water and how does this compare to producing an acre-foot of desalinated water. (MMWD staff like to say that it requires too much electricity to use Soulajule and Phoenix, but then they want to build a desal plant. Interestingly, it actually requires less electricity to pump water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta across the Central Valley and over the Tehachapies to LA than to to produce it with desal in LA)

6. Since 1978, exactly how much water spilled from Phoenix Lake each year when Kent was not spilling?

7. If the system was reoperated to use Phoenix Lake, or pump it over the hill to store in Kent (thereby helping to provide much needed flood protection to Ross Valley), how much increased yield could be gained? Three, four, five or more fill cycles in many winters?

8. Exactly how much energy is required to pump an acre-foot of Phoenix water over the hill and how does this compare with producing an acre-foot with desal?

9. Exactly how much Russian River water was delivered to MMWD each year since 1976?

10. If the Russian River water is no longer important, why is MMWD working with CALTRANS to enlarge the Kastania pipeline bottleneck, and why is public input on that decision not being sought?

Afterall, the public voted down this pipeline enlargement project in 1991, and only agreed to it in 1992 if a citizens committee of prominent local citizens first approved of it based on the real need - which never happened. A few years ago MMWD disbanded the citizens committee and is now trying to quietly move forward with the project without a citizen committee's approval as agreed to in the 1992 public vote.

I look forward to real and relevant data in your response.

Posted by Just the Facts on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

Hello Mr. Mellor/Helliker:

Stop wasting my tax money writing daily comments. Don't you have real work to do at MMWD? But then, perhaps your job description does include the title, lap dog. So good boy, keep it up and keep your master happy. Besides, thanks to you, the story stays alive!

What you seem to miss in this entire discussion is that those who will pay for this want a say in its development. What an outlandish concept! The right to vote!

Remember Alex Foreman, recent former MMWD Director who passed away?

These are his words, not mine, stated on the record at the 1/30/08 public hearing regarding the desalination plant: "I think the people have a very good argument to say it should be voted on."

Will you now stoop so low as to engage in character assassination of the deceased?
Go back to real work. It's on MY dime.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2010 @ 8:57 am

Seems like having this sort of capability would be good to have around after a big earthquake. At the very least after a big earthquake it would allow for emergency rations of bottled water to be handed out to sick and dying of thirst people of Marin Co. I guess we would need a bottle factory next door, or we could recycle and use old juice jars, etc. What are we going to do if the Big One hits and breaks pipes or the San Andreas opens up and swallows all those reservoirs out there lined up on the fault line. I do have some questions about some of the facts and figures the MMWD has come up with to sell the plan, though. High quality reverse osmosis membranes can be got that will filter out darn near everything except h2o. However, the RO technology the MMWD seems to be talking about will not even filter out all of the salt, and the resulting RO water will have to be mixed with regular MMWD water from regular sources before it tastes good, and not salty. So certainly the RO membranes they are talking about cannot be the same membranes I am familiar with that will filter out pharmaceuticals, salt and everything else to the remaining pure H2O. So ,are we going to pay $600 Million for good RO filters or the cheap ones that will not even filter out all the salt?

Posted by Guest Earthquake Preparer on May. 05, 2010 @ 6:28 pm