City, residents at odds over Morro Bay water reclamation facility

Posted at 10:33 PM, Jun 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-14 01:33:23-04

The City of Morro Bay is narrowing in on a final plan for their water reclamation facility project.

Right now, most of Morro Bay’s water is from the state water project, but when that temporarily shuts down, Morro Bay turns on it’s secondary source.

"At this point, it’s aging and needs upgrades and is not reliable for the long term," said Scott Collins, Morro Bay’s City Manager.

The water reclamation facility is a concept that many residents have expressed support for. But some, who have formed a group called Citizens for Affordable Living, have a problem with how the project is being managed. The first part of that problem, they say, is the cost.

"The rate increase will be such that people will have to leave town," says Jeff Heller, Co-Founder of Citizens for Affordable Living. "We’re looking for something in the $75 million range or lower for the total project."

Morro Bay City Manager Scott Collins says the estimated cost for the project dropped from $150 million to about $128 million. An estimated rate has not yet been determined.

Residents also take issue with the location. The sewage site would no longer be on Atascadero Road. Instead, it would be off of South Bay Boulevard, which is about three miles inland.

The city says removing the reclamation facility out of the coastal zone would protect it from tsunamis, flooding, or a rising sea level. It also keeps the facility out of neighborhoods, but it also increases the cost.

"So, we have to pump 600,000 to 700,000 gallons of raw sewage up to the plant and back every day? It’s a huge expense. An amazing amount of electricity will be wasted. It just makes no sense," said Heller.

The city manager also says if they don’t have plans for the reclamation facility up and running within the next five years, regulatory agencies will fine them for not being in compliance with the Water Quality Control act. Those fines would either come out of the general fund, or fall on rate payers, according to Collins.

Residents have the power to deny any rate increase under Proposition 218. The city is required to mail information regarding the proposed fee to every property owner and hold a hearing at least 45 days after the mailing.

If the majority of affected property owners protest the fee, the city must reject the proposed fee.