Cal Am Desalination Project

*Register to Ride the Bus to Half Moon Bay on November 14th*

Cal Am, a private for-profit water corporation, has proposed a desalination plant that would be located in the City of Marina - the plan would use slant wells to draw brackish (salt) water, and also tap into significant fresh groundwater sources that Marina residents rely upon for 100% of their drinking water.

The proposed Monterey Peninsula Water Supply desalination project is currently being reviewed under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The California Public Utilities Commission released the project's Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the project.  

The City of Marina has been engaged for years in the regulatory review process for the project, and has raised a series of concerns regarding project impacts. 

  • Harm to the Coastal environment:  The desal project would bring industrial development to an area that should be protected for coastal habitat and public access. 
  • Risk to groundwater basin:  Research by experts at Standard University shows that the desalination project would tap into freshwater sources.  Those groundwater supplies must be responsibly managed under new requirements of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  Furthermore, as the water is pumped from the targeted aquifers it will lead to increased seawater intrusion and contaminate the regional groundwater supply.
  • Better alternatives are available:  The Pure Water Monterey Expansion Project presents a reasonable and sufficient alternative option to supply the long-term water needs of the Monterey Peninsula - at a  much less cost and with much less risk. 

The desalination project would be located int eh City of Marina and tap into Marina's drinking water supply, yet the plant will not serve water customers within the City's boundaries.  There is no plan regarding how local water supplies and local water rates for Marina residents would be protected. 

The City of Marina Planning Commission voted against the Cal Am Project permit, and found that the project is inconsistent with the land use plans and principles held by the City and State.  Cal Am has taken its desalination project to the next step and has submitted to the California Coastal Commission requested to that the project be considered for a Coastal Development Permit, which would overturn the City of Marina's permit denial.  

Coastal Commission staff has issued its report to the Commission for the hearing that is scheduled for November 14, 2019 at 8:30 am.  In the report, staff identifies a series of unacceptable problems with the proposed groundwater desalination project including among others:

  • Failure to comply with the California Coastal Act that aims to protect our coast.
  • Damage to rare plants and animals and the sensitive dune habitat they need to survive.
  • Environmental injustice impacts because Marina would be subject to yet another regional industrial facility but wouldn’t receive a drop of the water produced.
  • Increased water rates that would hurt all Cal Am customers, but especially low-income ratepayers in Seaside, Monterey, and other peninsula cities.
  • Diminishment of recreational opportunities and public access to the shoreline.
  • The Cal Am project is more expensive and damaging than the alternate option of expanding Pure Water Monterey recycled water facilities which can meet water needs for the coming decades.

This decision will be issued at the Coastal Commission Meeting November 14, 2019 at 9 am at Oceano Hotel & Spa: 280 Capistrano Rd. Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.  

How to Participate and Provide Comment

Join your neighbors on the Free Bus up to Half Moon Bay to the Coastal Commission Meeting.  Registration for your seat is required.Call or email (831) 884-1278 or  A person who needs a disability-related accommodation or modification to travel may make a request by contacting the City at the number and email listed above. 

Those riding the bus will meet at the the Walmart parking lot (near the 7-11 gas station) by 5:45 am. Bus departs promptly at 6 am.  The bus will be there at 8:15 am to fill out public speaker cards. The CalAm permit application will be one of the first agenda items in the morning after 9:30 am for the commissioners to address.  The bus will return from Half Moon Bay after the decision is made or 3:45 pm whichever is earlier. 

Public Comment Option at City Hall

The public is also afforded the opportunity to make comments from Marina City Council Chambers at 211 Hillcrest Avenue on November 14, 2019.  Coastal Commission staff will be setting up a live streamed to the Coastal Commission meeting. Those wishing to participate in the opportunity to comment from the City Council Chambers must be arrive by 8:30 am to fill out a speaker card. One minute will be given to each speaker (beginning after 9:30 am).You will not be able to speak without registering the speaker card.