Future of Monterey Peninsula water could be determined by new board appointees

Peninsula Premier Admin

Four new Monterey Peninsula representatives on key local water and wastewater agency boards could have a big say on the future of two Monterey Peninsula water issues — the proposed California American Water public takeover and the Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal.

Last week, Monterey architect Safwat Malek was unanimously chosen to replace Molly Evans as Monterey Peninsula Water Management Agency Division 3 director from a slate of five candidates during a special water district board meeting on Jan. 28.

Other candidates for the appointment included Kevin Dayton, James Derbin, Marc Eisenhart and Alan Washburn. Two more candidates withdrew their names from consideration before the special meeting.

Evans formally resigned from the board in December after announcing last summer she would leave for a new job in New York but was elected unopposed to a second term on the board in the fall election.

Malek will serve on the board until 2022 when the seat will be up for election.

Among the water district board members voting on Malek’s nomination was Monterey Mayor Clyde Roberson, who replaced Carmel Mayor Dave Potter as the city representative on the board this year.

Malek, a longtime member of the Public Water Now activist group, and Roberson are both seen as likely votes for the public water ownership bid aimed at acquiring and operating Cal Am’s local water system. Malek is the fifth board member openly aligned with Public Water Now, joining George Riley, Alvin Edwards, Karen Paull and Amy Anderson, while Roberson is regarded as more sympathetic to a public takeover than Potter, who was seen as a toss-up vote on the issue.

Riley nominated Malek for the appointment after asking whether the board could seek additional candidates for the Division 3 seat and being told by water district general manager Dave Stoldt that staff had already scoured the community for viable candidates and it would be unlikely anyone else would apply.

Before the vote, Edwards raised questions about Malek’s health and his capacity to serve on the board, apparently due to Malek notifying the board he was suffering from a “sciatica” condition and appearing to be in considerable discomfort during last week’s meeting while asking board members to limit their questions. But Stoldt and other board members assured Edwards the condition could be treated and that Malek was the right choice.

A special election to fill the vacancy would have left the seat open until November.

At some point, the board is expected to vote on whether to approve a resolution of necessity to attempt a forced acquisition of the local water system after Cal Am is expected to reject a formal purchase offer from the district. That will require a super-majority vote of the board, or five of seven board members voting in the affirmative.

Meanwhile, new Del Rey Oaks City Councilman and recently appointed Monterey One Water board member Scott Donaldson has clarified that he supports both the stalled Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal and going ahead with the certification of the project’s supplemental environmental impact report.

Donaldson, who was appointed by a split Del Rey Oaks City Council last month, told The Herald he made it clear during his campaign that he backed the proposal, which is seen by some as a replacement for Cal Am’s desalination project, and added that he believes “it’s time to move forward” on the project’s supplemental environmental impact report.

At the same time, Donaldson touted his impartiality and noted he doesn’t have any ties to either Public Water Now or Cal Am, nor any business interests affected by the Peninsula’s water situation.

Donaldson replaced Del Rey Oaks Councilman John Gaglioti, who cast a key vote last year not to certify the supplemental environmental impact report, and said he believed the agency board needed a “fresh perspective.” Donaldson sided with Gaglioti and Councilwoman Pat Lintell to appoint himself to the wastewater agency board by a 3-2 vote rather than Mayor Alison Kerr’s choice of Councilwoman Kim Shirley, who will serve as an alternate on the board.

If Donaldson votes to certify the supplemental environmental impact report and no other votes change on the board it would break a current tie in the weighted vote tally.

Donaldson did say he believed the project’s supplemental environmental impact report would need to be reviewed again by the agency’s consultants and environmental law attorneys, and the public should be allowed another chance to weigh in.

Monterey One Water official Mike McCullough said no board member had directed staff to revisit the supplemental environmental impact report, but added that the document could be reconsidered “as is” or after additional review.

Meanwhile, Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby has replaced Councilman Jason Campbell on the Monterey One Water board. Campbell was an outspoken advocate for the Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal and certification of the supplemental environmental impact report, but Oglesby said there is “no daylight” between him and Campbell on the expansion and the supplemental environmental impact report, and the switch was “fairly routine.” Oglesby has previously indicated support for the expansion proposal and criticized Cal Am’s desal project for its high cost and impact on city ratepayers. Campbell will serve as an alternate.

Salinas Councilwoman Christine Cromeenes also replaces retired Councilwoman Gloria De La Rosa on the board with Mayor Kimbley Craig as an alternate but the city’s weighted vote against supplemental environmental impact report certification is not expected to change.

New District 4 Supervisor and county board Chairwoman Wendy Root Askew attempted to replace District 2 Supervisor John Phillips, who also voted against supplemental environmental impact report certification, on the wastewater agency board but failed.

Contributed by local news sources

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