Pure Water Monterey project bolstered by federal grant

Recognizing the groundbreaking nature of the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project, the U.S Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation has awarded the project a $15.5 million grant.

Under its WaterSMART initiative, which seeks to invest in technologies designed to enable “broader scale use of recycled water to supplement supplies,” the federal Bureau of Reclamation awarded the local recycled water project nearly 40% of its $40 million in grants awarded after a competitive review process, according to a release.

The release also noted that the grant funding was “prioritized for projects that develop and supplement urban and irrigation water supplies through water reuse, thereby improving efficiency, providing flexibility during drought or water shortages, and diversifying water supply.”

The Pure Water Monterey project, which has provided potable water for extraction and use since the summer, treats a variety of local wastewater to drinking water standards before pumping it into the Seaside basin for later extraction and use on the Monterey Peninsula. It also facilitates collection of wastewater souces for expanded agricultural irrigation, removal of pollutants from waterways and improvement of local river habitats.

The $140 million project is committed to provide 3,500-acre-feet per year in potable water, a capacity it expects to reach by the end of the year after an additional injection well is completed by November. The project has injected more than 700 acre-feet into the basin that is eligible for extraction so far after injecting a 1,000-acre-foot reserve starting early last year.

It is considered a key element of the larger Monterey Peninsula Water Supply project, which currently includes California American Water’s proposed desalination plant and is aimed at developing a new portfolio water source to offset the state-ordered pumping cutback from the Carmel River aquifer.

Backed by Monterey One Water and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the project has now received a total of $39.35 million in grant funding representing nearly 30% of its design and construction costs. Monterey One Water spokesman Mike McCullough said the latest grant funding, when it’s eventually received, will go into the Pure Water Monterey account and could be used to help pay off a low-interest loan for the project or for future capital costs, and some could go to partly reimburse the water management district for its contribution to the project.

“Obtaining grant funding is challenging but an important effort that directly benefits our community,” Monterey One Water board chairman Ron Stefani said. “We are grateful for the Bureau of Reclamation’s support of our innovative and multi-beneficial project.”

Water management district board chairman Alvin Edwards said the district “appreciates the hard work of staff at both agencies to build relationships with federal staff and for telling the Pure Water Monterey story in a compelling way. We sincerely thank the Bureau of Reclamation for their commitment and support for helping our community develop a key water supply project.”

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, was among a number of local elected officials, agencies and organizations offering letters of support for the grant bid, and praised the initiative.

“Understanding the importance of the Pure Water Monterey groundwater replenishment project for the water needs of the Monterey Peninsula, I was pleased to offer my support early on for potential Title XVI funding,” he said. “Such a significant amount of federal funds will not only help further the development of the project, it will also further our goal for sustainable water sources for our home.”

The grant funding announcement comes as a couple of local elected officials’ attempts to shake loose a proposed 2,250-acre-foot expansion of the recycled water project, which has been stalled since last year, appear to be falling short of their goal.

During a special Del Rey Oaks City Council meeting Thursday, a split council voted 3-2 against Mayor Alison Kerr’s attempt to replace Councilman John Gaglioti with new Councilwoman Kim Shirley on the Monterey One Water board, choosing new Councilman Scott Donaldson instead. Gaglioti cast a key vote against certification of the recycled water project expansion’s environmental review document, calling it “fatally flawed,” while Shirley vowed to immediately vote to certify the document and allow the recycled water project to move ahead. Donaldson has not expressly said how he would vote on the issue.

Earlier in the week, District 2 Supervisor John Phillips said he wanted to keep his current seat on the Monterey One Water board even as new Board of Supervisors Chairwoman and District 4 Supervisor Wendy Root Askew made a bid to replace Phillips with herself on the board. Phillips also voted against certification of the expansion project’s environmental document, while Askew has said she supports the proposal. In her latest recommendation, Askew recommends leaving Phillips on the agency board with her serving as an alternate. A final decision on the county board’s representative to the Monterey One Water board is expected Tuesday next week.

A single vote could reverse the current 11-11 weighted vote deadlock on the Monterey One Water board regarding certification of the expansion project environmental document. Agency staff has stopped working on the expansion proposal since the certification denial vote last year.

A water management district analysis has found that Pure Water Monterey with the expansion could provide an adequate potable water source to offset the river aquifer for at least the next quarter-century.

Contributed by local news sources

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