Supervisor Dave Potter was chosen Tuesday to represent the county's interests on a proposed public governance committee that would be charged with oversight of California American Water's proposed desalination plant.
By a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors approved Potter's nomination to the committee, which would have various degrees of authority over every aspect of Cal Am's desal plant project. Supervisor Simon Salinas, who represents much of the Salinas Valley, was chosen as alternate.
Originally proposed and ultimately approved on Jan. 31 by the Peninsula mayors' water authority, the three-person committee would include members representing the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and the Peninsula Water Authority.
The water district board was expected to affirm its support for the committee during a special meeting late Tuesday and the authority was scheduled to choose its own representative to the committee in a special session late Thursday.
Cal Am's board of directors is set to consider approving the governance committee on Wednesday. If all four entities approve the committee concept, Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett said, it will begin operating by the end of the week.
Cal Am's proposed north Marina desal plant is the centerpiece of the private company's proposed Monterey Peninsula Water Project, which is designed to provide a replacement source of water after implementation of the state-ordered cutback in pumping from the Carmel River.
Potter thanked the Peninsula mayors for taking a leadership role on the water supply issue, noting the "political blood spilled" over the matter.
Supervisor Lou Calcagno, who nominated Potter and Salinas for the committee, praised the Peninsula mayors and lauded them for finding a way to create public oversight of a private firm's project. But Supervisor Jane Parker said she believed the desal plant should be publicly owned and called for a stronger public oversight proposal, though she ended up voting for the committee.
Potter took a leadership role on the failed regional desal project, which unraveled amid conflict of interest allegations involving former county water board member Steve Collins, who is facing criminal charges for being paid by a private consulting firm for his work on the regional project while he was a public official. Potter is being investigated along with fellow supervisors, and current and former county staff, by the state Fair Political Practices Commission in connection with the Collins matter. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the matter.
Potter, who serves on the water management district board, has been tabbed as the county's representative on the mayors' water authority. But County Counsel Charles McKee said he is trying to determine if Potter can legally serve on the three boards.
The supervisors agreed Tuesday to support in principle a position statement proposed by the mayors' authority regarding Cal Am's project, including a set of conditions such as requiring a public contribution of funds designed to lower project costs and fully developed alternative source water intake plans. But the supervisors stopped short of adopting the conditions to avoid breaching the terms of the county's settlement agreement with Cal Am involving the regional project, McKee said.
Also Tuesday, the supervisors:
· Approved a series of agreements aimed at implementing the county's low income health program, dubbed ViaCare, designed to offer up to 500 low-income single adults without children access to health care services as a bridge to the Affordable Care Act. Under a revised plan, the county will commit to spending up to $5.52 million on the program, which would start accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis on March 4.
· Adopted a series of amendments to the county's general plan as part of legal settlements with the Carmel Valley Association, including a revised traffic count method and reduced housing unit cap, and the Salinas Valley Water Coalition, which allows planned development in much of the Salinas Valley to proceed while a five-year water supply study proceeds.
· Agreed on a series of responses to the county civil grand jury's interim reports on topics ranging from the sheriff's department overtime to the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority.
A controversial permit application for a BevMo at the Carmel Rancho shopping center was continued until Feb. 26.