Tag Archives: Cathy Green

Water Board President’s Coastal Commission Claims Questioned

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Sometimes a person wants something so badly that he or she starts to believe it’s real–or maybe it actually becomes real.

For Cathy Green, president of the Board of Directors for the Orange County Water District, that something is a $1 billion ocean desalination plant that Poseidon Resources Inc. wants to build along the southeast coast of Huntington Beach in order to sell 56,000 acre feet of desalinated water to the public agency for the next 50 years.

OCWD manages the Santa Ana River groundwater basin and operates the largest toilet-to-tap recycling system in the world, which uses the same reverse osmosis process that would be used by Poseidon but for less than half the price.

The Municipal Water District of Orange County passed the Poseidon project off to OCWD 18 months ago after it failed for years to find buyers for the desalinated water.

Poseidon would add nothing to the District’s water supplies but would replace an equal amount of much cheaper water currently imported from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Feigns of due diligence aside, the intentions of the Poseidon-obsessed OCWD board have always been clear: there will be a desalination plant and OCWD will contract to buy all of its 56,000 acre-feet of desalinated seawater for the next two generations at about three times or more the price of imported water, regardless the cost or need.

Green, who has often helped Poseidon by-pass important project-related questions, showed up at the June 12 meeting of the California Coastal Commission, which will approve or disapprove two of several permits Poseidon needs to resolve before moving forward.

In the hope of making that happen, she had an important announcement to make.

“I am here to inform the commission that on May 14 that Orange County Water District’s Board of Directors voted to approve a term sheet (pre-contract) with Poseidon Resources to purchase the full 56,000 are feet per year capacity of the Huntington Beach desalination project,” she announced, firmly.

“When the commission was considering the desalination permit application in November of 2013, the issue of who would buy the water was unresolved. Today, this issue has been resolved,” she added.

But Coastkeeper representative Ray Hiemstra, who opposes the Poseidon project, happened to be at the meeting on another matter and was jaw-struck by Green’s announcement.

“It appears that Cathy Green is moving faster than some of the board on OCWD’s support of Poseidon,” he wrote in an email to other Poseidon opponents and the Surf City Voice.

Hiemstra was concerned because he knew that the existence of water purchase agreements was a reason for the Commission’s previous approval of Poseidon’s nearly identical Carlsbad desalination plant.

But no such deal was made with Poseidon at the May 14 OCWD meeting, as Director Harry Sidhu explained before he voted to approve the term sheet and go forward with final contract negotiations.

“It is not a hundred percent done deal today. It is just a good start in moving forward,” he advised the overflow audience there to speak during public comments.

Sidhu was technically correct but he overlooked an important point explained in the staff report. By approving the term sheet, “the District is signaling a desire to explore in much greater detail the exact terms of a final Contract with Poseidon Resources to purchase the plant water.”

The Poseidon train has left the station but Green is highballing it down the track–with the help of most of the other board members, including Shawn Dewane, Stephen Sheldon, Denis Bilodeau, Harry Sidhu, Roman Reyna, and Dina Nguyen.

But OCWD’s chief engineer, John Kennedy, thinks that Green had her facts right.

“She [Green] was just saying that the OCWD, via the approved term sheet, would buy all of the water, which is 100 percent accurate,” he explained. “We are working to see what portion of the water would be recharged into the groundwater basin by OCWD and what portion would go directly to the cities.”

If the project proceeds, he added, OCWD “would have an agreement with Poseidon to buy all of the water,” (emphasis added) along with parallel agreements with any water agencies that agreed to buy the water directly that otherwise would be injected into the groundwater basin.

But that’s a far cry from Green’s claim that the issue of who will buy the water has been resolved.

Who will buy the water was just one of several cost and water distribution issues still unresolved, as Kennedy himself pointed out in his report to the OCWD board on May 14.

That’s why he asked for and received $230,000 for a study to help determine “how much would the Water District take, if we do take the water, how are we going to get it into the ground, how much do the cities’ retail water districts want to take. And we would figure out exactly where the water’s going to go, exactly what pipelines and distribution system improvements we need.” (emphasis added)

Until now, only one Orange County water agency, Santa Margarita in South County, has committed to buy Poseidon’s water. Nor have any of the District’s 19 members, who pump groundwater from the basin for 70 percent of their supply, indicated their willingness. One member agency, the Irvine Ranch Water District, has openly opposed the project.

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OC Water District: Tomorrow’s Forecast is Cloudy with a Chance of Error

By Debbie Cook
Special to the Surf City Voice

Give me a chimpanzee with a dart board and I’ll give you an equally unreliable water demand forecast as we are getting from Orange County’s water leaders.

Who cares about a forecast you say? It’s just garbage in, garbage out?

We will all care when we discover that taking out the garbage just cost us a billion dollars for an ocean desalination project!

In business, you risk your own money when you make a bad forecast. In the public arena, the public pays the cost of bad forecasting in expensive and unnecessary projects.

In Orange County, hardly a meeting of a water agency goes by without a board member championing the need for ever-increasing water supplies. On two recent occasions I have heard Orange County Water District Board Member Cathy Green project that “we” needed another 80 to 90 thousand acre feet of water by 2035 due to projected population increases.

Many, if not most public agencies rely heavily on population growth as a driver of future water demand forecasts. It seems logical at first blush; more people, more demand. But the reality is more nuanced, and population and consumption are becoming poorly correlated due to many factors.

The Seattle Public Utilities is a case on point. Prior to investing heavily in massive infrastructure, they decided to re-visit their demand projection forecasts that were constantly revised downward, as shown in the chart below.

Cascade water alliance

For example, they discovered that in 1985 the City of Seattle projected that demand by 2000 would be 200 million gallons per day (mg/d) and by 2005 would be 210 to 215 mg/d. The actual 1987 demand turned out to be 147mg/d and in 1992 it was 130 mg/d.

In the Seattle region, the reevaluation of demand forecasting ushered in the adoption of new forecasting models that serve the unique characteristics of each community. Population is still a consideration but it is now modified by mitigating factors. These changes have resulted in the determination that water demands could be met through 2050 without additional and costly infrastructure projects.

capture-20150304-140610

Indeed, nationwide, urban water consumption is responding to practices that are driving down per capita consumption, including the price of water, frequency of billing, changing demographics, housing types, the extent of adoption of efficient technologies, conservation, and the effect of education and public attitude.

Has Orange County avoided this national trend? Let’s see.

OCWD manages the Orange County groundwater basin and serves those cities that hold rights to pump from the basin. This year, the basin is providing 72 percent of North Orange County’s water needs.

From the OCWD website I was able to download Engineer’s Reports from the past eight years. From these and other public documents you can see that OCWD members are making the same forecasting errors that were being made in the Seattle region.

In 2005/06 OCWD forecast demand would jump from the then current demand of 500,000 acre-feet to 614,000 acre feet by 2025. By 2012/13 they had modified projections from the then current demand of 435,000 acre feet to 525,000 acre feet by 2035. In an eight year span the demand forecast had been reduced by 89,000 acre feet without any analysis or comment.

scantryagain1
But what is the trend in the OCWD service area? In other public documents I found historic data going back to 1989. If you run a linear trend line forward you see that consumption is trending downward, not upward.

FINALUSE2

There is no debate that population has increased in Orange County. However, reading OCWD’s reports shows that perhaps we need to bring back the chimp for another round. Here are the reported then-current populations and projected populations listed in the reports:

2005/06 2.3 million, grows to 2.55 by 2025
2006/07 2.3 million, grows to 2.55 by 2025
2007/08 2.4 million, grows to 2.67 by 2025
2008/09 2.38 million grows to 2.7 by 2035
2009/10 2.38 million, grows to 2.7 by 2035
2010/11 2.28 million (census year), grows to 2.54 in 2035
2011/12 2.28 million, grows to 2.7 in 2035
2012/13 2.28 million, grows to 2.7 in 2035

The reality check was the 2010 census, but future and past population numbers appear to be plucked from thin air, lacking any kind of objectivity or scientific rigor. I think it is fair to say that these figures are random at best.

Orange County has not bucked the nationwide trend of declining per capita consumption. But like many water agencies, OCWD ignores the data or uses it to promote a self-serving agenda.

What we focus on determines what we get. Unions and consultants want to build massive infrastructure projects and favor forecasts that show growth in demand. Ecologists want multi-benefit solutions that reduce environmental harms. Rate payers want abundant water and stable rates but are caught in the middle, confused by bad forecasts and misinformation.

Accurate forecasting allows agencies to meet water needs in an efficient manner and at the minimum cost. But if our forecasting is consistently bad, if we never submit our data to a reality check, then we can easily forecast a future of costly water decisions.

 

 

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Expense Reports for OCWD Directors

These are expense reports obtained previously by the Surf City Voice for all current Orange County Water District directors. Listings for 2014 are incomplete. Audit pages for 2013 show the number of meetings claimed by directors versus the number of meetings actually attended. Readers will also be interested in my previous story detailing total benefits received by current directors, “‘Would you like a sandwich?’ Water directors keep their early meetings and bloated stipends.”

Stephen Sheldon
Director Sheldon 2014; Director Sheldon 2013

Shawn Dewane
Director Dewane Jan-Feb. 2014; Director Dewane 2013

Denis Bilodeau
Director Bilodeau Jan-Feb 2014; Director Bilodeau 2013

Roger Yoh
Director Yoh Jan-Feb 2014; Director Yoh 2013

Jan Flory
Director Flory Jan-Feb 2014;

Philip Anthony
Director Anthony Jan-Feb. 2014; Director Anthony 2013

Kathryn Barr
Director Barr Jan-March 2014; Director Barr 2013

Cathy Green
Director Green Jan-Feb 2014; Director Green 2013

Vincent Sarmiento
Director Sarmiento Jan-Feb 2014; Director Sarmiento 2013

Harry Sidhu
Director Sidhu Jan-Feb 2014; Director Sidhu 2013

 
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OCWD: Directors’ Misuse of Committees Shows Disdain for Ratepayers’ Rights

By Debbie Cook
Special to the Surf City Voice
Commentary

At a recent (July 3) sub committee meeting, OCWD’s Director Cathy Green dismissed an idea by Director Jan Flory to have staff prepare a report on the cost alternatives for video streaming public meetings.

Flory wants to make it easier for the district’s ratepayers to attend those meetings or at least be able to see them by watching live or archived versions online.

Few public citizens participate in OCWD meetings, a blow to democracy that is exacerbated by a calendar set for the convenience of directors but not them.

Trying to break that mold a bit, on the day of the committee meeting, myself and a few other public citizens actually did attend in order to support Flory’s proposal.

But Green and the two other voting members of the five-member communications and legislation committee, Stephen Sheldon and Shawn Dewane, tried to table discussion of the item—even though there is no tabling motion under OCWD meetings rules—for up to a year.

Green melodramatically argued that she wasn’t going to vote to have OCWD staff get a lot more information about video streaming until she had a lot more information about video streaming.

That’s right. That’s really what she argued. But don’t take my word for it, watch the video accompanying this commentary to see and hear for yourself.

Green also said that, in Huntington Beach, where she served two terms with me as a member of the city council, video streaming never worked.

“I’m not going to say ‘Oh let’s do it’ and then we end up with all the trouble that so many other entities have ended up with—they don’t work,” she opined. Continue reading OCWD: Directors’ Misuse of Committees Shows Disdain for Ratepayers’ Rights

‘Concilman’ Joe Carchio Returns, as Good as Ever

By John Earl
Surf City Voice 

Victorious city council incumbent Joe Carchio won’t be officially sworn in again until December, but he has already started to “finish the job he started” as he promised to do in his campaign literature. 

So far, after four years in office, Carchio has managed to define himself at best as a barely competent acolyte to Mayor Cathy Green, who cowers in fear of councilmembers Devin Dwyer and Don Hansen, to an outright con man and thief at worst (see our series of pre-election exposes).

At the Nov. 15 post-election meeting of the Huntington Beach City Council, Carchio got back in the swing of things with a bumbling performance as the Grand Inquisitor, a poor imitation of Hansen’s trademark habit of humiliating contrary public speakers with a blend of McCarthyism and the Socratic method. 

His targeted victim this time was an unsuspecting businessman—the co-owner of Alpha Omega Christmas Trees, Inc., who was offering $8,000 to rent a vacant city-owned lot at Edinger and Parkside Lane for two months so he could sell Christmas trees and other holiday merchandise. 

About five weeks earlier Omega reached a tentative licensing agreement with city staff. That agreement was up for routine approval by the council at its Nov. 15 meeting. Omega’s trees and other supplies would be delivered only days later. Time was of the essence and Omega’s owners thought they had a deal in hand. 

The only problem was that some council members have a soft spot for another Christmas tree company, owned by the “Johnson brothers,” that had done business with the city at the same location in years past. 

The Johnsons made plans about a year ago to sell trees elsewhere this year because the city had indicated that the Edinger site would be under redevelopment and unavailable for rent. 

Councilmember Devin Dwyer had asked Stanley Smalewitz, Deputy Director of Economic Development, to help the Johnsons find an alternative Surf City site, but as of a year ago the brothers reported that they were happy with a new site they had already found in Irvine. 

Unexpectedly, however, the Edinger site was still available when Omega approached the city several weeks ago, so staff jumped at the last minute opportunity to make some extra money on the vacant property after all. 

Knowing that the Johnson’s were happy, Smalewitz and his staff didn’t bother to offer the Johnsons a chance to bid on the Edinger site. But Dwyer was ticked off at Smalewitz for not following through as asked. 

“That opportunity should have been open to him (sic),” Dwyer snapped at Smalewitz. “I mean, if we can competitively bid for something, we want to get our best dollar for the city. Don’t we?” 

But what to do now? 

Councilmember Keith Bohr suggested reopening the bid process to allow the Johnson brothers another chance to rent. Staff said that it could process everything within a few days, but member Jill Hardy preferred to leave things as they were rather than risk not getting any business at all, considering that the Johnson brothers might decline and Omega needed to find a site a.s.a.p. for its incoming merchandise and might have to go elsewhere rather than wait for a potentially unfavorable decision. 

In fact, Omega’s owner told the council, if the city of Redondo Beach came through on a potential rental deal the next morning, as he expected it would, he would have to go there rather than take the chance of ending up without a place to do his holiday season business. 

By that time it should have been obvious that the only fair and practical thing to do was to go with the original motion—to accept the agreement with Omega—and make sure the bidding process was better coordinated next year. 

Carchio the Bully
But Carchio, after agreeing with Hardy’s analysis, decided to bully the Omega owner before accepting staff’s recommended action. 

“So, in other words, you’re telling me…that if the City of Redondo Beach tells you yes tomorrow, then you don’t want to enter into an agreement with us, period. You’d rather have the deal in Redondo Beach,” Carchio asked, twisting the applicant’s words.

“I just need to facilitate my time frame right now. That’s my only consideration sir,” the Omega owner answered. But Carchio got tougher.

“[Y]ou’re telling me if the Redondo Beach guy tells you yes tomorrow that you’re going to Redondo Beach, no matter what.”

Reexplaining the obvious, the applicant said he had to be prepared to go to Redondo Beach, if necessary, and that he could conceivably end up doing business in both cities.

“Then I think you need to make a decision as well as us. I mean, do you really want to be here or do you want to be in Redondo Beach,” Carchio lectured.

“I would like to be here. However, I could lose this if that vote goes that way. And so that doesn’t make good business sense to me,” the applicant replied.

“Well, it seems to me that you’re trying to put our backs to the wall here,” Carchio accused.

Justifiably irritated by Carchio’s off-the-wall assertion, the applicant tried to maintain a polite demeanor. “Well, I’m sorry, I think you understand I lost my [previous tree] lot of 22 years, so my back is against the wall too, sir. And I’m not-”

“And I understand you’re a businessman, and you’ve got to look out for the best deal that you can make and the quickest deal that you can make, because you do have trees and they have to start selling,” Carchio interrupted, with unconvincing sympathy.

“Yes, sir.”

“The only thing is I have to clarify in my own mind is whether you’re more interested in being here or you’re playing Redondo Beach against us.

“No.”

“Or you’re playing us against Redondo Beach.”

“Sir, I just found out about Redondo Beach yesterday as a back up only because I wasn’t sure what was going to go on here.”

“So this is your – ”

“That was a good choice on my part because you’re telling me that I have to wait till tomorrow night now, after I have waited almost five or six weeks already. So I think it’s just a good business choice for me. You’re making a business choice too. If you can get this other gentleman in and he can bid more you’re making a business choice on me. That’s all I’m saying.”

Then Carchio brought his interrogation to a crescendo.

“So, what I want to clarify in my own mind: are we your number one choice or is Redondo Beach your number one choice?”

Oblivious, Carchio acted surprised when Mayor Green gasped and all of his colleagues broke out with nervous laughter.

“I’m not going to make that choice,” was the applicant’s final answer.

Councilmember Don Hansen scornfully mocked Carchio. “Wow! First of all, to the representative of Alpha Omega, we just put him in a ridiculously uncomfortable position,” he said, recommending that the council take a more responsible course.

Bohr withdrew his motion and the entire council, including Carchio, voted to rent the land to Omega after all.

In the future, Carchio will continue, no doubt, to finish the job he started four years ago.

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Commentary: Poseidon up for review and city council members mingle with their corporate god

Personal Observations and Commentary
By John Earl

Editor, Surf City Voice

If there ever was a corporate right-wing conspiracy going on behind the Orange Curtain (Gasp! Who would have thunk it?) it happened last Friday inside the Grand Californian Hotel at–perhaps appropriately enough–the Disneyland Resort. It called itself the OC Water Summit, presented ostensibly by the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Orange County Water District but, in fact, sponsored by a bunch of multi-national and other water related business sharks that smell green blood in the lucrative business of disaster capitalism via control of heretofore public water resources.

Disciples of Poseidon
Poseidon disciples: HB City Council members Gil Coerper, Joe Carchio and Cathy Green sitting at the Poseidon table with CEO Scott Maloni. Member Devin Dwyer's empty seat is seen too. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

The summit’s stated purpose was to look at solutions to California’s water problems. In reality it was a mostly one-sided presentation (Central Valley farmers good, environmentalists and little fishes bad) and seemed like a thinly veiled plug for water privatization, what some critics would call unsustainable agriculture practices, and urban sprawl  via speculative desalination.

The summit’s stand-in facilitator of the day, after comedian Paul Rodriquez couldn’t make it, was Laer Pearce of Shea Properties/Parkside/build on the Bolsa Chica Mesa fame/infamy whose politics are about as far-right as you can get in Orange County without totally going insane. Normally highly opinionated and hot tempered, Pearce was on his best behavior; but, with a few exceptions, it might have been a more entertaining half-day if he had just acted like he does when he’s being interviewed by the Voice.

Of note, the presentation by Karl W. Seckel of MWDOC on the now underway Dana Point desalination project, a public owned and operated concern with a totally different, much more environmentally friendly, perspective than Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant, was well worth viewing and we will have more on the details of that soon. Also of great interest, the presentation by Gary Crisp, a desalination advocate from Australia, on how his country is implementing desalination. More on that later, too.

The most curious but totally unsurprising spectacle of the event, however, at least for Surf City residents, might have been the sight of four of our city council members (Joe Carchio, Cathy Green, Devin Dwyer and Gil Coerper) sucking it up with Poseidon Resources CEOs at its specially reserved round table. Poseidon, by the way, has a new EIR currently before the city for approval, due to the fact that the once-through-cooling process, which it was depending on (along with hundreds of millions in government handouts) to provide mythologically (as in Poseidon, God of the Sea) inexpensive water to Orange County residents, has been banned by the State. How Poseidon and its city council cohorts expect to be able to use a banned water intake process is unclear at this point, but nothing stands in the way of a god, apparently.

Joining Poseidon’s city council disciples at the supper table was Huntington Beach Planning Commissioner John Scandura. Carchio is a candidate for reelection in November.

Disciples 2
HB Planning Commissioner John Scandura, next to Poseidon CEO Scott Maloni at OC Water Summit. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

Did the four city council members violate the Brown Act by meeting with each other and discussing or listening to issues before the city? No, they did not, even though the summit cost participants between $125 and $140 each. According to the law, it’s fine in this case because the event was open to the public, despite its prohibitive cost. But if you ever wondered why our elected officials vote the way they do, you might consider who they get their information and social support from.

Surf City residents might want to ask their elected and appointed officials what they talked about at that meeting, however. They should have kept records of all that was discussed.

Update: At last night’s city council meeting (May 17, 2010) during disclosure time, member Gil Coerper disclosed that he had gone to a League of Cities meeting, but none of the council members mentioned that they had been to the OC Water Summit and that they sat with Poseidon’s CEOs the whole time.

However, mandatory disclosure time, as required by AB 1234, comes right after public comments on the city council meeting agenda, nearer the start of the meeting. That’s when, presumably, spectators still exist in the chambers and before the television audience goes to sleep–and there’s nothing in the rules to prevent a council member from commenting on a non mandatory item, such as a summit about the future of California’s and Surf City’s water supply. But, at the end of the meeting, non mandatory disclosures, often mentions of charity events and the like, are normally made. At that time, Mayor Cathy Green, who took her turn last, was the only council member who bothered to mention her attendance along with Dwyer, Carchio and and Coerper at the OC Water Summit–without any information about the event other than that they attended it. Green told the Voice, “…I was reading off a list after a long evening. Remember we start at 4 p.m. [including the study session and closed session]”

So much for the water crisis.

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