By Neil Farrel
It’s been a long time coming, about 3 in fact, but on Friday, Aug. 10 the Cayucos Sanitary District broke ground on its new sewer treatment plant, the first part of what will eventually be the “Cayucos Sustainable Water Project.”
About 100 people turned out for the ceremonies at the project site, located on bucolic farmland about a mile up Toro Creek Road from Hwy 1. Many in the crowd were Morro Bay residents there to congratulate the CSD on its quick and efficient work in breaking ground on a new plant just 3 years after breaking up with Morro Bay on a joint project.
CSD Board President, Robert Enns, served as master of ceremonies, handing out recognition plaques to different agencies, individuals and elected officials, as thanks for making it all go so smoothly.
The CSD received a certificate from State Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham through his assistant, Benjamin Peterson, commemorating the event.
“The term ‘It takes a village’ came to mind,” Enns said when he thought about this event actually happening. He praised his current board members Shirley Lyons, Ann Miller, Carrie Maffioli and Dan Chivens, who was unable to attend, and also a former board member, Dan Lloyd, who stood in on stage with the others.
He praised the District staff and manager Rick Koon, and several others from different organizations and agencies. He had plaques for them all.
Koon took the podium and introduced the various honorees including Dylan Wade of Water Systems Consulting, Inc., which did the site analysis and worked with the CSD on the siting and permitting.
Wade was also the City of Morro Bay’s point man on the former project when he was special projects manager for the City. When he left that job for the private sector, Enns said previously, they hired him right away.
Enns said that people ask him how they accomplished so much in such a short amount of time?
“It took the people here on this stage,” he said.
Dist. 2 County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, no stranger to sewer projects, said, “Every one of these projects seems to be a journey.”
But this one was different, he explained, while it took some years, once the direction was decided the project moved forward with “remarkable speed and remarkable efficiency. There was no drama, just put your heads down and get the job done.”
Enns said that once they decided where they wanted to build they brought in Fred Collins, Chairman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, to discuss the project’s archeological aspects.
“More than a year ago,” Enns said, “I stood on the Toro Creek Road with Fred Collins and discussed the Chumash history of the area. I wanted to let their community know that we respected his tribal history.”
Collins said the way the CSD went about dealing with their concerns was “a blueprint for the future.” He said the CSD listened to everything they suggested, every concern they had.
“We were able to sit down at a table and come up with a plan that worked for everybody,” Collins said.
That’s a sharp contrast to the relationship the Chumash Council has with Morro Bay. Collins has gone on record saying the City hasn’t consulted with them at all on its project, which will run pipes through an area that’s known to have numerous Native American artifacts, and even burial sites.
Enns and Koon handed a plaque to another familiar face for the Morro Bayans in attendance, former City planner Mike Prater, who now works for the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCo. He also worked on the project.
Of note, Enns thanked Chevron, which owned the two sizable parcels the CSD purchased for its project. “It took 84 days from when we made them an offer to close of escrow,” he said. The purchase price was some $3 million.
The $25 million overall project is being financed through the USDA’s Rural Assistance Program with a 40-year, long-term loan at 2.75% interest, with no penalties, should the CSD pay it off early.
The two parcels consist of one that straddles the roadway and has been cultivated farmland for decades; and a second parcel that ends at the top of the ridgeline to the north.
That’s a key element because the “Sustainable” portion of the project would recycle the tertiary treated wastewater. Koon told The Bay News that past that ridge there is only one other property owner, the Molnar Family, and beyond that is Whale Rock Reservoir.
Ultimately, they want to store the water in Whale Rock for reuse through Cayucos’ regular water system, which has a reverse osmosis treatment plant operated by CSA-10A (County Services Area) to treat water taken directly from the reservoir and distributed through CSA-10A, and two privately owned mutual water companies.
Until that portion of the project is ready to go, which could happen before the plant is completed in 2 years, Koon said they would be discharging the effluent into Estero Bay through the existing discharge pipe, which runs from the Morro Bay sewer plant to about 120 feet of water offshore a mile or so north of Morro Rock.
The CSD owns a percentage of that pipeline, which Morro Bay will also need to use to discharge water it can’t use from its treatment and recycling process.
Cayucos already has two raw sewage pipes that run to the Atascadero Road plant, and will be using those to convey the discharge waters.
Cayucos will utilize the same treatment technology that Morro Bay proposes — a membrane bioreactor or MBR — and ultraviolet light for disinfection. They’ll use some of the treated water at the plant and discharge the rest to the ocean until the recycling portion is ready.
Also of note, the CSD hired construction firm Filanc on a design-build project. Filanc is also the company that will build Morro Bay’s project, in a limited partnership with engineering firm Black & Veatch.
The plant will have a capacity of .34 million gallons a day, some 340,000 gallons. It will consist of eight structures — an operations building, a headworks building, equalization basin, the MBR, a dewatering building, UV treatment area and recycled water tank.
The majority of the CSD’s property will remain vacant and Koon said they are looking into possible uses, including agricultural.