In a letter issued on June 7, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) restated its comprehensive vision not only for the process of completing the required Coastal Hazards Response Plan (CHRP) undertaken by the San Simeon Community Services District (SSCSD) but also for fulfilling all siting and design specifications for the inland relocation of the existing wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) away from the edge of the shoreline.

     In accordance with the coastal development permit (CDP) that had been granted in 2019, the SSCSD agreed to full structural removal and restoration of the present WWTP site by July of 2029.   Also in 2019, the CCC awarded a grant (LCP-19-02) of $130,000 to the County to provide the SSCSD with financial support in the preparation of a final CHRP by July 11 of 2022.  The CCC letter is a lengthy reply to a draft outline for the CHRP (see the blue-lettered link “Draft Coastal Hazard Response Plan Outline” mid-webpage at: sansimeoncsd.org/projects/) that was submitted for CCC review in March by Dudek (Santa Barbara).  The reply from the CCC offers both challenges and opportunities not only to the SSCSD but to the entirety of the San Simeon and Cambria communities.

      According to the CCC letter, “relocation of WWTP functions presents an exciting opportunity to explore options for applying complementary sustainable water re-use practices in a relocated facility or facilities, such as through implementing tertiary water recycling and groundwater injection.  It also presents an opportunity for partnerships with State Parks, the County, and the Cambria CSD where efficiencies may be gained and/or other constraints (such as water supply in Cambria) alleviated.  In other words, the CHRP should be envisioned not only as a vehicle to prevent damage to and disruption of critical public wastewater services, but also for its potential to provide complementary benefits, including the ways in which it might be able to facilitate actions toward long-term sustainable water resource management in this part of northern San Luis Obispo County.”

     Recognizing the full complexity of what the CCC envisions, the letter appears to abandon a single, near-term deadline for the completion of the CHRP but rather sets separate deadlines for six stages of the task over the course of the next two years:  a stakeholder list (August), an outreach plan (October), identification of alternative sites (February), analysis of alternative sites (August of 2023), selection of preferred site (December of 2023), and completion of final CHRP (July of 2024).  According to the letter, “The idea is that alternatives can be identified (e.g., WWTP in a different location, dispersed wastewater functions at a series of different locations, partnerships with nearby communities/entities, etc.) and evaluated, including through establishing clear evaluation criteria and a process to incorporate input from others into the alternative selection process.”

     With only 10 weeks until the CCC deadline for first-stage completion of a stakeholder list, there is much work to be done toward identifying potential partnerships and shared interests.  Stakeholders are required to include local, regional, state, and federal agencies, as well as landowners and other interested parties.  The CCC explicitly recommended that the stakeholder list should anticipate gathering input regarding potential alternatives and options from a variety of sources including the San Simeon community, County staff and elected officials, Hearst Ranch, State Parks, Cambria CSD, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

     These multiple deadlines from the CCC to complete a final CHRP in accordance with the CDP of 2019 comes at a challenging time for the SSCSD.  Currently operating with only four board members, the SSCSD is preparing for a November election in which each board seat will be filled exclusively in one of five newly partitioned “by-trustee-areas” rather than “at-large.”  In addition, the SSCSD will be reviewing two sets of proposals from recently issued RFPs (Request for Proposal) for on-call planning, permitting, and environment services and for grant writing and grant-related services.