Posted inGovernment

CCSD Provides Sand for Bagging against Seasonal Rain

In preparation for the upcoming winter with the seasonal rains that can be heavy and sometimes disastrous to lower structures, residents can fill sandbags at the Cambria dog park.  The Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) is providing the sand.

     The public must bring shovels and sandbags to fill bags, as no tools or materials except sand will be available on site.  The parking lot for the dog park is located at the end of Rodeo Grounds Road, that is, the unpaved road off to the right before Burton Drive takes a sharp curve to the left and winds up the hill.  Sandbags are available for purchase at most local hardware stores.  Sandbags are not available at the Cambria Fire Department or at the District offices.

Posted inGovernment

“Meet the Candidates” for the Cambria Community Services District Board

This is the first of a three-week series in which the three candidates for the Cambria Community Services District Board have graciously agreed to answer questions posed to them by the cambriaca staff.  This series is intended to provide an opportunity for local voters to learn more about their views about various issues of community importance.  The order in which their answers are recorded here has been randomly set.

Question 1.  Providing water security to Cambria has been a key objective of the Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) as proposed to the County for a Coastal Development Permit (CDP).   There would seem to be an increasing urgency, as well, for maintaining the local water reserve at a level that is adequate for combating a structural fire or wildfire in any Cambria neighborhood.  What specific actions should the CCSD Board be taking even in the next year to achieve water security that includes increased fire-fighting capacity?


     The WRF allows the District to continue pumping water from the San Simeon Creek Aquifer during periods of drought. There are real concerns that if, and when, the very real threat of a catastrophic wildfire or a large structural fire occurs in Cambria, there will not be adequate water for firefighting resources to extinguish the blaze. In addition, there is no clear and workable evacuation plan in place appropriate to the narrow, winding streets of our community. The specific actions which the CCSD Board should take in the next year to achieve water security include:

  1. Enforcing the current Stage 3 (our current Stage of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan) Shortage Response Actions and Restrictions by issuing citations for violations when necessary.
  2. Completing the application process for the WRF, including all documents required by the County, so as to secure a fully permitted facility in case of severe drought.
  3. Halt issuing any further Letters of Intent for water services.
  4. Explore alternatives to reliance on our current water resources to increase the level of water reserves through, for example, off-stream storage, dry wall canyon, covered reservoirs, etc.


     Both of our former fire chiefs testified that the water tanks now in place have enough capacity to fight two concurrent structure fires. The Stuart Street tanks are soon to be renovated and possibly enlarged will help. There’s no evidence there’s inadequate water pressure or water for putting out a structure fire.  CalFire is in charge of wildfire suppression. The “evaporation pond” might be repurposed as a storage facility and could then be used by helicopters to aid in firefighting. The real issues with fire are prevention and evacuation.

​     Work with the County to open up an alternative evacuation route from Marine Terrace and lower Lodge Hill.


     No issue is more critical to Cambria than water security for potable use and fire protection.  This boils down to three things, finding new sources of water, establishing additional storage capacity, and resolving whether and how we will use the Water Reclamation Facility.

The Water Reclamation Facility (WRF):

     Let’s start with the largest issue of concern to many Cambrians – CCSD needs to decide how we plan to use the WRF and execute that plan flawlessly. 

     The Coastal Commission is our friend, not our adversary.  We have common goals, and we need to ensure that when future generations look back on our upcoming decisions, they see that our decisions on whether and how to operate the WRF were beneficial to planet earth in the long run.  With efforts such as the Instream Flow Study and Adaptive Management Plan, CCSD is well on its way to this goal.  But we’re not there yet.

     We need to address how to handle the brine waste.  The current plan to transport the brine waste by truck to Oceano is not a sustainable solution.

     CCSD needs to make it explicitly clear that decisions regarding growth are independent from decisions regarding operating the WRF.  With the ever worsening climate crisis, there will likely be conditions under which it will be beneficial to operate the WRF to sustain existing customers.  With all of the hard earned money CCSD customers have paid into the WRF, they deserve this option.

     We need an honest discussion about an exit strategy.  Whenever we build an asset, we need to be clear about the conditions under which we will replace or retire that asset.  This requires solid answers to the costs and benefits of the facility, which leads to the next point.

     There has been so much angst about what it has and will cost to build and operate the WRF.  No surprise, we are told the information “is all there” for anyone who has the time and wherewithal to dig through years of financial reports.  This is no way to run a public service.  Considering how contentious this facility is in our community, I expect the Board to direct the GM to provide monthly reports which include clear, reliable information we can all understand, providing:

  • The sources of funding that were/are inputs into the capital and operating accounts,
  • The total installed capital cost to build the facility prior to initial operation,
  • The capital costs incurred in each reporting period following initial operations, and
  • The history of operating costs.

     Additionally, we should have forecasts available for 2 or 3 realistic operating scenarios if/ when we are able to run the facility:

  • Forecasts of ongoing operating costs and additional capital expenditures,
  • Incremental cost per unit of water “produced”, and 
  • The impact of operating the WRF on water rates.

New Sources of Water:

     There has been extensive focus over the years seeking alternatives for new sources of water.  There are no easy answers, so we need to continue being good stewards of the water resources we have.  Meanwhile, we need to monitor technology developments such as:

  • SeaWell LLC/ Ocean Portal Water Company is proposing to test a floating desalination buoy offshore Vandenberg.
  • Research efforts towards Zero Liquid Discharge solutions which could potentially eliminate the WRF brine waste stream.
  • Research efforts towards Potable Reuse which may sound unsavory, but could be the next step for Cambria’s WRF.

Water Storage:

     Global warming is causing larger variations in weather extremes, and greater uncertainty in rainfall distribution. If we do have a “dry winter” there may be insufficient water in the aquifers to sustain water delivery for another year.  By the time we recognize the need to run the WRF, it is uncertain whether this facility could sufficiently supplement water reserves to sustain even the current water users. 

     We need to aggressively pursue additional water storage options to increase our buffer against water shortages or operational outages.  We need to complete the Stuart Street Tank refurbishment project, pursue the possibility of adding a third tank at Stuart Street, continue and accelerate CCSD efforts to consider alternatives for repurposing the brine pond for use as auxiliary water storage.   We would not be able to feed this auxiliary storage into the potable water system, but this water could be used for other needs to offset potable water demands.

     In the longer term, we need to take another look at the feasibility of the Warren reservoir concept.  Permitting new reservoirs is a formidable challenge, the costs would be substantial, and a reservoir is not a quick fix; it would take multiple winters to fill.  But a reservoir of substantial capacity could significantly improve Cambria’s security of water supply.