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Another desalination plant proposed

Kelly Nix, The Carmel Pine Cone

Nipping at the heels of the troubled and expensive regional desalination project, a new company is claiming its own desal operation in Moss Landing could offer new water for the Monterey Peninsula at a much lower cost.

The company, DeepWater Desal, says it would supply potable water by drawing seawater 80 to 100 feet below the oceans surface before the water is treated and conveyed to water customers.

This is going to be cheaper than any other potential desal plant, DeepWater Desal CEO Brent Constantz told The Pine Cone.

Though the company wont reveal cost he claimed. My guess is less than half.

The announcement of DeepWater Desals project comes as new questions are being asked about the viability of the regional desalination proposal because of allegations estimates, Constantz said the price to build the project could be more than 50 percent less than the regional desalination project and therefore would cost water customers much less.

Its not going to be anywhere close to [the regional desalination projects] price, of impropriety surrounding a former county water director.

DeepWater Desal spokesman David Armanasco said the companys desalination facility could be operational in less than two years after receiving a laundry list of permits from various local and state agencies. The project would also need an exhaustive environmental impact report.

Dj vu

If DeepWater Desals proposal sounds familiar, it is.

Constantz and his other company, Calera Corp., made a deal with developer Nader Agha to use Aghas property at the old National Refractories site in Moss Landing for a similar deep water desal operation.

The group made a sales pitch to Monterey Peninsula Water District officials and others about supplying water to the Peninsula, but nothing came to fruition, leaving some to wonder if the new incarnation of the plan will go beyond the discussion phase.

Armanasco and Constantz said the partnership with Agha has since been severed.

Agha is not involved with DeepWater Desal, Armanasco said. We have changed the name, we have opened a new office and we have secured a new site for the desal plant.

DWDs facility would be housed in two buildings totaling about 50,000 square feet on 8.5 acres of the Capurro Ranch. The buildings are currently used for cold storage for strawberries. The facility could produce a maximum of 25,000 acre-feet of water per year.

Nobody would ever see the desalination plant, because it would be inside the buildings, Armanasco explained.

The companys offices are in the former Santa Cruz Cannery building on Sandholdt Road in Moss Landing. Armanasco said the operation is staffed and has become a full-time business.

Promising, but unanswered questions

On Tuesday, Constantz and Armanasco made a presentation to the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District Water Supply Planning Committee about the companys proposal.

MPWMD board chair Bob Brower told The Pine Cone he was impressed by the groups hour-long presentation to the committee, whose other members include directors Regina Doyle and David Pendergrass.

Its the job of the water supply committee to look at absolutely every possible option there is, Brower said. I think some of their ideas were good.

But he and Doyle cited unanswered questions about the project, namely the cost, the types of permits required, the timeline on when the facility would be built, governance and a host of other items.

They didnt know how many permits were needed, and they really didnt have the answer to the cost, Brower said.

Doyle said the MPWMD is willing to consider any practical solution to the water needs of the Peninsula, but she also said DeepWaters proposal at this point is little more than a theoretical outline.

I dont mean to criticize the DeepWater team, as I know they have to start somewhere to pitch their project, Doyle said. But I came away with more questions than answers. I look forward to hearing more when there is more substance.

Deep water intake

The open ocean intake for the desal plant would be placed into the Monterey Bay submarine canyon.

The outfall would be in the same area but located at a depth of about 150 to 200 feet below to disperse the brine from the desal plant.

Armanasco said water quality reports compiled by the
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute indicate highly favorable conditions for a desalination plant at the depths the company is proposing drawing water.

We have readings that go out a decade that tell us the source water at that level is extremely good and does not require much pre-filtration, which reduces costs, he said.

Good timing?

Deep Water Desals proposal emerges in the wake of conflict of interest allegations involving former Monterey County Water Resources Agency director Steve Collins.

Its alleged that Collins, when he was director of the
MCWRA and had been advocating for the regional desalination project, was also being paid by the consulting company that was selected to be the project manager for the water project.

Collins conduct, the county found in a preliminary report released by the county Tuesday, raises questions about the validity of certain contracts the MCWRA approved as part of the regional desalination project. County prosecutors are investigating the matter to decide whether Collins alleged actions were criminal.

Despite Collins troubles, members of the county board of supervisors reiterated their support for the regional water project this week.

Lower costs

Constantz said the deep water project will also have much lower electricity costs a desal plants biggest expense because of its close proximity to the Moss Landing powerplant.

Armanasco said DeepWater Desal intends to build the plant and then sell it to the government.

A Monterey County ordinance requires desal plants to be publicly owned.

Our goal is to turn it over to a joint powers authority,
Armanasco said.

A pipeline would also be needed to deliver water from Moss Landing to the Monterey Peninsula.

Apart from the MPWMD, the company has also pitched the plan to the Pajaro/Sunny Mesa Community Services District and the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency.
The plant could also serve water to North Monterey County residents.

The Monterey Peninsula will have to decide if it wants to be a part of this project, explained Armanasco.

Brower said on July 19, the MPWMD committee will again review the proposal and decide whether to forward it to the regular MPWMD board, which could hear about the project at an August meeting.

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