Counter Suit: Failed Water Project Leads Monterey County to File Claim Against Water District
Officials in Monterey County are pointing the finger of blame at one another after a failed $400 million desalination project has led to the water district filing a claim against the county and the county subsequently filing a claim against the water district.
The county alleges that the Marina Coast Water District is the one to blame for the failed project because of "secret agreements" with former county water board member Steve Collins. By arguing that the water district manipulated the approval process, the county’s strongly-worded claim asserts that the district engaged in “unlawful and deceptive conduct” in order to profit from the project and frustrate its progress.
It was hoped that the desalination project would allow the county to create a new source of drinking water, as it’s facing a state-ordered cutback on pumping from the Carmel River.
The Herald reports on the heart of the county’s claim: “District officials paid Collins for his influence at closed-session meetings of the county Board of Supervisors and the water resources agency board, where he had access to privileged information, and during public meetings where the supervisors and water board considered and approved, at his urging, the project agreements, according to the claim.”
The regional project also originally included California American Water, but it pulled out when negotiations were unsuccessful and it was revealed Collins was receiving payments. Collins is also suing the county and is facing conflict of interest charges.
The Public Utilities Commission recently shut down the project officially and all residents have to show for it is millions in wasted money and time and a legal mess that has entangled all involved parties. Around $40 million has reportedly already been spent.