In the News

Soquel Creek Water District customers will get to have a say on desal

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6/19/13

CAPITOLA -- The Soquel Creek Water District board voted unanimously to give district voters a chance to weigh in on a proposed $123 million desalination plant.

The decision comes as the district grapples with saltwater intrusion in its wells. Ahead of the board's vote, Bruce Daniels, longtime director of the Soquel Creek Water District, withdrew his motion for a moratorium on new water hookups Tuesday after other directors called the move premature.

The moratorium, if adopted, would have affected 600 property owners, some of whom bought lots years ago and hoped to eventually move here. A number of them described how the moratorium would have affected them.

Terry Fast of Walnut Creek has a vacant lot in La Selva Beach inherited from his dad who died before he could build.

Walter Hoff lives in Monte Sereno and has a "will-serve" letter for a lot here where he plans to spend his retirement. Carol Gioia  of San Jose owns a lot where she and her husband were going to build until he died in 2006. She favored a desalination plant over a moratorium.

"My lot was going to be valuable," she said. "Now (that) I've received your notice, you've devalued my property."

Capitola resident Tere Thomas had similar concerns, wondering if she and her husband would ever be able to build on their vacant lot and how a 35 percent water cutback would affect their use.

"My fruit trees are going to die," she said.

Daniels responded, "The alternative is saltwater intrusion and we don't have anything to drink."

He pointed out that saltwater intrusion is a problem not only in Aptos but also in the Live Oak portion of the water district.

Director Bruce Jaffe, participating by phone from Rome, Italy, wanted to target the customers "not using water prudently," and board president Tom LaHue wanted to discuss the "water demand offset" program first.

"A larger offset might help the aquifer as much as a moratorium," he said, referring to the requirement for builders to pay to install devices to save water.

Currently that requirement is 1.2 times the water use, and the board is considered raising that multiplier. In San Luis Obispo, it's two times the water use.

Capitola Shores, a 280-unit condo complex, is the top water user in the district, followed by Seascape Resort. Other are condo developments: Capitola Knolls, Capitola Villas, Woodside Terrace and Soquel Knolls. Three government agencies, the city of Capitola, Santa Cruz County, Pajaro Valley schools, are also in the top 10.

Daniels suggested asking two hydrologists review the analysis of the district's groundwater situation, comparing it to getting a second opinion before medical treatment, and the board agreed unanimously.

Developers Joe Appenrodt and builder Pete Testorff watched the discussion with concern. They worried their projects would come to a halt.

Not everyone opposed a moratorium.

"I and many other have been asking Soquel Creek to declare a moratorium for 12 years now," said Aptos resident Cherie Bobbe.

She also urged the board to let district customers to vote on the issue of a desalination plant.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz at

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