In the News

Right to vote on desal in Santa Cruz sails through

By J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 11/7/12

SANTA CRUZ -- Santa Cruz voters have soundly said they want a future vote on a controversial desalination plant.

Measure P, a ballot question organized by the Right to Vote on Desal Coalition, asked voters not whether they want to approve the plant but rather whether they want a future say on plans to transform seawater into as much as 2.5 million gallons of drinking water per day. The City Council already granted citizens the right via a city ordinance to vote on the plant, but opponents were concerned a future council could overturn it.

With all 36 precincts reporting, the measure led 71 percent to 29 percent.

Rick Longinotti, a founder of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, said earlier on Tuesday a victory "may become clear to city officials that it will be an uphill battle" to win voter approval for the plant. He said it will indicate there are "serious questions about whether desal is the way to go."

The city and Soquel Creek Water District are proposing to build a plant, at an estimated cost of $125 million, to protect the city from severe drought and provide more river and stream habitat or fish while resting the district's overdrafted aquifers. Opponents seek greater conservation, water transfers and increased storage.

Longinotti said a win for Measure P "is an opportunity to work together with the city and all its stakeholders to work on those kinds of water security measures that everyone can agree on."

Five-time former Mayor Mike Rotkin said he was not surprised by Measure P's success. He was opposed to spending $70,000 of the city's money on the measure, and said he doesn't believe it is a good bellwether for how citizens really feel about desalination.

"We haven't done an informational campaign yet," Rotkin said. "That is the critical step that's next," he said.

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Asks voters to decide whether they want to change the city's charter to guarantee them the right to a future vote on desalination. It requires a simple majority to pass.

Yes 12,972

No 5,185

36 of 36 precincts reporting


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