New Advisory Ballot is a Good Idea?

One of the most-read articles (as measured by page visits and length of visit stats – see privacy policy for information we use and don’t use) has been the “Advisory Ballot on Desalination”. No matter your position on which additional water source Cambria should pursue – Cambrians seem to have reached a consensus that more water is necessary. Which source seems to still be of hot contention, as evidenced by last night’s discussion. (If you missed last night’s fun, keep you eyes here for more parts of my report on it and Kathe Tanner stayed all evening, so the Cambrian is likely to have some more information).

Before this Town Hall meeting, Joan Cobin spoke of getting a better idea of what Cambrians’ are thinking at the event. As she was closing the 4 hour-long meeting last night she wanted to make sure everyone was aware that only about 80 of the town’s 6000 were there and although the majority of them (she said about 75%) were resisting the desalination project and had many questions about trust, it was not indicative of the rest of the town. She seemed to imply that most of the people in Cambria support the actions of the Board, so they stayed home. They feel their viewpoints are represented by the Board members, so they don’t have to attend the meetings. Well, which is it? If you can’t get your supporters out to a meeting you were hoping would quiet the dissenting voices, how many supporters do you have that you can really count on? I might feel a bit frustrated if I were in Ms. Cobin’s place – in any board member’s place for that matter. I think I would have done as much as I could to pack the Vets Hall with supporters.

Now my question about an advisory ballot seems even more important. Where were all the supporters of Desal and the Goals of President Cobin? And are the voices we heard last night just louder than most? I’d like to know what YOU think. What trade-offs really exist in placing an item on the ballot as an initiative? I’m willing to rock the boat a little bit to make sure the community’s interests are being respected and verifying that Desal IS what the majority of the community would support. Eight years is a long time and the population is made up of different people than were here nearly a decade ago. Maybe all it will take to ensure majority support is taking the time to explain the alternative again. Or maybe not.


Call for writers:  In a study completed in 2002 (at the latest) several alternatives were examined as possible solutions for the shortage of water. If you haven’t read the report (included sometimes called “Task 4″ and included in the Environmental Impact Report for the CCSD Water Master Plan), you would be well served to do so. A couple months ago I called for volunteers who would read and summarize the main points , but as yet no takers. If you are interested in this assignment, contact Amanda.

Last 5 posts by Amanda Rice

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7 Responses to New Advisory Ballot is a Good Idea?

  1. Elizabeth Bettenhausen says:

    Before doing a useful survey, we Cambrians need lots more information. At the Town Hall meeting we learned that the desalination plant is an idea, not a project.
    Here are some questions. What desalination plant design does CCSD propose? How much would it cost to build it today? in five years? What do they propose to provide energy for the plant to desalt the ocean’s water? How much would that cost? What is the cost for daily operating and maintaining of the plant? What infrastructure changes would be required for the desalting plant to work efficiently? Which taxpayers and rate payers would pay for all this?
    Here are some other questions. What is CCSD doing these days for conservation, the water source that ranked #1 in the study we paid consultants to do before the board’s vote for desalination in July 2003? What programs does CCSD propose for recycling, the water source that ranked #2?
    Studies done in the 1990s and early 21st century could not or did not address water source options now available. Full recycling of water, often called toilet to tap, provides water as pro-health as the water we now drink. Respect for the earth’s resources is not only becoming more popular these days in “green” advertising. It’s also becoming essential for survival.

  2. Frank DeMicco says:

    It is my belief that public input is on the desal project is absolutely needed before millions more dollars are spent. I also agree that a PROJECT needs to be defined and all costs for that project need to be presented. You cannot find anywhere a Board endorsed desalination project – they seem to be moving forward after endorsing a technology not a project – Will it supply 300 Acre-Feet; 600 Acre-Feet; or 900Acre-Feet? Will it cost $10 Million or $16 Million? What is the Life Cycle cost – meaning what is the sum of the annual cost of financing the construction + the cost of annual operating and maintenance costs? Is the CCSD committed to the $38Million BRP as a condition of desalination?

    Is seems that the CCSD has liberally interpreted the last “advisory ballot” of desalination as an endorsement of a BRP without giving the advisory voters the cost of that BRP.

    (The parallels to the war on terror are scary – CCSD “We need water – water will run out – business community will collapse, homes will be abandoned – desal is the answer – $10Million – or is it really $54 Million?)

    Once the Board makes a fully detailed, all encompassing proposal (which it has not as of this late date) – we should have and advisory vote -OF THE RESIDENTS OF CAMBRIA – votes should only be requested from registered voters of Cambria, or, alternatively, owners of active water service accounts – these are the only persons who actually will be responsible to pay for these costs if and when such a project is actually built.

    The CCSD should prepare a Project data sheet that represents their proposal ASAP so that the community can discuss the project not some amorphous technology concept.

  3. Doug Buckmaster says:

    I agree with the remarks of Amanda Rice, Elizabeth Bettenhausen, and Frank DiMicco. Any advisory ballot must be voted upon ONLY by residents of Cambria and NOT outside (or inside speculators) owners, since it is the residents who will become responsible for the ultimate cost. The District has been negligent in not studying and implementing recycling, increased conservation (such as mandatory cisterns on ALL new construction, perhaps rewards for implementing cisterns and other rainfall retention devices), and providing for more storage of water. Desal definitely is not the only solution for Cambria. It also probably is the most expensive, both initially and for the Life Cycle, as Frank suggests. Plunging ahead towards desal as the District has done for many years is nothing less than irresponsible. Paying three-quarters of a million dollars for lobbyists is outrageous. Statements that they have “brought us” $22 million are totally inaccurate. For example, the almost $10 million settlement with Chevron had nothing to do with lobbying and the $10 million obtained by Lois Capps for desal construction is not money in the bank at all. It has to be funded by Congress in legislation approved by the President. That is highly problematic.

  4. Raul F. Sandoval says:

    One would think that after eight years of an arrogant and stubborn approach by the CCSD in attempting to establish a desal plant for Cambria, that they would consider an alternate choice.
    Common sense would come into play after spending a great amount of tax monies from the people who live in Cambria on an idea that has been a complete failure from the start. What does it take to wake up our Cambria Community to an incompetent CCSD board and administration ?

  5. Jim Ensley says:

    I believe when the desal is built, I will be paying some type of fee for it even though I am only a lot owner. Currently, as a lot owner I pay $80 a year directly to the CCSD, I also pay a Cambria Health and CSD Fire assessment fee on my property taxes. In addition, I have to pay to have my lot cleared in order to pass the fire inspection each year.

    In 2001 my wife and purchased our lot with plans to retire in Cambria by 2011. At the time of our purchase there were about 40 permits issued each year. Then came the moratorium. The CCSD Board finally took action to do something about water system and the tanks that had been left to deteriorate and developed a plan to provide a back-up water supply along with a build out cap. This plan has been carefully and is being systematically carried out.

    Eventhough this plan will cause me to over $30,000 EXTRA for permits to begin custruction, I am will to do so because I know it is necessary.

    However, there are those in the community who have been sucessful in stalling the plan every step of the way. Not because the want to reconsider a new water source, but because they don’t want any more homes built are looking for another way to stall the progress of the obtaining an alternate water source.

  6. Lynn Bjorklund says:

    “Who gets to vote”

    Some would exclude “outside owners” from voting on the Advisory Ballot. I guess I am an “outside owner” since I vote in another county. I am a property owner and part time resident and I buy my water just like everybody else. Since none of us knows how the desal project would be paid for I think we should ignore the resident/nonresident distinction and open the vote to all property owners and rate payers.

  7. Werner Koch says:

    For the record Life Cyle Costing analysis was fist suggested to the CCSD in 2004 by the original “Cambrians for Fiscal Responsibility”. The document provided simplified guidelines to two members of the CCSD ( water engineer and a former director). The object was to illustrate a method to examine alternative water enhancement systems for selecting the least cost alternative for all property owners. The least cost approach is important for a small community because there is a limited amount of paying customers for which the costs can be spread over. A final latest proposal is presented on a Cambria Website. It is repeated here. .

    Life Cycle Costing, History, Reasons, Guidelines and Application. 12/16/11

    After World War II, continuing problems involving weapon system effectiveness led to the establishment of a Weapon System Effectiveness Industry Advisory Committee (WSEIAC) by the Air Force System Command. For example, Lockheed was bailed out on the C-5 cargo aircraft contract because of cost overruns. The demand for improved performance and more sophisticated systems resulted in increased complexity, additional maintenance and failure cost consequences. The committee of selected experts in industry and government provided a standard technique to appraise management of weapon system effectiveness of all phases of weapon system life. Hence, life cycle cost (LCC) analysis was one major outcome of WSEIAC in the 1960’s. The result was the Department of Defense (DOD) issuing LCC guidelines. In the mid l960’s life cycle cost (LCC) methods spread to the commercial industry as indicated by Reference l).

    The life cycle cost is the total cost of ownership of a system including design, production, operation, maintenance, modification and decommission. It sums cost estimates from inception to disposal for annual time increments during the projected life involving the time value of money. The objective of LCC analysis is to devise the most cost effective approach from alternatives to achieve the lowest cost of ownership. Support costs are often 2 to 20 times greater than the initial procurement costs.

    The reasons a LCC analysis is necessary are because of typical problems and conflicts observed in governments and contractors. Examples are:
    l) Voting “yes or no” can result in a “biased” high cost project.
    The “Grant Process” can be inefficient. Possible factors are: expensive lobbying, delays, contractual constraints, and matching funds burden.
    2) limited funds of communities
    3) Shareholders want to increase stockholder wealth as the only criteria.
    4) Project engineering wants to minimize capital costs as the only criteria.
    5) Maintenance engineering wants to maximize up time hours as the only criteria.
    6) Reliability engineering wants to minimize failures as the only criteria.
    LCC flexibility allows applications with capital expenditures over $20,000.

    The procedure for the LCC analysis is summarized as follows:
    Step 1) – Sponsor chooses each bidder’s alternative. At least 3 with the required capability are recommended for analysis.

    Step 2) – Select a simple life cycle analytical model for the project and “tailor” with guidelines at a bidder’s conference. Many specified models (some with software) are available. The analysis should be unbiased. Example bidder guidelines are as follows. The same model should be imposed on all bidders. Costs not under bidder control are provided such as permitting, lobbying, regulatory, and user labor. `
    Any grants should be credited to all alternatives to remove bias against a configuration. Any litigation cost should be charged to the related alternative. Select a projected life based on industry experience or planned phase-out. Determine the yearly operational profile of uptime versus downtime or dormancy. If uncertain select a “highest observed demand”. Negative values are customarily assigned for all identified costs and positive values are used for grants or profits. Bidders continue using the following steps for their candidate.

    Step 3) – Collect or estimate the cost data for identified major categories. One method consists of non-recurring cost categories plus recurring cost categories. Typical non-recurring major cost categories may be studies, permitting, purchasing, concept, design, construction and acceptance testing. Typical recurring cost categories may be periodic certification, operation, maintenance, depreciation, and logistics- spares. A resultant block diagram can be called a cost breakdown structure.

    Step 4) – incorporate costs into the LCC model for all major categories and add them up for each year. Multiply every yearly summation by a present value (PV) factor (e.g. 12% discount rate) to account for inflation. The result is a table which identifies all yearly costs (negative) in columns ending up with present value (PV) totals.

    Step 5) – Construct LCC status curves. Each PV column total is plotted for every year to form a curve. Next add the PV column totals for all years to obtain a negative net present value (NPV) in the last year. Successive yearly column totals are added and plotted for every year ending at the NPV.

    Step 6) – Construct comparison bar( Pareto) charts. – A bar can be constructed for each major category by adding its PV costs for every year to the last year. The highest bar to the lowest bar is plotted. This technique identifies “cost drivers” from the “trivial”. The cost drivers can be reviewed for possible design, procedural and overhead changes.

    Step 7) – Each bidder provides a LCC report to the sponsor (i.e. CCSD). The winner is chosen based on the lowest negative NPV (Step 5). The winning bidder’s report must be defensible to the community. For example, a separate EIR.

    The following illustrates the usefulness of LCC analysis for Cambria. This correlates to a desalination candidate which requires pumps to force salt water thru membranes for water treatment. Desal should be proven to have the lowest LCC among all candidates.
    Reference 2) summarizes a LCC analysis for 3 water pump alternatives in a processing plant for a planned duration of 10 years. Cost details are listed in Reference 4).
    Alternative 1 is to continue Solo ANSI pump operations with a 100 HP, 1750 RPM, 250 PSI, 500 GPM, pump.
    Alternative 2 consists of adding a back-up ANSI pump waiting to be used when a failure is detected. The reliability of the sensing switch was assumed 1. The capital costs are: $8000 (pump), $3000 (check/isolation valves) and $2500 (installation).
    Alternative 3 consists of replacing the Solo ANSI pump with a Solo API pump with the same performance. The costs are: $ 18000(pump) and $3500(installation) with 4 hours down time.

    No depreciation was considered for alternative 1. Profit and tax provisions were considered for all alternatives.

    Alternative 2 was the wining alternative. At the 10th year the lowest negative PV was $4,724 and the lowest negative NPV was $89,993 (Step 5). The main cost driver for alternative 2 was power. The selection of alternative 2 avoided process failures and reduced the high cost of unreliability. Electrical power consumption was clearly identified by the LCC method. The main cost driver for alternatives 1 and 3 were unreliability costs.


    1) Earles, D.R. “LCC – Commercial Application – Ten Years of Life Cycle
    Costing”. Proceeding 1975 Reliability and Maintainability Symposium,
    IEEE, l975.
    2) Barranger & Associates, Inc. Humble, Texas, USA – A Life Cycle Cost
    Summary, International Conference of Maintenance Societies, Perth,
    Western Australia, May 20 – 23, 2003.
    3) U.S. Department of Defense, Life Cycle Costing Procurement Guide
    LCCI, LCC2, LCC3, Washington D.C., July 1, 1970.
    4) Barranger , H. Paul, and David Weber “Life Cycle Cost Tutorial”, Fifth International Conference on Process Plant Reliability, Gulf Publishing Co, Houston,TX, 1996


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