Wishful Thinking

Supporters of the Morro Bay City Council recently referred to a webpage provided by Councilwoman Marlys McPherson. The page bills itself as “Facts About the [Water Reclamation Facility],” yet the actual facts and important context is conspicuously absent.

“The most wishful thinking of all is trying to put the plant back on the beach,” it says on the site. The site refers to one correct claim that the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to deny the city’s proposal to rebuild the treatment plant at its current location. However, the site claimed the commission had not changed their mind.

Half-true. The site erroneously conflates the positions taken by Commission staff — who remain concerned about the project at its current location — with the commission board. Since 2013, the Commission board has not taken a vote on the Morro Bay plant since the project was denied at the behest of mayor Jamie Irons [SOURCE: The Tribune, Jan. 14, 2013].

The Tribune wrote in 2013, “Moving the treatment plant to a new location will add from $12 million to $20 million to its cost, which translates into an additional $12 to $20 a month on the average sewer bill.” Yet five years later, the City now estimates the monthly costs for the sewer could cost over $247/month or more with conventional bond financing. Even with federal and state funding, there’s no mistaking the fact our sewer rates have increased drastically. In 2013, our sewer rates were $45/month. Our rates have increased at least five times since then! [SOURCE: The Tribune, June 30, 2015]

This leads to the next “fact” from McPherson’s site.

“Fact: The longer we delay, the more it costs, and ratepayers pay the price. We lose low interest loans, go through years of fighting the CA CC, and eventually go east of Highway 1 anyway. That’s the most likely scenario, despite what CAL and the wishful thinking crowd say.”

Speculation. There’s no need to counter “fact-checked” speculation with more speculation, so here are the facts. For five years, ratepayers have paid the price as the result of our council delaying the project. For example, to secure the low-interest $82 million Water Infrastructure and Finance Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan, the city must complete an environmental impact report (EIR) by the July 2018 deadline. Though Save Morro Bay spoke to an official from the California State Water Board that seemingly confirmed that Morro Bay was awarded the loan this month, the city has yet to submit a completed EIR. To date, with only four months before the deadline passes, there is no evidence the City has commenced work on a draft EIR [SOURCE: The Tribune, Sep. 23, 2017].

Oddly enough, the EIR has always been considered to be the most thorough evaluation of possible sites for new infrastructure. Yet our council voted for the South Bay location without an EIR for reference.

And lastly…

“Wishful thinking by CAL and others will lead us down the wrong path, and cost our rate payers more in the long run. Unfortunately, opponents of the 218 (if one is needed) are spreading rumors and falsehoods to stoke the fears of residents.”

Councilwoman McPherson, who has developed a pattern of personally attacking residents, pitting neighbors against neighbors [SOURCE: The Tribune, Oct. 5, 2017], accusing residents wanting an affordable project of falsifying sewer cost estimates that are readily found in various news articles and city staff reports. Now she accuses residents who want an affordable project of “spreading rumors and falsehoods” and “made-up wishful thinking.”

This is the kind of divisive, condescending and vapid rhetoric that contributed to divisiveness our neighbors in Los Osos endured for over thirty years with their wastewater issues. Opponents of the currently proposed WRF have been adamant about documenting the facts and educating residents on information that’s been made available to us. However, speculation from concerned residents is a byproduct of a city government that doesn’t value transparency.

It’s wishful thinking to assume we’ll accept McPherson’s wishful thinking and aspersions as fact.

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