It’s little surprise California American Water’s proposed desalination project and the fate of a public buyout effort aimed at acquiring the company’s local water system are at the core of the contests for two seats on the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District board of directors, given the way those two issues have dominated water politics over the past several years.
In the Nov. 3 election, appointed incumbent Gary Hoffmann takes on longtime Carmel Valley activist Amy Anderson in Division 5, which includes Carmel Valley and most of Carmel, while former Pacific Grove City Councilman and mayoral candidate Rudy Fischer competes with erstwhile California Public Utilities Commission Public Advocates Office legal counsel Karen Paull in Division 4, which includes Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest, and parts of Monterey and Carmel.
Division 3 director Molly Evans is running unopposed, but she is planning to move to New York to take over as public works director for Fort Hamilton, requiring the district to replace her through appointment or special election.
Hoffmann was appointed to the water district board in November 2018 to replace the late Bob Brower when he resigned for health reasons. The Division 4 seat is being vacated by Jeannie Byrne.
Both Paull and Anderson are backed by Public Water Now, the activist organization that has loudly opposed Cal Am and its desal project and has been the driving force behind Measure J and the public buyout effort. The two have raised a combined $45,000 for the contest, including backing from Public Water Now ($1,000 each) and the Monterey County New Progressives ($1,000 each).
Hoffmann and Fischer have both expressed support for Cal Am’s desal project as part of a “portfolio” water supply to offset the Carmel River pumping cutback order, albeit at a much-reduced size, and have taken a wait-and-see approach to a potential public buyout based on overall cost. Hoffmann has reported no campaign contributions, while Fischer has raised $18,000 — most of it in personal loans to himself.
Hoffmann, 62, is a retired civil engineer who spent 11 years with the state water board working with cities and other public agencies in California on wastewater treatment and collection facilities, and 19 years with the state Department of Health’s drinking water program, as well as serving as interim general manager for the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District.
He said his top issues are the implementation of a reliable long-term water supply for the area, halting the illegal diversions from the Carmel River and restoring the riparian habitat and eco-systems, and reversing the Seaside basin overdraft while stopping further seawater intrusion.
Hoffmann called desalination a “critical component in successfully addressing the top water issues facing our region now and into the future,” but added he questions the sizing of the Cal Am desal plant and said the project should be…