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In The News

Developer Discovers Water
To build massive RWC development, but won’t say where it’s coming from

By David DeBolt

Daily Post, 12/17/09

The development company planning to build 8,000 to 12,000 homes on the Cargill salt ponds in Redwood City announced yesterday it has found a reliable water source to satisfy the project’s needs – an issue that had been of great concern to residents and city leaders.

The announcement, however, came with one caveat: the developer, DMB Redwood City Saltworks, wouldn’t reveal the source of the water.

And that omission left some Redwood City officials and environmental activists scratching their heads.

“From what they’ve released…it looks like a half-baked idea,” said David Lewis, the executive director of Save the Bay, who has fought the project. “They are trying to throw things against the wall to see what sticks.”

John Bruno, vice president and general manager of Saltworks, said yesterday that one of the company’s parent entities has acquired a water supply that not only solve the project’s water demands, but could also provide additional water for Redwood City. “This is a significant milestone,” he said.

But he declined to say where the water would come from, telling the Post he wants to wait until the city releases its analysis of the project’s water demand, which is scheduled to be finished in January.

The housing development, which will take 20 to 30 years to build, will require about 1 million gallons of water a day, according to an estimate by a consultant hired by the developer.

The Hetch Hetchy water system is the source for most of the water on the Peninsula. It carries water from the Sierra to San Francisco and 26 other cities and water districts. Hetch Hetchy is owned by San Francisco and the other cities buy their water from San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission.

A number of cities have larger allocations than they use, and they’re allowed to sell their unused water to others.

For instance, Palo Alto has an allocation of 17 million gallons of water per day but only uses 12.7 million.

Jan Ratchye, assistant director of utilities for resource management for the city of Palo Alto, said her city isn’t selling any water to the Saltworks.

“It’s not coming from Palo Alto,” she said.

According to an annual survey by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which represent cities that buy Hetch Hetchy water, Milpitas, Mountain View and Sunnyvale also have any unused allocations that exceed 1 million gallons a day.

Jeff Gee, who was elected to the Redwood City Council last month, said once officials learn about the project’s proposed water source they can ask more pointed questions. But for now, “it actually poses more questions,” Gee said.

Ralph Nobles, a Redwood City resident who led two unsuccessful ballot measures last fall that fought the development, said he’s skeptical about the developer’s water source and wants more information.

“That’s just one of the hurdles they have to get over,” Nobles said. “We’ll do everything we can to restore those wetlands to the Bay.”



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