Art critique

MMWD criticism of grand jury intensifies need for clarity ahead of election – Marin Independent Journal

November’s election for three seats on the five-member Marin Municipal Water District Board just got a jolt. On June 13, Marin County’s highly respected civil grand jury released its best-selling report, “A Water Resilience Roadmap for MMWD.”

The jury found that the water supplier for 191,000 residents of central and southern Marin failed to carefully plan for adequate drinking water. His conclusion: “Last year’s drought emergency could have been avoided if MMWD had taken sufficient measures to ensure a resilient water supply. With the growing challenges posed by climate change, the mistakes of the past cannot be repeated. The MMWD must establish a roadmap to achieve water supply resilience without delay.

Incumbent water directors were given a direct challenge: “The Grand Jury is asking MMWD to commit to securing a four-year water supply, or an additional 10,000 to 15,000 acre feet per year. If MMWD is able to publicly share its position regarding this short-term commitment, it would allow for public debate and discussion on this critical issue prior to the next district elections in November 2022.”

The report makes it clear that what was essentially a “conservation only” strategy has failed. Board members deny that was their approach. A look back shows that conservation, better known as water cuts, was the council’s favored means of dealing with the drought, coupled with endless promises to explore a range of supply alternatives . Studies came and went, but taking decisive action was apparently not part of the plan.

This unacceptable result was not due to MMWD’s top notch professional staff. As it should be, the direction of the district has been formulated by its policy-making board of directors.

The incumbents and outgoing director Cynthia Koehler now have an obligation to explain to their constituents what went so wrong to cause the grand jury to conclude that MMWD dropped the ball by developing an adequate water supply.

Incumbents and challengers must disclose the specific water supply they will pursue if elected. The question is not, what options will they explore? These are the ones they will specifically commit to implementing.

The grand jury is calling for an official water supply roadmap by the end of the year. Individual candidates for water boards can and should act sooner. They must disclose before ballots are sent to voters exactly what combination of options they will pursue. Any candidate who fails to do so certainly does not deserve a vote.

Voting will take place in three of the five electoral districts of the MMWD. In Division 1 (Sleepy Hollow, Marinwood and North San Rafael), incumbent Jack Gibson will be challenged by Ian Nelson. Division 3 (Ross Valley, Greenbrae and San Geronimo Valley) sees incumbent Larry Bragman opposed by Ranjiv Khush. In Southern Marin Division 4, Koehler is not running for re-election. Newcomer Jed Smith will run for the job. Expect other candidates to emerge as the filing remains open until August 12.

The elements of a possible new long-term roadmap for water supply are now clear. Last Tuesday, the MMWD held a working session, its “Strategic assessment of water supply”. A top-notch analysis of all options was presented by national engineering firm Jacobs & Associates.

It was clear that a combination of the most cost-effective options must be pursued quickly if the agency is to achieve the four-year water reserve recommended by the grand jury. These options include desalination plans and increased storage capacity.

Additional information will be needed to refine the cost component of the alternatives. This can be developed before the end of the summer, allowing ample time for MMWD candidates to formulate the combination of options they will publicly commit to pursuing. This will allow for the informed debate that the public deserves.