Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stimulus funds flowing through a "Pipeline to Nowhere"

As promised, DWSUWF is following up on an earlier post regarding the potential Pacifica "Pipeline to Nowhere." First, know that your loyal blogger fully understands that in the greater scheme of things, $2m of stimulus funds is less than a drop in the gigantic porkfest bucket that is the Obama Stimulus plan. But... having noticed a potential issue for a local project that has not received much attention, I feel I should try to ensure that at least this one little $2M drop of taxpayer funds does not get wasted.

Work with me here... this is going to be a deep dive into the weeds of this one stimulus project. I will make this as clear and concise as I can.

The Project
Here is the project as described on the Department of the Interior "Recovery Investments" website:
Pacifica Recycled Water Project - Pipeline, North Coast County Water District Pacifica, Calif. Reclamation ARRA Funding: $2,203,750 Total Project Cost: $8,815,000
Local Contact: Kevin O’Connell, Project Manager
Funding will be used to construct new facilities including 3.5 miles of pipeline, a 400,000-gallons storage tank and a new pump station. The project will provide recycled water to irrigation users that currently draw water from the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System, and thereby reduce users’ dependence on existing potable water supplies.
So we have an $8.8 million water pipeline project, of which $2.2 million will come from stimulus funds. We learn from a San Mateo County Times article that the remaining cost will be split between the San Francisco Public Utilities commission and the North Coast Water District using low interest construction loans from the State of California. It should be noted that both municipalities, the county and the state are facing enormous budget shortfalls and have no money to waste. We also learn from the article that 78% of the water flowing through the pipeline will be used to irrigate the Sharp Park Golf Course. The course is currently being irrigated with water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir with good potable water that can be better used elsewhere.

So far so good. Regardless of ones political posture on the stimulus package itself, and unlike a lot of the pork, waste and just plain stupid expenditures emerging from the Recovery.gov website, this project clearly meets the criteria of what the stimulus package was promoted to accomplish. It is an infrastructure construction project. It will create 275 jobs. It helps relieve the growing pressure on the San Francisco Bay area watershed. It's recycling water during a drought. It is a needed project. What's not to like?

The Problem
Sharp Park Golf course is located in Pacifica but owned by the city of San Francisco. Legislation has been introduced in San Francisco (Item 090329) to close Sharp Park and turn it into a nature preserve in order to protect an endangered garter snake and frog (both of which have lived in harmony on the course property for 70 years).

This legislation was submitted by San Francisco supervisor Ross Mirkarimi at the instigation of a well heeled out of state ecology organization with a reputation for intimidating municipalities with their high power legal machinations. They have funded a glossy website filled with half-truths promoting a phantasmagorical photoshopped vision of a "restored" Sharp Park. Nowhere in the website do they explain in detail where the money is going to come from to realize this wildly expensive and poorly thought out fantasy. The only organized opposition to this is an underfunded local grass roots organization of bay area golfers, preservationists and Pacifica residents who are fighting the good fight to save Sharp Park - a historically significant landmark golf course designed by Alister MacKenzie.

The SF Board of Supervisors is currently awaiting a study due at the end of the month, and will then decide the fate of Sharp Park. Common sense dictates that a simple plan be developed to insure the golf course continues to operate in harmony with the red leg frog and the garter snake. That would make perfect sense. But we are talking about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, egged on by well funded extremist eco-bullies, so - no telling what will happen. They could very well close the course.

Here is the point. If the Supes decide to close the Sharp Park golf course, the approved stimulus water recycling project will literally be a "Pipeline to Nowhere. " There will be no reason to waste $2.2 million of stimulus funds and another $6 million of California funds on this project.

The Prescription
Common sense dictates that a pipeline project to irrigate a golf course should not proceed if the golf course is to be closed. If there is no commitment by local, state, and federal leaders to the continued operation of the beneficiary of the pipeline (the Sharp Park Golf Course) the stimulus funds should be redirected. Again, this pipeline project is a good project that will help the community, create jobs, save water, and is a good use of stimulus funds, if there is a commitment to the Sharp Park Golf Course. So - what will it take to get that commitment?

This blog has a limited (if loyal) readership. However, I will do what I can to put a spotlight on the potential of funding a "Pipeline to Nowhere." Faced with public embarrassment, public officials will generally take the path of least resistance. In this case that path is a simple rational common sense approach:
  1. Commit to the continuation of the Sharp Park golf course.
  2. Implement procedures at the course to further protect the snake and frog.
  3. Build the pipeline to irrigate with recycled water.
  4. Find a way to inoculate Pacifica and San Francisco against abusive lawsuits from the eco-bullies in Tucson.
For a change, why not try to solve this problem before the money is wasted? To that end, over the next 24 hours I will be forwarding versions of this message to the following officials and organizations:

Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco
Mayor Julie Lancelle of Pacifica
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Representative Nancy Pelosi (8th District)
Representative Jackie Speir (12th District)
Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer
Vice President Joe (Stimulus Sheriff) Biden
Government Accountability Office - Fraudnet
Department of Interior - Office of Inspector General
Anyone else who might shine some additional light on this project

Feel free to chime in. I'll also try to get some reporters, and other blogs interested.

To borrow a phrase from the Bravo Channel - let's see what happens.


Pacific Riptide has been covering the pros and cons from a Pacifica perspective. They have a link to a video of Mayor Julie Lancelle recounting the history of this political battle to local Democrats last Saturday . She is fighting the good fight. Pacifica is lucky to have her as mayor.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

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SanFranLefty said...

Interesting story. I had not heard about this. Look forward to hearing updates on the issue.

mw said...

It should get exciting once the report hits the city council at the end of the month.

SanFranLefty said...

I saw in the Chron (or maybe it was SFist, since the Chron is total crap now) that the environmental impact report was not delivered by the deadline...so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens when it goes to the Board of Supes. Maybe Daly will be kicked off due to pulling an Ed Jew by then.

Come by and say hi sometime to the stinquers. We're having fun mocking the birthers.

mw said...

"Maybe Daly will be kicked off..."

We can only hope, but not likely. In this case, Mirkarimi is the problem. The chron did cover the late report and I added a couple comments. You can go there and give me a thumbs ups if you are so inclined.

I submitted an Open Forum piece to the Chron. If they don't print it (which is likely, since they print about 3 out of a 1,000), I'll put it here later this week.