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Marin Municipal Water District Desalinization Study Proposal, Measure S (November 2010)

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Measure S, a Marin Municipal Water District Desalinization Study Proposal was on the November 2, 2010 ballot for voters who live within the boundaries served by the Marin Municipal Water District in Marin County. It was approved.

What was at issue is a proposed $105 million facility that would have the capacity to convert 5 million gallons of bay water into drinking water on a daily basis. Work on the project was suspended heading into the election.

The Desalinization Study Proposal was placed on the ballot by the board of the Marin Municipal Water District. It was placed on the ballot to compete with a measure that earned its way onto the ballot when over 11,000 signatures were collected to qualify it for the ballot. The competing measure, Voter Approval for the Marin Desalination Plant, would require that without voter approval, the MMWD board could not "take any steps towards approving any contract relating to the planning or construction of any such facility without prior approval" of a majority of voters who live in the district. Although both measures received a majority of approval votes, Measure S, the board proposed approval of the desalination plan, received more "yes" votes than Measure T and so the less restrictive Measure S superseded Measure T.

The board of the MMWD, believing that Measure T was too restrictive, drafted and placed on the November ballot the Desalinization Study Proposal, which, when approved, explicitly allowed them to undertake planning and study activities without a public vote, although under their measure, the public would have the final say on whether to construct a desalinization plant.[1]

See also: Voter Approval for the Marin Desalination Plant, Measure T (November 2010)

A simple majority vote was required for approval.

Election results

Measure S
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 54,540 69.55%
No23,88430.45%
These final, certified results are from the Marin County elections office.

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Measure S: Ordinance 418. Shall an ordinance be adopted requiring voter approval before the Marin Municipal Water District approves constructing, or financing the construction of, a desalination facility?[2]

Support

Arguments in favor

Cynthia Koehler, a member of the MMWD board, said she is in favor of the board's counter-measure: "I'm not a desal supporter in particular. I think there are significant problems with it. But I'm not comfortable with an initiative that would tie the board's hands on planning. I know it's what a lot of you want, but I respectfully disagree."[3]

Nona Dennis, president of the Marin Conservation League, preferred the district's measure to the anti-desalinization initiative. Dennis said, "In our view, in a water district that relies wholly on two watersheds, already fragile and ecologically compromised, for its supply, wise use - i.e., efficiency, conservation, recycling, etc. - is the obvious first priority. But the district should not be put in a straitjacket when it comes to the ability to keep open the distant but possible future option of desalination. The Monterey Peninsula has had to turn to desalination to replace some 10,000 acre feet of water annually because the habitat of the threatened steelhead trout fishery in the Carmel River, the peninsula's historic source of water, is damaged and cannot be rehabilitated without water...The district's ballot measure still leaves final control in the hands of the voters, who will have the opportunity to make the final decision before any desalination facility in the future actually could be constructed."[4]

Editorial opinion

The Marin Independent-Journal endorsed a "yes" vote on Measure S, saying, "Measure S is the prudent, commonsense approach to an important issue facing Marin."[5]

Opposition

"Yes on T" campaign logo

Opponents

  • Marin Democratic Party
  • Marin Republican Party
  • Marin Green Party
  • Democracy for America-Marin
  • 6th Assembly District Democrats
  • Green Science Policy Institute
  • Surfrider Foundation - Marin County Chapter
  • Food & Water Watch
  • Marin Coalition
  • Marin Mothers for Safe Water
  • Marin United Taxpayers Association
  • Marin Water Coalition
  • Mario Ghilotti
  • Sustainable Tam Al-Monte
  • SPAWN
  • Paul Hawken, Author
  • Normon Solomon, Author
  • Peter Coyote, Actor
  • Bob Weir, Musician
  • Esther Wanning
  • Dianne Levy, Founder/Director, The Maritime Heritage Project
  • Peter Barry, M.D., Former Mayor of Ross
  • Lew Tremaine, Mayor of Fairfax
  • Linda Pfeifer, Vice Mayor of Sausalito
  • Larry Bragman, Vice Mayor of Fairfax
  • Jeff Kroot, San Anselmo Council Member
  • Paul Chignell, Former Mayor of San Anselmo
  • Sue Brown, Ross Valley Sanitary District
  • Mary Anne Maggiore, Former Fairfax Mayor
  • Pam Hartwell-Herrero, Fairfax City Council
  • John Reed, Fairfax City Council
  • Barbara Dolan, College of Marin Trustee
  • Esther Blau, Former Director of Marin Healthcare District Board
  • John Severinghaus, M.D., Former Director of Marin Healthcare District Board
  • On August 26, 2010 at their monthly meeting, the Marin County Republican Central Committee unanimously opposed Measure S and endorsed Measure T.

Arguments against

Arguments in support of Measure T included:

  • Measure T is fiscally responsible. MMWD has spent 20 years and millions of ratepayer dollars pushing a San Rafael desalination plant to convert Bay water into drinking water. Measure T requires a vote of the public before MMWD spends $30 million more on permits, designs, and contracts for this desalination plant.
  • Measure T is a community measure. Local citizens collected over 18,000 signatures from Marin voters to put Measure T on the ballot.
  • Measure T is endorsed by the Marin Democratic, Republican, and Green Parties. In a rare moment of agreement, both parties are calling for a vote of the public before MMWD spends million more on advancing this controversial desalination plan.
  • Another reason to support Measure T is the water source for proposed desalination plant: the polluted San Francisco Bay. Apart from being costly and unnecessary, desalination trades pure rainwater for polluted Bay water.

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