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

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A Voter Approval for the Marin Desalination Plant, Measure T ballot proposition was on the November 2, 2010 ballot for voters in the City of Marin in Marin County.[1] It was approved. But was superseded by a dueling measure.

In August 2009, Marin's Municipal Water District board approved a desalination facility. Measure T said that the water district cannot "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. Measure T would have let residents vote before the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) spends $30 million more moving forward with an expensive, energy intensive desalination plant in San Rafael. The total cost for the plant was estimated to be over $400 million.

Although Measure T received a majority of votes, the dueling measure, Measure S, which as proposed by the Marin's Municipal Water District board, received more votes and, therefore, superseded Measure T.

Election results

Measure T
Approveda Yes 43,244 55.30%
These final, certified results are from the Marin County elections office.

Dueling measures

The board of the MMWD, believing that Measure T was too restrictive, drafted and placed on the November ballot competing Measure S, which explicitly allowed them to undertake planning and study activities without a public vote, although under their measure, the public would still have the final say on whether to construct a desalinization plant.[2]

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

Desalination opponent Frank Egger was disappointed by the board's decision to place a competing measure on the ballot. The board's measure will be listed first on the ballot. Egger said, "By placing of the board's measure first and the voter's initiative second, the mere placement on the lengthy ballot greatly increases the chance for the board's measure to outpoll the voters initiative. You will confuse the voters and some will not even vote on the second ballot option."[3]

All major political parties in Marin County have endorsed Yes on Measure T. On August 26, 2010 at their monthly meeting, the Marin County Republican Central Committee unanimously endorsed Measure T and opposed the competing Measure S.

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Measure T: Ordinance 419. Shall an ordinance be adopted requiring voter approval before the Marin Municipal Water District approves, authorizes or undertakes the construction of a facility to desalinate water from San Francisco Bay, or other water body, or appropriates, authorizes expenditures for, issues revenue or other types of bonds, or approves other funding mechanisms intended to pay for such construction, or takes any steps towards approving any contract relating to the planning or construction of any such facility?[4]


"Yes on T" campaign logo


  • 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
  • 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

Arguments in favor

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.



  • Cynthia Koehler, member of the MMWD board
  • Nona Dennis, president of Marin Conservation League

Arguments against

Cynthia Koehler, a member of the MMWD board, said she is in favor of Measure S, the board's counter-measure to Measure T: "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."[5]

Nona Dennis, president of the Marin Conservation League, preferred the district's Measure S 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."[6]

Editorial opinion

The Marin Independent-Journal endorsed a "no" vote on Measure T, saying, "The IJ also urges voters reject Measure T because now is not the time to build legal hurdles in front of possible water sources we might need."[7]

Path to the ballot

11,068 signatures were required to qualify the measure for the November 2010 ballot, and about 15,000 signatures were submitted.[1]

External links


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