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Simple Solutions


This is a planning summary of the Morro Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). We highlight that tertiary (clean water) mandate flooding or tsunami is not a cause for jurisdictional requirement when deciding to relocate the existing WWTP to a new location. If the existing plant upgrade work is completed through a phased process, any additional or tertiary cleaning processes can be built onsite or have water transported off-site (reverse direction of outflow) to complete processing.


Depending on total cost outcome currently being solicited by the City, there may be an opportunity to consider other solutions reduced the long-term cost for power and maintenance in the future. 




The City began several years ago with a plan (original site) for an upgrade with a budget of $28 million (9/4/2007 Carollo DFMPR). the current plan proposes new WWTP located approximately 2 miles away with estimated costs that may reach several times that amount. In a city of approximately 6000 full-time residents, may not be affordable.  


The City of Morro Bay has been planning/studying WWTP for almost18 years, creating several studies and reports. Current upgrade plan is based on a replacement to the existing WWTP. Prior studies focused on building a "New" plant verses "Phased" upgrade to the existing plant. 


When the last WWTP replacement plan (at original site) was submitted to the California Coastal Commission (CCC), the plan was summarily rejected because it was considered NEW development. 11/10/10, CCC Letter to Morro Bay Public Services Addressing DEIR Comments:  The CCC refers to Morro Bay WWTP as a NEW development or replacement. In specific comments (project description), the CCC letter states even though the engineer infers this is an upgrade, it is actually a plan to replace the existing WWTP. CCC states the plan must be reviewed as NEW development. As a NEW development, the CCC reviews this plan as they would any new coastal development, including all normal review criteria and jurisdictional requirements at that coastal location. (See ARTICLE 6. Development [30250 - 30255] ( Article 6 added by Stats. 1976, Ch. 1330. ) 30250.)


If work was originally planned as an existing plant with typical phased upgrade vs. total replacement, the plant would not be subject to CCC review. CCC would not be involved in any review process when repairing an existing facility.  

Based on this rejection, the City continued planning a new replacement plant, ultimately locating this new plant outside the city. Other arguments also arose to justify a new WWTP such as coastal flooding and tsunami. both conditions do not require relocation of an existing facility.


Challenges for the current plan vs. existing upgrade.


  • In a city of 6-7000 full-time residents, with a large percentage on a fixed income, the total cost needs to be reliable and affordable.


  • Unfortunately, the city of Cayucos quit the joint partnership, due to cost and unknown escalation. This situation now saddles the City of Morro Bay with the entire cost impact principally derived from the WWTP relocation. All final costs are a direct burden to the residents of Morro Bay.


  • Understand that at this time there are alternatives to save money, decrease the environmental footprint while creating a new opportunity the community may readily embrace.     




Although the plan for a total plant replacement is reliable means for treating water, Morro Bay does not technically require building a new plant in another location. The only mandate is for tertiary finishing current effluent discharge to an acceptable level. This can be done mechanically onsite as an additional process, or water can be pumped offsite for further mechanical or biological processing without the expense of building the new plant and underground infrastructure.   


8 years ago we outlined a simple, unique and natural method for finishing the water with lower short and long-term maintenance cost without any impact to the new land development at a fraction of the current cost. This is an opportunity for the City and community to reimagine water use by finishing it biologically while allowing for unlimited water reuse.  


Many engineers and scientists challenge the belief that sewage treatment facilities must be large, costly, and unsightly. They believe natural technologies, such as constructed wetlands, offer better treatment at lower costs, with better aesthetics and less environmental impact, than the traditional methods currently being planned. Using a constructed wetland to finish water vastly decreases overall program cost. The constructed wetland design would include all final treatment, denitrification, etc.     


Constructed wetlands are an effective means of integrating wastewater treatment and resource enhancement, competitive with conventional wastewater treatment alternatives. The Morro Bay WWTP location is ideally located at the base of the Morro Creek, intuitively allowing the water feed to a constructed wetland in the upper valley. This upper valley and basin topography has several ideal locations for a constructed wetland system.  


We challenge the community and the City to take a serious look at the real conditions for cost and impact as well as the amazing options and opportunities that are currently available.








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