New Morro Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant Green-Lighted by California Coastal Commission

By on August 9, 2019
Malibu wastewater treatment facility project

Morro Bay’s aging wastewater treatment plant, built in 1953, is located near the beach and the city’s high school – and is now failing to meet Clean Water Act standards. But a recent unanimous vote by the California Coastal Commission (CCC), sans two absent commission members, has approved a new permit application for an estimated $126 million project, which includes construction of a new wastewater treatment facility with complete with a water reclamation component.

“The Coastal Commission decision is vital for a drought-resistant and sustainable water future for Morro Bay and allows us to move forward to secure funding that will help reduce costs for our community,” said Morro Bay Mayor John Headding. Morro Bay’s Water Reclamation Facility project will be the city’s largest-ever infrastructure project.

The new Water Reclamation Facility Project has been in development since 2013 as the city staffers analyzed options for relocating the existing wastewater treatment facility. But Morro Bay residents have lobbied for years on both sides of the effort to build a new sewer facility.  Project opponents decried the project’s location and cost as well as an expedited planning process by the county’s board of supervisors.

Although the City has held more than 50 public meetings where the project has been discussed, one opponent, Morro Bay resident Carolyn Brinkman, stated in a public comment, “Those who say the greater benefit of the community outweighs the costs are putting the benefits on the backs of the most vulnerable,” according to the San Luis Obispo (SLO) Tribune.

But proponents of the project noted that the new advanced water purification facility will meet state regulations, protect the environment, and contribute a safe and reliable water source for Morro Bay’s homes and businesses. Additionally, the project will create a drought buffer and is capable of providing up to 80 percent of the city’s water needs in the future.

“This project will serve as [a] model for future coastal communities in light of rising sea-level issues,” Morro Bay Mayor John Headding said, per the SLO Tribune. “We think the result will be beneficial for generations to come.”

To meet state and federal requirements, Morro Bay must construct a new wastewater treatment facility in an inland location away from the coastal zone and coastal hazards, including sea-level rise, tsunami, and flood inundation. The Water Reclamation Facility Project is consistent with the Coastal Act policies by protecting the environment and coastal resources, and it will also provide a locally-controlled water source for the Morro Bay community.

The location for the new Water Reclamation Facility will be more than three miles inland, on South Bay Boulevard north of Highway 1, and include two new lift stations, approximately 3.5 miles of pipelines and wells in order to inject the purified water into the groundwater aquifer, which can later be extracted for reuse through the city’s existing infrastructure.

Morro Bay’s new wastewater facility will sit on about 15 acres of a 396-acre site at an estimated cost of$126 million including the construction of a new wastewater treatment facility with a water reclamation component that would replenish area groundwater by approximately 825 acre-feet of water per year. The current schedule includes construction beginning as early as September 2019 and an estimated project completion by 2022.