May 29, 2023
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1999 Final Report: Coastside County Water District
Background | Findings | Recommendations | Addendum

The Coastside County Water District (CCWD) serves the City of Half Moon Bay and a part of the unincorporated area of San Mateo County including Princeton and El Granada. The CCWD has four water supply sources: Pilarcitos Lake, the Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir, the Pilarcitos Well Field, and the Denniston Project. The first two are owned and operated by the San Francisco Water Department; the latter two are owned and operated by CCWD. The system consists of two water treatment plants, 17 miles of transmission pipeline, 83 miles of distribution pipeline, several water storage tanks, and other equipment.

The number of water connections CCWD may allocate is governed by the Local Coastal Program. These allowable connections are divided into priority and non-priority classifications. The priority classification includes visitor serving, marine related, commercial recreation and floricultural types of businesses and also low and moderate cost housing. The non-priority classification includes industrial uses located outside of Princeton, commercial uses, and all other residential uses. Water connections in the unincorporated area can be transferred from a property with a priority classification to another property classified as non-priority as specified in CCWD regulations and approved by the County.

CCWD has proposed to replace part of its transmission pipeline system. The 12 inch Carter Hill West line is to be replaced with 24 inch pipe, and part of the ten inch El Granada line is to be replaced with 16 inch pipe.

The San Mateo 1998 County Grand Jury received a complaint in which several allegations were made. The resulting investigation found that these replacements were justified due to the age of the existing pipe, leakage problems, and peak period demand at times being close to capacity. The 1998 Grand Jury did make three recommendations relating to CCWD publications and the development of a consistent method of allocating new water capacity connections.

The San Mateo 1999 County Grand Jury has received a further complaint which includes the following allegations:

  • the replacement piping for both lines is not ten inch as stated in the 1998 Grand Jury report.
  • the enlargement of existing pipe sizes is for growth-inducing purposes.
  • the addition of 305 new non-priority water connections in 1998 is not properly supported by the Local Coastal Plan of San Mateo County.
  • information is not made available to the public by CCWD.

The San Mateo 1998 County Grand Jury Report incorrectly stated that the replacement pipes were to be ten inch instead of 16 inch for the El Granada line and 24 inch for the Carter Hill West line. Correct information was received by the 1999 Grand Jury from CCWD.

The enlargement of the existing piping to 24 inch in the Carter Hill West line and to 16 inch in the El Granada line is justified. The Asset Depreciation Range guideline for transmission piping is 50 years. To not size the replacement pipes to serve the "buildout" or amount of building allowed by the Local Coastal Plan by the end of Phase II of the plan would be imprudent. The 16 inch El Granada line replacement will provide service to 55% of the peak day demand allowed by the Local Coastal Plan at "buildout." To serve the "buildout," another line will eventually have to be built. This additional line with the new 16 inch El Granada line will form a loop line in conformance with good engineering practice.

CCWD cannot issue connections greater than the number allowed by the Local Coastal Program. The holding of a water connection is necessary to the issuance of a building permit by the County or the City of Half Moon Bay. Both the County and the City have established a maximum number of building permits they can issue annually. Growth is controlled by the plans these entities have adopted. The role of CCWD is to provide a safe and reliable source of water within the growth limits set by the County and City. It is a role that CCWD is currently carrying out with its replacement projects.

The addition of 305 new non-priority water connections in 1998 is supported by evidence that in the mid-1980's errors occurred in the allocation and calculation of the number of connections to be reserved for priority Phase I use as opposed to non-priority Phase I use. These errors resulted in a reservation of connections for priority use in excess of that required and were not found by CCWD until 1998. San Mateo County staff reviewed and supported these findings of CCWD. By Board action, the County Board of Supervisors confirmed this conclusion allowing a transfer of 305 connections from priority use to non-priority use. The Board did request that CCWD reserve 83 of the 305 connections for a Moss Beach affordable housing site.

Information about the replacement projects has been provided by CCWD in its annual report, entitled Water Supply Evaluation, which is available to the public at the offices of CCWD along with other publications. The Grand Jury has reviewed these reports for 1997 and 1998 in which the projects and the need for them are described. The Draft Initial Study was made available for public review on March 9, 1998. A notice was posted at the CCWD office and an advertisement placed in the Half Moon Bay Review. Public comments were received until April 30, 1998. Written comments and CCWD responses were published as a part of the Revised Environmental Initial Study dated May 29, 1998, which also has been reviewed by the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury concludes that proper information has been provided to the public, although the provision in the annual water supply evaluation report of a fold out map showing the system and the locations referenced in the report would have been helpful.

The Grand Jury was unable to substantiate other allegations made by the complainant.


Recommendation 51

The San Mateo County 1999 Grand Jury recommends that the Coastside County Water District Board should add a fold out map to its annual water evaluation report. This map should show the system and the names and locations of the various parts of the system referenced in the report.

Addendum to Report Coastside County Water District

On October 19, 1999, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors upheld the appeal by the Coastside County Water District (CCWD) of the County Planning Commission's decision to deny a Coastal Development Permit to replace an existing ten inch water transmission pipeline in El Grenada with a new 16 inch transmission pipeline.

Prior to this decision, the Board of Supervisors had commissioned an independent engineering study by Brian, Kangas, Foulk to review the size of the replacement pipe. The independent study found that for the section of pipeline the application of CCWD covers, a 12 inch diameter line would be adequate for local distribution purposes under normal operating conditions; however, a 16 inch pipe was recommended as prudent engineering practice to provide operational flexibility for the system.

The approval of this replacement by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors may be appealed to the California Coastal Commission.

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