Surfing in the California desert? Developer’s plan sparks outrage over water use, drought-monitoring
More than two decades after a contentious debate over how to manage water for the sprawling Central Valley Project, a plan to build a state-of-the-art recreational surfing center at the base of the Tehachapi Mountains — an alternative to the government’s approach to managing water for the Central Valley Project — has drawn a rare spotlight from the public.
But the facility’s proposed water consumption rates have provoked opposition from environmental groups and coastal residents.
The idea for the surfing center — which would include a “restaurants, bar, and retail component” and is projected to cost $12 million to complete — was first proposed in 2005 by the California Sustainable Surfers Alliance and the Southern California Coastal Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.
Since then, dozens of people and organizations have spoken out against the project, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state’s Office of the State Water Resources Control Board.
The project has also stirred public concern about whether it will serve as a tool for a possible water-conservation push by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“We have a public-private partnership where the government has come in and purchased water from the [Central Valley Project],” said state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Bernardino. “We should be using that water [to meet the demands of surfers and to help relieve drought in the rest of the state].”
The idea for the surfing facility in the Tehachapi Mountains has been brewing for more than 30 years under the watch of Coastal Commission Chairman Ken Pimlott, who proposed the idea in a 1998 newsletter about the Central Valley.
But the project attracted attention from the public when Hueso and others started investigating whether the government should sell water for the surfing facility. (Coastal Commission Chairman Ken Pimlott is a supporter of selling the water.)
After Pimlott and other officials from the federal government, the state, and the California Water Impact Network made a public records request for information about the deal, the Sierra Club and Ducks