By KAREN VELIE
It was the dream of fresh water that bedazzled San Simeon Community Services District officials: water that did not taste bad during dry spells because of high chloride levels. Build a reverse osmosis unit and have drinkable water 12 months out of the year.
But the contractors of the building to house the reverse osmosis unit hit a snag. In Nov. 2015, Madonna Construction discovered obstacles to installing the building pad as planned near the CSD office, adjacent to the Hearst Ranch, according to minutes of a district board meeting.
The district then decided to move the building site five feet to the east, even though two community members warned district staff their plans would place part of the building on the Hearst Ranch, according to CSD records. They had already secured $865,000 in government grants to fund the project, with assurances they were building the facility on their own property.
Five years later, the owners of Hearst Ranch hired a licensed surveyor to verify the water facility did not encroach on their land. However, it does. The Wallace Group determined 560 square feet of the CSD’s reverse osmosis facility is on the Hearst Ranch Conservation Easement, according to an Aug. 18 surveyor’s summary.
In 2005, two nonprofits and the state of California entered into a $92 million agreement with the Hearst family which permits the Hearst Corporation to graze cattle on the 82,000 acre ranch, but they are prohibited from developing the property. However, they can approve easements for infrastructure for utilities.
The CSD is currently negotiating with the Hearst Corporation regarding a proposed easement to place a community water tank on the ranch, and could possibly work out an agreement regarding the reverse osmosis facility.