SAN CLEMENTE : Meeting Tonight on Water-Sharing Plan

Representatives of the Marine Corps and a local water district will meet with residents tonight to discuss a proposed water-sharing partnership that would provide a new area water supply.

Under the plan, the Tri-Cities Municipal Water District would share high-quality water beneath San Mateo Creek with the Marines at Camp Pendleton.

Proponents say the plan is worth the estimated $6-million price tag for the district to drill the wells, build the infrastructure and distribute water in exchange for access to the underground basin, which is located at the northern edge of the base.

The partnership will provide not only a local water supply but an important reserve for 70,000 South County water customers, proponents say.

South County now depends on water from the Colorado River and Northern California, imported by pipelines that are susceptible to earthquakes and floods. And water district officials have warned that there is only enough storage capacity in Dana Point and San Clemente for a five-day water supply.

But opponents charge that the tiny Tri-Cities district is using the partnership to save itself from extinction.

The Orange County grand jury is studying whether Tri-Cities should merge with the other three South County water agencies that wholesale water to districts that serve customers. City officials have previously said they are concerned that the city will be left holding the bill for developing the new water supply if the Tri-Cities district is dissolved.

Tonight's meeting begins at 7 in the Little Theater of San Clemente High School, 700 Avenida Pico.

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