Commentary: Railroaded over the Canyon Drive pipeline action

Re: “Sanitary district OKs major Costa Mesa sewer pipeline project” (March 28):

The Costa Mesa Sanitary District, an agency that touts its “transparency” on its web page, certainly has some unorthodox methods for moving projects through the mill.

The Daily Pilot’s recent article reports the district board’s unanimous approval of two multimillion-dollar pipeline projects after a mere 20 minutes of discussion and little mention by the board of the concerns raised by several speakers and letter writers.

What is even more ominous is that despite the Canyon Drive pipeline’s guaranteed disruption of thousands of residents and some longtime businesses, the district did not make any effort to inform those who will be affected. After the affirmative vote on the project, we learned that a board member is now considering looking into doing some outreach to the victims of the district’s latest railroad job.

The board’s approach is preposterous and certainly defies its vaunted “transparency.” Seeking public input after a decision is made is as anti-transparent as it gets.

But wait, there’s more. Despite communicating with the board by letter before the vote, I have yet to receive any response whatsoever to my concerns, even though I provided my email and phone number.

The Costa Mesa Sanitary District’s modus operandi is even more bizarre when one considers the following: The Pilot reported that this is a done deal but previously reported that the project engineering and design have yet to be done. OK, will somebody please explain how this is a wrap when many steps are missing?

An agency has a fiduciary responsibility to its ratepayers, which includes mundane processes such as putting projects out to bid and hiring the lowest-priced, responsible bidder. How can this have been done before the design and engineering, which are necessary components to creating the “request for proposal” that is sent out to seek those bids in the first place? How can bids be submitted when the bidders do not have final plans on which to base their estimates?

The point is that this is not a done deal at all. After the design, engineering and environmental impact report are created and commented on by the public, and the Coastal Commission weighs in, the request for proposal must be written and released and the responsible bids received. Only after all those steps will the Costa Mesa Sanitary District board have the opportunity to award a contract to the winning bidder, sealing the deal.

Another strange aspect to all this is the silence from the Costa Mesans for Responsible Government (CM4RG) people. These self-appointed “responsible government advocates” have done nothing to help the thousands of residents who will be affected by the Canyon Drive pipeline project.

Canyon Drive residents and neighbors can still act. The Costa Mesa Sanitary District may not seek your input, but that does not stop you from giving it. Write an email and let the district know how you feel about disruption in your neighborhood.

ERIC BEVER is a former Costa Mesa mayor.