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10/13/2023 Letter from the General Manager

Dear Cambrians, 

We have had a busy couple of weeks (and months) with various District issues. We had a wildland fire just three miles south of the District, and a major water main break, and we continued to improve our weed abatement goals, which are overdue (more to come later). I want to praise the CCSD Board for their work on several District issues they have tackled in the short time I have held the position of General Manager. In my short tenure, we have worked closely with the Board to bring to light several practices of the District and GMs of the past that needed to be addressed. It has been difficult to make those changes because changing past practices is hard. I understand it is easy to be a “Monday Morning Quarterback,” as they say. Nevertheless, we have a dedicated Board trying to bring fiscally responsible policies and practices to the forefront of our daily responsibilities. Some of those decisions are met with resistance and, to some extent, controversy. 

With that said, I have struggled with some political theater within our community that has been demonstrated on social media and in open governance sessions. To clarify what I mean by political theater, "Political theater" refers to actions, events, or political behaviors designed to be highly visible and symbolic rather than substantive or genuinely participatory.

These actions are typically exaggerated, dramatic, or otherwise staged to attract media attention and manipulate public perception, often distracting from other issues or creating a particular narrative.

Key Characteristics of Political Theater:

  • Symbolism Over Substance: Actions or events that are more symbolic than substantive. It may lack practical or significant impact on policy or governance.
  • Manipulation of Public Perception: Crafted to shape or redirect public opinion or emotions. It might divert attention from other pressing issues. The spectacle and drama are integral to spreading the desired message.
  • Strategic Intent: Usually, it serves a specific political purpose, such as energizing a base, discrediting opponents, or justifying policies.
  • Emotional Appeal: Appeals more to emotions than to rational or pragmatic considerations.
  • Performative Elements: It encompasses speeches, events, or gestures that are performative in nature.

I am proud to say that our Board and staff have not engaged in these behaviors. When we bring an issue before the community, it is done through a well-vetted staff report, conferences with legal counsel, and a thorough discussion with the Board of the issue. The Board, as it is constituted, does not make decisions in a vacuum; they do their due diligence on every agenda item. I spend 6-8 hours preparing and meeting with every member of the Board (individually before our meetings) to discuss our agenda items. The District has no hidden agenda; it works for you and your community's best interest. 

Administration & Finance Departments

The Cambria Community Services District Administration Office is open Monday - Thursday and every other Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or by appointment. The Administration Office is closed for lunch daily from 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact the Administration Office at 805-927-6223.

District staff created a page on the website for current contracts, agreements, and grants. The link is

Facilities & Resources Department

To submit general inquiries, or to report any issues on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, public restrooms, Cambria Dog Park, or to schedule a meeting with Facilities and Resources Manager Aguirre, please submit your inquiries or concerns-here:

EV Charging Stations

The contract with Thoma Electric is complete; we are meeting with the contractor next week to begin the work. 

Fire Department

We welcome Interim Fire Chief Michael Burkey to his new role. He has and will serve the District well in his new position. 

Update on Weed Abatement

Paradise Tree Service and Mike Rice have cleared almost all the 900 lots that failed inspection in July. We have approximately less than 75 remaining. I hope to have an update for you as soon as the last week of October.  

If you have any questions or concerns regarding weed abatement for improved parcels, please contact CAL FIRE at 805-927-4262. CAL FIRE is inspecting all improved parcels Monday through Thursday. For all other questions regarding weed abatement for vacant parcels, please contact the Cambria Fire Department at 805-927-6240.

The San Luis Obispo County Fire Safe Council shared the link below about the 0–5-foot non-flammable clearance value for reducing structural ignitability. The video is 2 minutes long and a good illustration of the importance of no flammables with 5 feet.

Report on 10/6 Green Fire 

The Green Fire was along Highway 46 in northern San Luis Obispo County and was completely contained as of Tuesday morning. The Green Fire was first reported around noon on Friday, October 6th, along the 6000 block of Highway 46, just east of Cambria. The fire grew to 243 acres before it reached 100% containment on Tuesday, October 10th. Our Cambria Fire Department was one of the first crews on the scene and did a phenomenal job assisting other allied agencies in thwarting the spread. 

Water & Wastewater Departments

Cambria Skatepark

Our CCSD consultant reviewed the current conditions with SLO Public Works, who agrees that no additional sidewalks will be extended beyond the utility vault. There will be no amendment to plans or additional engineering needed. When the District applies for a construction permit, we must fill out a waiver request to be approved by the County Board of Supervisors. The District will follow up with a waiver request in January 2024. 

East Ranch Restroom

The planning permit is almost complete. There has been some delay due to a change in the project manager who will interface with the County.  The District will need to prepare a will serve letter, pending the Community Park Master Plan update to address water to bathrooms. 

Water Main Break

On Tuesday, October 10th, we had a major water main break that affected service to the District. Staff did an excellent job of restoring the service with a temporary fix. However, major work remains. Please look at our updated schedule of work below. 

East-West Village Transmission Line Replacement Proposed Schedule (subject to change)

Water staff has partially located the 90* Elbow connection of the 10” line that intersects at the West side of South Bound Main Street. (South of Cambria Drive). The elbow connection is in a challenging position adjacent to a storm drain to make a new connection joint. But it can and will be performed. The difficulty will not add additional cost, but this one connection will take an entire day to complete. This connection is critical to re-establishing service to Mechanics Bank.

Day One - Tuesday, October 17:

South Bound Lane of Main Street will be closed from 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Excavation begins to install one 10” Valve at the 90* elbow to energize the entire distribution system, except for the forty feet of transmission line perpendicularly crossing Main Street.

Day Two - Wednesday, October 18:

North Bound Lanes of Main Street will be closed at 7:00 a.m. - TBD.

Excavation begins to install one 10” Valve at the just repaired connection on Main. This installation replaces the 10” Tee and Valve, connecting the current system to newly relocated transmission lines. While the connection is being performed, trenching and preparation for the new line crossing Main St. occurs.

Day Two - Wednesday, October 18:

7:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m. Overnight Main Street distribution system partially shut down for tie-in. The areas previously affected by the isolation for the leak will be the same locations affected by the repair.

Day Three & Four - Thursday, October 19 and Friday, October 20:

Main Street surface restoration.

Status of the Wastewater SST Project as of 10/13/23

  • 70% of design drawings have been submitted.
  • Submittals approved:
    • fine bubble diffusers 
    • Grit chamber blowers
  • Submittals for approval:
    • Course bubble diffusers
    • Mixer anoxic zone 
    • Equalization pumps

Job site trailer- The District is investigating purchasing the job site trailer that is used by the construction team during the project. It could be used for valuable office space, which, is needed at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. It could be acquired at a significant discount after the SST project is complete. However, more discussions need to be had as we approach the Board with such an ask. 

Coastal Development Permit

District staff met with California Coastal Commission Executive Director Dr. Huckelbridge, Dan Carl, Kevin Kahn, and Tom Luster on August 31st. The participants engaged in constructive dialogue on many important issues, including the status of the District’s Coastal Development Permit Application for the Water Reclamation Facility. The District and Coastal Commission staff have agreed to meet monthly as we progress with the permitting process.  

The staff has awarded WRF CDP consulting to SWCA Environmental Consultants. SWCA is a consulting firm that, since 1981, has performed comprehensive environmental planning, regulatory compliance, and natural and cultural management services both locally and globally. SWCA will help the District update our WRF project description and work with our regulators to ensure its completeness. 

We had a kick-off meeting with our SWCA environmental consultants on October 10th to begin a review of the internal CDP scope created by utility staff and outline areas for improvement and better insight into SLO County’s concerns and needs. Staff has a site visit scheduled with SWCA on October 17th. In the interim, we have shared our project folder and additional information with our consulting planners. 

Instream Flow Study (IFS) & Adaptive Management Plan (AMP)

CCSD utility staff and Biologist Kevin Merk assembled for an informal meeting to discuss upcoming AMP and IFS work. Biologist Merk will be assuming the environmental and biological reporting for the District, replacing long-time District biologist Cindy Cleveland. Merk led the environmental and biological reporting for Morro Bay’s WWTP project and developed beneficial contacts with the EPA while obtaining their permits for operation. We hope to use his experience with the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). WIFIA Grant communication for the EPA to acquire funding for the District’s environmental endeavors. We look forward to creative discussions concerning topics such as habitat restoration of the Title 27 pond and WRF mitigation.

Meter Replacement Program

The initial pilot program has been slowed due to delays in the receipt of materials. Transmitting antennas and mounting hardware have been received, but the meter registers have been slow to ship due to production delays. We anticipate delivery of materials by mid-October. Meter registers will be immediately installed upon receipt.

Stuart Street Tank Replacement 

Staff is working closely with our consultants to finalize geotechnical analysis and communication with the Coastal Commission to establish if a Mitigated Negative Declaration is in order or if a Categorical Exemption would be acceptable due to previous filings when initially installed. Staff contacted the EPA Project Representative to see if they could shed some light on a future funding date. EPA staff assured that it was “in process” but could not provide a date for funding.

Staff is developing a scope of work for design. Utilities staff has received several bids and selected Heritage Tree to prepare an arborist report for the location, which is a requirement for our environment permit for the Stuart Street Tank.  

San Simeon Well Field Transmission Lines

The staff has been working closely with the District’s consultant, Cannon, on data acquisition and past permitting that has been previously performed. Since our kick-off meeting, we have obtained aerial footage and images have been returned. Cannon is in the process of creating exhibits for proposed alignments. The next group meeting will be the week of October 16th to vet the options for alignment. Environmental analysis will be initiated this fall.

Water Distribution

Water Department staff has had their hands full the past few weeks. A record-breaking number of distribution system leaks surfaced in late September. Most are small and can be repaired immediately. Other larger leaks require traffic control and road closures, which require coordination with the County Public Works Department. Wastewater staff has been working on wet weather preparedness and ensuring resiliency during storm events. Staff is ensuring booster station pumps, new belt replacements, and emergency power backup generators have been serviced. Collections staff has also been working on inspecting and clearing out lines before and after booster stations.

October 4, 2023, Board Meeting Update 

For a more detailed Board meeting transcript, go to

Santa Rosa Well 4 Negotiations

The District has continued its efforts to negotiate with the Cambria Unified School District for long-term access/rights to the SR4 well and easements. To provide some background on the matter, the CCSD entered into an agreement in December 2000 for “Alternative Point of Water Diversion at Coast Union High School.” The agreement provided an alternative location for the CCSD to appropriate water from the Santa Rosa Creek underflow due to the MBTE plume, which resulted in the District being unable to use its Santa Rosa Creek wells. As discussed below, the SR4 Well has become a critical part of the CCSD’s water source for the community.

The initial ten-year agreement was replaced by a new agreement in 2012 (the “2012 Agreement”). The 2012 Agreement was for another ten-year term and included renewal of easements related to access and use of the SR4 Well that had been granted to CCSD under the original agreement. The 2012 Agreement was to expire in September 2022 but has been extended so that the CCSD and the CUSD could negotiate a new agreement. The 2012 Agreement now expires at the end of September.

The 2012 Agreement includes recitals that reflect the fact that the SR4 Well is a “critical domestic water source for the community of Cambria, including for drinking, firefighting, and other purpose...” and is a “...critical resource to the citizens of Cambria to protect life, health, property and the provision of essential public services.”

Water Department staff has advised that the SR4 Well, in conjunction with Santa Rosa Well 3 (SR3), provides the dry season supplemental water supply to the community. During drought, the use of the wells is limited regarding diversion. Annual Diversion is 218-acre feet in total for SR3 and SR4. Of that 218 AF annually, 155.3 are available for “dry season” diversion. The dry season begins in May and extends until October. In addition, of SR3 and SR4, only SR4 provides consistent water quality. SR4 is located in a relatively shallow and highly porous aquifer with good raw water quality. SR3 is unstable, intermittent, and is vulnerable to flooding. Even if SR3 becomes more reliable through additional treatment trains, SR4 is still necessary to maintain an appropriate and safe contingency.

The 2022 diversion from the SR4 Well produced less than 80 AF total for the year. While that number might seem small, it provided 26 million gallons of critical water for the community with record low well levels in the San Simeon Creek aquifer. It also should be noted that in January 2022, the CCSD had to rely solely on the SR4 Well during the major repair of the San Simeon transmission line. 

In late September, the District retained an appraiser to determine the value of the SR4 well easement and related access easements in the hopes that, once the value is ascertained, we can negotiate an agreement that is in the community's interests. In the meantime, the District has continued to pay the annual rent, prorated monthly, as an exhibition of good faith. Today, the District has received another counterproposal and will be reviewing the proposal with legal counsel and will bring it before the Board shortly. 

October 4, 2023, Board Meeting Document

Resolution 53-2023 Updating the Assignment of Banking Powers

October 12, 2023, Special Board Meeting Update 

For a more detailed Board meeting transcript, go to

The Board of Directors adopted Resolution 54-2023, declaring an emergency, and authorizing the immediate expenditure of funds to repair the East-West Village Transmission Line failure and approved a budget adjustment. 

A contractor has been selected and work will commence on Tuesday, October 17th. The project will encompass 40 feet of water main installation with two tie-in locations and asphalt/roadway repair. 

October 12, 2023, Special Board Meeting Document

Resolution 54-2023 Declaring an Emergency & Authorizing the Immediate Expenditure of Funds to Repair the East-West Village Transmission Line Failure & Approving a Budget Adjustment (pending district attorney's signature)

October 12, 2023, Regular Board Meeting Update 

For a more detailed Board meeting transcript, go to and choose which item you would like to listen to on the timeline dropdown. 

The Board of Directors received a presentation from the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) for Recycle Right.

The General Manager presented updates to the Strategic Plan and the Board of Directors approved the updates. 

The Board of Directors approved a new General Manager performance evaluation form.

The Board of Directors appointed Jeff Wilson to fill the Parks, Recreation & Open Space Committee vacancy. He will serve the remainder of the respective term, which expires on February 1, 2025.

The Board of Directors directed staff to advertise to solicit candidates to fill the vacant position on the Finance Committee, and we are currently accepting applications. Applicants must live and be registered to vote within the CCSD boundaries. The selected candidate will serve until February 2025. The Board of Directors will consider all applications and appoint a Finance Standing Committee Member to fill the vacant term at the Regular Board meeting on November 9, 2023, commencing at 1:00 p.m. Applications can be delivered to the Cambria Community Services District administration office or drop boxes located at 1316 Tamsen Street, Suite 201, Cambria, California 93428, mailed to Cambria Community Services District, Attention: Haley Dodson, PO Box 65 Cambria, CA 93428 or emailed to Haley Dodson. The CCSD is accepting applications until the position is filled. 

Upcoming November Board Meeting Items (subject to change):

  • Receive a presentation from San Luis Obispo County Emergency Services Manager for Zonehaven.
  • Discussion regarding the 2024 Fire Hazard Fuel Reduction Program process and deadline.
  • Discussion and consideration to fill a vacant seat on the Finance Committee.
  • Discussion and consideration of Policy 1040.2 Regarding Response to Correspondence to the Board, CCSD Operating Principles Policy 3230, Policy 1045 Legal Counsel and Auditor Policy, and elimination of Policy B-02-2018.
  • Discussion and consideration to approve a will-serve letter for the Cambria Skatepark restroom.
  • Discussion and consideration to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Regional Biosolids Cooperative.
  • Discussion and consideration of First Quarter Budget Report for Fiscal Year 2023/24.
  • Discussion and consideration to approve the updated Budget Policy.
  • Discussion and consideration to approve the updated Fund Balance Cash Reserve Policy.
  • Discussion and consideration to receive Ad Hoc Committee Report on the Strategic Plan workshop process and consider recommendations for a facilitator.
  • Discussion and consideration of approval of the Zero Liquid Discharge Pilot Testing Program.
  • Discussion and consideration to approve a deed restriction and will serve letter for East Ranch Preserve Restroom.
  • Discussion and consideration of providing electronic payment services with Tyler Technologies.

On Thursday, November 2, 2023, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., I will work out of the Cambria Veterans' Memorial Hall. I would love to meet interested community members and hear your thoughts. We will provide coffee, snacks, and the ability to engage in dialogue about everything Cambria.

As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas. If you have any concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me or any of our management team.

Thank you again for your support; I am at your service. 

Matthew McElhenie

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