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Barnidge: Why dump 40 million gallons of reusable water into Suisun Bay every day?


By Tom Barnidge Contra Costa Times Columnist

POSTED:   05/15/2015 09:42:43 PM PDT2 COMMENTS

UPDATED:   05/18/2015 06:50:44 AM PDT



In a region where water is valued only slightly less than gold, it seems unfathomable that the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District dumps 40 million gallons of processed, reusable water into Suisun Bay every day. That's what Carolyn Phinney was thinking when she approached the agency about diverting some of its output to a 14.8-acre plot of unused ground it owns to irrigate a potential urban farm.


"Let's grow salads for schools and the food bank," she told Central San board President Mike McGill.


Phinney is executive director of AgLantis, a nonprofit organization that tries to find agricultural uses for underutilized public resources. That it took her more than four years to turn idea into substance is testament to her perseverance and to the hurdles to be cleared.

Central San, which is not in the business of farming, had to be convinced of the project's educational value for local schools before granting a lease ($1 per year for land and water).


Partners had to be found (Agra Tech of Pittsburg donated a 6,048-square-foot solar greenhouse, Tesoro funded its delivery and the Contra Costa County Workforce Development Board will assemble it). Donors had to be wooed (the project will be self-sustaining, but donations are funding the startup).


Further steps remain, such as approval from the county's Airport Land Use Commission (Buchanan Field is nearby), and land-use and building permits -- bureaucratic headaches that will span several months. But the project has advanced far enough for a recent kickoff event, which a dozen political dignitaries attended.


It's a terrific idea to provide low-cost fresh produce for deserving causes, but the project's greater good may be the messages it sends about the wisdom of urban farming -- local delivery, reduced fuel cost and emissions, less spoilage -- and the unrealized potential of recycled water, which is ideal for farming.


"It's high in nitrogen, high in phosphorous and eliminates the need for fossil fuel-based fertilizers," Phinney said.

Northern California is behind the curve in making the most of its water, according to Don Berger, a recycling specialist who spent 25 years at Central San. A fraction of the agency's effluent goes for landscaping use at Diablo Valley Community College, Contra Costa Country Club and parts of Martinez, but much more could be done.


He noted that recycled water is used to meet almost all farming needs in Monterey. "If you go to Safeway and buy stuff grown there, you're already eating produce farmed with recycled water," he said.


Recycled water also is used in the cooling towers of Southern California refineries. "Northern California is one of the only areas where all the refineries are not on recycled water," he said.


In San Diego, he said, plans are under way to purify recycled water for drinking. "We have a tremendous public resource, with a lot of value, that is sitting here largely unused."

There are, at least, small strides in the works, according to a spokeswoman at Contra Costa Water District, which now fulfills the Shell and Tesoro refineries' water needs but is working on a pilot program with Central San in which the latter would assume a portion of that demand. The water district, which by state code owns first rights to water delivery, had retained a firm grip on those accounts for decades until wiser heads prevailed.


Consciousness has been heightened. Opportunities await. Just ask Carolyn Phinney.


Contact Tom Barnidge at


Guest Commentary: Teams working to make 

recommendations for Northern 

Waterfront Initiative


By Federal Glover

Contra Costa Times

POSTED: 07/22/2014 04:23:32 PM PDT


Guest Commentary: Federal Glover: Teams working to make recommendations for Northern Waterfront Initiative By Federal Glover For the Contra Costa Times POSTED: 07/22/2014 04:23:32 PM PDT The Northern Waterfront Initiative is already generating exciting ideas six months since we hosted the historic forum that was held last January in Antioch. It was the first time all the stakeholders gathered in a single room. Waterfront interests included the cities along the northern waterfront, industry, which included small businesses as well as the large corporations, educators, environmentalists, park and recreation, a shortline railroad, the Army Corps of Engineers and a host of policy makers. Out of the forum, more than 70 people signed up for eight action area committees in specific subject to help formulate a strategic plan. Those groups are: Land-use, business climate and regulatory environment; Infrastructure investment; Development incentives and financing; Regional branding and marketing; Cluster development and innovation; Business support services; Workforce Development; Quality of life. Since January, the teams -- made up of public agencies, private or independent business people or corporations, and interested individuals -- have been meeting to pinpoint any possible obstacles, identify allies and research for any sources of financial backing for those various aspects of the waterfront's future. The East Bay Leadership Council leads most of the action teams. The action teams' goals are to identify the issues and where possible, make policy recommendations. Even though they've already had several meetings, anyone interested in joining any of the teams are welcome to call county staffer Rich Seithel at 925-674-7869 or email him Once the teams have their recommendations, they will submit them to aconsortium of public and private entities, which is being formed. The consortium will take these action team recommendations and prioritize them before presenting them to the Northern Waterfront work group. The work group consists of staff from the cities along the northern waterfront and the county. The work group will devise a strategic plan based on the refined recommendations of the action teams. That plan should be completed by the end of the year. The strategic plan will then be presented for approval to the Board of Supervisors and the northshore cities' councils. On other fronts: All the northern waterfront cities have lent their support for this important initiative. Our representatives in Sacramento and in Washington are behind the planning process and have agreed to do whatever they can in their respective capacities to help this initiative along. Our regional planning agencies, ABAG and MTC, are being kept in the loop and have been supportive. The county's community college district has secured funding for the job training aspect. We continue to seek funding opportunities for our regional planning initiative. Since the January forum, several private companies have expressed interest in locating their business on the 50-mile long northern waterfront. One such business, Vortex Marine Construction Inc., will be moving to the shoreline east of Antioch. Vortex specializes in large infrastructure construction projects and does business throughout the United States. The Northern Waterfront encompasses 47 square miles and contains 61 percent of our county's industrial zoned land. It generates $21.6 billion in annual economic output, or about a third of Contra Costa's Gross Regional Product (GRP). One of the recommendations that came out of the forum was an emphasis to seek out innovative projects that may lead into new directions in terms of future businesses for the waterfront area. One of these is the experimental farm being planned on 14.8 acres owned by the Contra Costa Central Sanitary District near Highway 4. CoCo San Sustainable Farm (CoCo Farm) is a project of AgLantis. CoCo Farm is an urban farm will grow produce using sustainable, organic methods in both conventional and hydroponic greenhouse production to provide for salads for schools and fresh produce for the Food Bank at a very low cost with a minimal carbon footprint. Besides offering hands-on science training and greenhouse management training as well as teaching sustainable agricultural production. In other words, the farm will be an incubator for green jobs. CoCo Farm will partner with other sustainable businesses to showcase their products and teach aspects of jobs related to these industries. For instance, Ecoloblue has offered to donate a machine that produces potable water from the atmosphere. As an example of the partnerships it envisions, the green house the farm will be using was manufactured in Pittsburg-based AgriTech and the Contra Costa Food Bank will take most of the produce for delivery to people and areas lacking fresh produce. Although most of the conversation centered on the economic aspect of the waterfront, 60 percent of the land that lies in the target area is zoned open space and is untouchable for development. As a spinoff of this effort, it is hoped that public access will be improved to those lands, most of it deemed as wetland and environmentally sensitive. With this initiative, we hope to add 18,000 more jobs by 2035 on top of the 26,000 jobs that are already here because of the commercial and manufacturing activity on the northern waterfront. This is a very long-term project and we shouldn't expect immediate results -- although exciting things are already happening -- but we're in it for the long haul so that our entire region can benefit from improving the Northern Waterfront, one of our county's greatest assets. Federal Glover represents District V on the county Board of Supervisors.

Contra Costa Special Districts Association Newsletter

Contra Costa Chapter of the California Special Districts Association

Summer 2015 June 2015 


Urban Farm Kickoff Event in Martinez Non-profit AgLantis (510c-3) celebrated a free urban farm kickoff party on Friday, May 8, 2015. The farm is on Central Contra Costa Sanitary District land directly across from 5501 Imhoff Drive, Martinez, (the farm does not have its own street address yet). Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla supporters of this urban farm for many years attended the event to discuss the drought and recycled water along with other local elected leaders. Bethallyn Black, the farm’s organic farmer, Master Gardeners, Beekeepers, and local farmers attended the event. Many Contra Costa County gardeners, farmers, and residents gathered to learn about this sustainable urban farm and high tech greenhouse that will be created on 14.8 acres of Central San buffer land, using recycled water.  



Newsletter 3 

Support grows for sustainable farm on Central Contra Costa Sanitary District land


By Theresa Harrington

Contra Costa Times

POSTED:   12/31/2012 08:00:00 AM PST

An Urban Farm at the Sanitary District?

  • Posted by Kimberly Lam on January 28, 2014 at 1:00am

  • Blog by Sustainable Contra Costa






Have you heard of the exciting proposed "CoCo San Sustainable Farm"? This is a collaboration between AgLantis, an environmental incubator and Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (CCCSD) in Martinez, CA. 


The initiative has been picking up momentum this past year; they are currently working on creating a 501c-3 non-profit called AgLantis (a take off on Atlantis, because they are agriculture and an urban island of plentiful (recycled) water).

AgLantis is engaged in contract negotiations with CCCSD for at least 14.8 acres of the west half of the Kwiwit Property, across from County Quarry and between Imhoff Drive and Highway 4 (near Interstate 680). 

Some updates and plans:


  • To Grow Healthy Fertile Soil, a green manure / erosion control crop of bell beans and vetch was planted by CCCSD. However, it has rained very little since it was planted and no irrigation is in place yet. Hence, the crop has struggled. Furthermore, geese have been eating the seeds. They are anticipating compost donations which they can then spread.

  • An Irrigation System is needed as son as another green manure crop is planted.

  • For the Fencing, an architect seeking a donation of 3,000' of fencing from a major construction company. It has been promised when it becomes available.

  • A Master Plan has been developed by Concord architect Peter Vatkov. The County Quarry will be asked to work with AgLantis to put in any necessary roads.


  • Planned Buildings include a barn, refrigerator storage for crops, a greenhouse, and a Center for Sustainable Living on the southwest corner of the farm. CCCSD is seeking the necessary permissions from the county for the smaller buildings. The Center will require considerable capital and additional building permits at a future time. The first structures are expected to be built in about a year.


  • The Center for Sustainable Living will provide a place for educating the public about the science and engineering related to the farm and other sustainable living practices that protect the environment. The Center will also provide a location for people engaged in the green movement (green technology, green jobs, initiatives etc.) to meet. Other prominent local architects working on the project plan to also work with local students to teach green building and LEED concepts. The Center requires a major sponsor or major capital campaign, and it will be a few years before this will get built.

  • CoCo San Sustainable Farm cannot happen with Community Support. They have a major need for contributions to get it launched (paying for insurance and infrastructure, etc.). You can also sign up to be on their volunteer list by emailing This project has had great support from local elected officials as well, including State of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. 


In case you aren't familiar with this project, see this CoCo San Sustainable Farm 1-pg SUMMARY, or you can read some previous news articles about it HERE and HERE. 

Click HERE for more information about recycled water from Central San, that would be utilized for this project instead of getting dumped into the bay. 

JFK University's Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership Announces Semi-finalists in Emerging Entrepreneurs Business Competition


Semi-Finalists Will Present Business Plans on April 9 in Concord


March 14, 2013

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