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Proposal for Huntington Beach desalination plant to receive final vote Thursday

Posted at 5:03 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 20:03:00-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)— Poseidon Water, the company that runs the seawater desalination facility in Carlsbad, is pushing to build another desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

"We developed the project in Carlsbad and have been operating that facility since we came online in 2015. In that time, we have produced almost 90 billion gallons of fresh water for San Diego County residents," said Jessica Jones, director of communications for Poseidon Water.

The company hopes to begin construction on the plant in Carlsbad next year. "Which will also produce 50 million gallons of fresh drinking water for about 400,000 orange county residents," said Jones.

She said that the daily amount is significant, given California's drought conditions.

"The water that comes out of the Carlsbad facility and the water that will come out of this Huntington Beach facility is the only climate-resilient water in the county, what that means is it's not dependent on snowpack in the sierras or local rainfall," she explained.

But, not everyone is on board with the plan. Opponents have pointed out concerns over environmental conservation, marine life, rise in water bills, and the hefty 1.4 billion dollar project cost.

On its website, the Surfrider Foundation calls the plan "unnecessary, expensive and destructive" saying this process uses more energy than water recycling and arguing that the intake pipes will suck up marine life.

"The screens at the intake are 1-millimeter screens and the intake is at a very slow velocity," said Jones. "The tiny larvae that are brought into the plant would equate to a pound and a half of fish every day, that is about the daily diet of one brown pelican." She said the project has been studied for 20 years.

Recently a California Coastal Commission staff report recommended that the project be denied. The California-based 'Stop Poseidon' coalition praised that recommendation, but on May 12th, the commission will have a final vote, deciding if the company will move forward with construction.

The Coastal Commission Public Hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Thursday, in Costa Mesa.

The Surfrider Foundation released the following statement Monday afternoon:

Surfrider has worked for twenty years to protect the coasts and prevent the Poseidon desalination plant from moving forward as the project would irreparably undermine the state’s environmental justice commitments, climate change goals and sea level rise adaptation policies. As there is no way to mitigate the enormous harm this facility would inflict on the community, ocean ecosystems and the climate, we agree with the California Coastal Commission's recommendation to deny the project from being implemented. 

The proposed Poseidon desalination plant is not only terrible for Orange County, but it also would not solve the state's water supply needs. For example, the project wouldn't reduce state water imports or service places that are more in need of new water supplies, such as parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. The Municipal Water District of Orange County's latest water reliability study does not show any significant water supply shortfalls through at least 2045 and even then, there are more sustainable and cost-effective ways to solve this issue. 

California should spend its money supporting sustainable, local water solutions, such as water recycling and water use efficiency, not on projects that damage ocean life and increase climate change impacts. The latest IPCC climate change report [ipcc.ch] specifically calls out desalination as a problem that makes the climate crisis worse. In addition, the proposed site is located in historic wetlands so it is vulnerable to sea level and groundwater rise in the next decade. Building in this location would also go against sea level rise adaptation policy guidance from the state and the California Coastal Commission. It's time to focus on how to restore the wetlands in this area to help store carbon and protect the community from rising seas to protect our coasts for the future.

Surfrider Foundation