News Feature | November 19, 2013

California Desalination Plant Gets Push Back

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water stakeholders in California are in a major battle over a desalination plant that is just short of regulatory approval. 

"Poseidon Water is seeking final approval for its 50-million-gallon desalination facility, but it won't come without a fight from environmentalists and a push for changes to the company's plan," the Orange County Register recently reported.

The California Coastal Commission, the state agency charged with protecting the shoreline, is green-lighting the facility as long as the owners clear such hurdles as further limiting the amount of marine life it traps in and limiting the concentration of saltwater sent back to the ocean after desalination, according to the report.

“If you want to do desalination, there’s an environmentally benign way to do it,” Tom Luster, an environmental scientist at the commission, said in the Associated Press. 

Not possible, the company said. 

“We think the Coastal Commission staff got it right in their recommendation of approval; we just think the conditions they require are inferior environmentally, technically infeasible and they conflict with approvals by other permitting agencies,” said Scott Maloni, vice president of Poseidon Water, in the Register

The commission's recommendation said the project "raises significant and complex coastal protection policy issues, including conformity with policies that require protection of marine life, water quality, wetlands, environmentally sensitive habitat areas and listed species, and policies meant to avoid or minimize hazards associated with flood, tsunami, and geologic hazards."

Opponents of the project, including Orange County Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation, said additional water "isn't needed and would further harm the ocean ecosystem off Huntington Beach," according to KPCC.  

"The total cost of the project, which includes the delivery system, financing and interest, is estimated up to $899 million, according a report from the Orange County Water District," the Register report said. 

For more about desalination on Water Online, including red tape inhibiting industry growth, click here.

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