After heated debate, the California Coastal Commission opposed a controversial plan by the Poseidon Water company to build a massive desalination plant on Huntington Beach.
Despite worsening drought and repeated calls by Governor Gavin Newsom to use the Pacific Ocean as a source of drinking water, commissioners voted. I am unanimously opposed to Thursday night’s plans. The decision, recommended by a committee member, could end the company’s plans for a $1.4 billion plant.
By denying Poseidon’s permit, the commission demonstrated independence from the Newsom administration, sending the message that high costs, strong opposition and risks such as rising sea levels could be major obstacles to large-scale desalination plants off the California coast.
The governor says California needs desalination plants to cope with extreme drought. warned of voting It would be a “big mistake” to oppose the project.
Activists who called the proposal bullshit of privatizing water infrastructure for profit said the decision was a triumph of fact-based regulation over politics.
The project was first proposed more than 20 years ago, and the long fight has included a list of controversial issues. This includes whether the proposed plants were vulnerable to sea level rise and their impact on marine life.political lobby.
Before the vote on Thursday night, Vice Chairman Caryl Hart said the proposal had raised a lot of concern for her.
“This freshwater proposal is the privatization of water. It offers great private benefits,” said Hart. She agreed with agency staff and said the site was the wrong place to build the plant, in part because it’s on top of an earthquake fault.
She also said the company has not yet obtained binding consent from the water district, which is still requesting water. “It would hurt the public welfare,” she said.
Director Dayna Bochco agreed with the staff’s findings and said the impact on marine life would be “an incredible degree of destruction.”
Meagan Harmon, one of the governor’s appointees on the committee, said the project would “disproportionately impact the most vulnerable.”
“I wish I didn’t have to vote for this. I am not against desalination,” said Harmon.
In testimony ahead of the vote, Poseidon and his supporters argued that building a desalination plant would support the region’s water supply and make it more resilient. They point to a worsening shortage of imported water supplies from the State Water Project and the Colorado River, citing severe drought in California and the West and higher temperatures from global warming.
Opponents of Poseidon argued that desalinated water was unnecessary because northern Orange County already had an ample supply of groundwater and recycled wastewater. They said the project would only benefit Canadian parent company Brookfield Infrastructure and its investors, and low-income families would be particularly hard hit by the rate hike.
“Seawater desalination should be a last resort,” said Tracy Quinn, president and CEO of environmental group Heal Bay. She said there are better, more affordable solutions to boost Orange County’s water supply.
The company said the cost hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the monthly water bill could increase by roughly $3 to $6 per household. Commission staff concluded that the project’s water rate increase would “disproportionately affect millions of low-income residents,” despite the lack of detailed information on the cost.
When committee staff recommended that the project be rejected last month, they wrote in their report This part of Orange County “has a short-term need for the project” and other proposed water projects, including wastewater recycling, are likely to be more cost-effective and address anticipated future demand. decades.