Orange County, CA – Poseidon Water, and its Canadian-owned parent company Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, have spent millions trying lobbying for approval of a new desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The billion dollar facility would be the twin of a Carlsbad plant Poseidon built in December 2015, which has been plagued with problems since its opening.
As Voice of San Diego reported yesterday, the Carlsbad plant failed to deliver about 20 percent of the promised water in 2016, and produced no water for 46 days. During its 18-month history, the plant’s reliability has gotten worse. It delivered 90 percent of the water San Diego County Water Authority ordered in 2016, and just 70 percent so far in 2017. At the same time, it has racked up more than a dozen water pollution violations.
Meanwhile, the company’s Huntington Beach proposal is facing steep opposition from environmental and equity leaders across the state. Much of the opposition centers on the outsized cost and lack of need for the plant (given the availability of cheaper alternatives, like recycled water from Orange County’s leading edge Groundwater Replenishment System, which produces more than twice the water of the proposed desalination plant for a fraction of the cost.) But harm to Orange County’s coastal ocean, and the tourism, recreation and fishing businesses it supports, are also concerning.
On August 17, the Fish and Game Commission sent a letter to the State Lands Commission urging the Commission to consider sea life impacts of desalination. The letter emphasizes the importance of adhering to the Ocean Plan Amendment that requires new desalination plants to minimize marine life impacts through smart site selection and the best available science and technology. Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach plant is near several marine protected areas and uses outdated open ocean intake pipes that will suck up tons of fish and eggs. The State Lands Commission will consider the permit for Poseidon’s proposed plant on October 19.
“The troubled history of the Carlsbad desalination plant, from unreliable water deliveries to repeat pollution violations, should be a cautionary tale for Orange County,” said Garry Brown of Orange County Coastkeeper. “Poseidon is a bad actor, there is no reason to sell off a vital public service to this Wall Street water company when we have better options available to meet our long-term needs, like the Ground Water Replenishment System that now delivers twice as much water for substantially for less money and is scheduled to be expanded.”
Following the State Lands Commission hearing, the project will be reviewed by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Coastal Commission. For more information about the proposed desalination plant, and alternatives, visit www.californiadesalfacts.org.