After hearing hours of heated debate, the California Coastal Commission voted against a controversial plan by the company Poseidon Water to build a huge desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
Despite worsening drought and repeated calls from Gov. Commissioners voted against Gavin Newsom’s plan to tap the Pacific Ocean for drinking water on Thursday night, despite worsening drought and repeated calls from Gov. This decision was made by staff of the commission and may have an impact on the company’s plans to build the $1.4 million plant.
In denying Poseidon a permit, the commission demonstrated its independence from the Newsom administration and also sent the message that high costs, vocal opposition and hazards such as sea-level rise can present major hurdles for large desalination plants on the California coast.
The governor stated that California needed the desalination plant in order to deal with extreme drought. He also warned that voting against the project would prove to be a mistake. “
Activists, who called the proposal a boondoggle that would privatize water infrastructure for profit, said the decision was a victory for fact-based regulation over politics.
The project was proposed for the first time more than 20 years ago. There have been a number of issues that have been contested over the decades. They include the proposed plant’s impact on marine life, whether it was vulnerable to sea-level rise and the company’s heavy political lobbying.
Vice Chair Caryl Hart stated that the proposal raised many questions for her before she cast her vote on Thursday night.
” This desal proposal is privatization. Hart stated that it provides large private profits. Hart agreed with the agency’s staff, saying that the site was not the right place to build a plant because it would be on top of an earthquake fault.
She noted that the company didn’t yet have a binding agreement with any water district who requested the water. She stated that it would be detrimental to the public welfare.
Commissioner Dayna Bochco said she agreed with the staff’s findings and the impacts on marine life would be “an incredible amount of destruction. “
Meagan Harman, one of the governor’s appointed members on the commission, stated that the project would have “disproportionately impact on the most vulnerable.” “
” I wish I didn’t have this vote. Harmon stated that he was not against desalination.
In testimony leading up to the vote, Poseidon and its supporters argued that building the desalination plant would buttress local water supplies and make the area more resilient. They cited the severe drought in California and the West and higher temperatures brought on by global warming, pointing to the worsening shortages of imported water supplies from the State Water Project and the Colorado River.
Poseidon’s opponents argued the desalinated water was unnecessary because northern Orange County already has ample groundwater supply and is recycling its wastewater. They claimed that the project would only be beneficial to Brookfield Infrastructure, Canada’s parent company, and its investors. Rate increases would affect low-income individuals most severely.
“Seawater desalination should be the option of last resort,” said Tracy Quinn, president and