California Regulators Reject $1.4 Billion Desalination Plant Despite Historic Drought Due to Environmental Concerns
With one member abstaining, the California Coastal Commission rejected by a vote of 11-0 the proposal by Poseidon Water, controlled by the infrastructure arm of Canada's Brookfield Asset Management, to construct the plant on a low-lying coastal site at Huntington Beach, near the town of Costa Mesa, approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Los Angeles.
The facility was planned to produce 50 million gallons (189.3 million liters) of potable water per day from Pacific Ocean water, which is enough for 400,000 people. However, the drawbacks of this project consisted of enormous consequences for marine life - about 100 billion gallons of seawater per year - as well as the exposure of the plant to the risk of future sea-level rise. Finally, the water produced turned out to be unaffordable for low-income consumers.
"California continues to face a punishing drought, with no end in sight" Poseidon said in a statement after the vote. "We firmly believe that this desalination project would have created a sustainable, drought-tolerant water source."
Representatives of Poseidon issued a statement expressing disappointment but did not indicate if they would attempt to revive a project in which they had invested more than two decades and $100 million.
Undergoing any new project related to this site would face difficult odds or would have to include significant redesign plans, so thorough was the staff report in detailing its flaws.
"It was a defining day for the Coastal Commission", said Susan Jordan, a plant opponent and director of the California Coastal Protection Network. "When you have a project like this that is so damaging over the next half-century, you really can't allow that to move forward."
It would be relevant to mention that commissioners expressed their willingness to support additional desalination initiatives."We have a dire need for more water, but we have to do it the right way," said commissioner Effie Turnbull-Sanders, one of Newsom's four political appointees on the commission.
The commission has approved eleven additional desalination plants, including one that Poseidon has been operating since 2015 along the coast in Carlsbad.
The largest desalination plant in the United States, located in Carlsbad, converts ocean water to drinking water in 90 minutes. However, it was built on a higher elevation and allowed before statewide desalination regulations were enacted.
Source : U.S News