Support For Desalination Plant In Huntington Beach Is On The Rise, While Opposition Continues To Drop.
By Jaimee Lynn Fletcher, Orange County Register
HUNTINGTON BEACH – Resident support for a desalination facility in Huntington Beach is on the rise, according to a new survey that shows the number of people backing the project has gone up six percent since 2004. Poseidon Resources conducted a phone survey of 402 registered voters in the city that shows 71 percent of them are in favor of the Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination Facility, despite opponents to the project saying there are better options for clean water that would cost less.
The Poseidon Desalination Plant would be built near the AES power plant in Huntington Beach, pictured here. The facility, if approved, would eventually have to stand on its own because of a new state policy that will require AES to reduce its saltwater intake by 2020.
Company officials say support for the facility is on the rise, and as more information is available, more residents are getting behind desalination.A survey conducted by the company in 2004 showed 27 percent of the voters opposed the project, but in 2010 that number dropped to 14 percent saying they don’t want the desalination plant.
Poseidon has proposed a $350 million desalination plant at Newland Street and Pacific Coast Highway that would convert 50 million gallons of seawater a day into fresh water.
Poseidon Vice President Scott Maloni said Poseidon would provide enough water for 300,000 residents and would make Orange County less reliant on Northern California as a water source.
The State Water Resource Control Board this week released a report saying Northern California should cut off 70 percent of its water supply to Southern California to protect delta fisheries.
“As imported water costs continue to rise, residents will increasingly look toward new locally-controlled water supplies that offer enhanced reliability,” he said.
Company officials say the plant would provide eight percent of the county’s water supply and 20 water agencies, which include eight cities, have signed tentative agreements saying they would purchase the water.
Another 13 Orange County cities have signed letters of support for the Poseidon Project, spokesman Brian Lochrie reported.
However, members of the Residents for Responsible Desalination say there is a better way to get clean water that would save taxpayer money.
“Purified water is purified water and it doesn’t matter where it came from, but the cost does matter,” said group president Merle Moshiri. “The cost of reclaiming and recycling is much less.”
Moshiri said taxpayers could pay four times more for desalinated water than they would for reclaimed or recycled sources.
“We need to learn how to manage the water that’s already here,” she said.
Environmental problems associated with a desalination facility are also a concern for R4RD, Moshiri said. Brine, which is the saltwater waste after seawater is treated, is released back into the ocean and there is also a concern of whether sea life would be harmed as the pipeline sucks in water to be treated.
Power plants that use ocean water to cool their equipment have been found to catch fish, larvae and, in some cases, sea lions and seals in their pipelines.
“Ocean desal takes its byproduct and puts it back into the ocean,” she said. “You’re actually harming the environment.”
However, the environmental report conducted by the city in May says there will be no significant impacts to the ocean or marine life.
The original proposal had the desalination facility working with the AES Power Plant to process the water used to cool AES’ equipment but a recent state policy change forced Poseidon to tweak its plans.
The State Water Resource Control Board will require AES to reduce its salt water intake by 2020, which means Poseidon will have to operate independently of the power plant. Poseidon would use AES discharge water until the state policy takes affect, Lochrie said.
The desalination plant was approved in 2005 but has had to submit a new environmental study because of changes to the facility plans.
Company officials say the project could go before City Council members in September and the State Lands Commission by the end of the year. Construction is expected to begin in 2012, if it is approved.
Poseidon would have to seek final approvals from the California Coastal Commission.
Reporter Annie Burris contributed to this report.
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“Desalination must be included in any discussion of future water sources for Orange County."