OC Coastkeeper: Friday’s King Tides Unveil Threat from Poseidon Desal Deal

OC King Tides.

OC Coastkeeper

OC King Tides.

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Poseidon’s desalination deal with Orange County holds a hidden cost: the taxpayer money required to build structures that hold back the ocean in thirty years.

The facts of global sea level rise is no longer up for debate, we’re simply managing the damage now. Our county incurs more infrastructure damage and road closures from higher tides with each passing year.

On January 22, king tides — the highest tides of the year at 6.32 ft. above mean high tide — give us a crystal ball view into the height of our everyday tides in 20 - 50 years. Just like the king tides of last November, today you may see water covering portions of Pacific Highway and water lapping at the doorways (or beyond) of coastal homes and businesses.

Anyone who visits the proposed Huntington Beach location for the Poseidon Plant will see the ocean rising right up to the planned location. That’s because Huntington Beach is the second-most vulnerable piece of coastline to sea level rise in the state. If Orange County signs Poseidon’s deal, the County may also be agreeing to foot the enormous future bill required to back peddle from an ever-encroaching ocean.

If built at Poseidon’s current site proposal, in 25 to 50 years the plant could require expensive structural protective barriers such as seawalls, groins, breakwaters and other coastal armoring structures that will need regular maintenance and further additions as sea level continues to rise over the plant’s 50-year contract.

The United States Geological Survey predicts the site is also vulnerable to major flooding damage in the event of a 100 year storm event with sea level rise, meaning there is a 50 percent chance the plant will experience serious flooding. Additionally, the site for the Poseidon plant lies in a tsunami run up zone and sits directly on the south branch of Newport-Inglewood fault, an area with high liquefaction potential, meaning that when earthquakes strike, the land could turn to a quicksand consistency.

Even if Orange County was in desperate need of desalinated ocean water, the current plan is, at best, irresponsible. And Orange County doesn’t need desalination to provide a drought-proof water supply. Siting concerns aside, Poseidon’s desalination plan is the least efficient, most expensive, most energy intensive, most polluting option on the table.

We can invest less than the cost of Poseidon but with greater water returns by expanding our existing world-renowned wastewater-recycling program. Billions of gallons of our treated wastewater is dumped into the ocean every day. Instead of paying top dollar to suck it back out of the ocean and treat it again, we can recycle it back into a pure, drought-proof supply. It’s cheaper for the cities and ratepayers, less energy intensive and much more sustainable. It’s the smart, innovative option that could place Orange County back in its position as a global leader in water supply technology.

Today, you can see the impacts of flooding on the site firsthand along the Pacific Coast Highway in Sunset Beach and the Newport Peninsula to Newport Boulevard. While you view the king tides, consider the economic and environmental ramifications of building the desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

Snap a picture of the high tides, and voice your opinion on social media with #SayNOtoPoseidon. Let’s stand up for Orange County’s future.

Ray Hiemstra is Orange County Coastkeeper's associate director of programs. Ray has a B.A. in Geography (1998) and a certificate in Environmental Studies (2000) from California State University Long Beach. He has run water quality research and advocacy projects throughout the Santa Ana Watershed and is a member of a number of boards and committees including the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Safety Committee and Newport Bay Watershed Management Committee.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC  Publisher Norberto Santana at nsantana@voiceofoc.org.

  • RyanCantor

    This is theft of ratepayer funds, plain and simple.

    We have dozens of alternatives that are cheaper, less energy intensive, and produce more water that’s just as “drought proof” as this boondoggle project.

    We will be lied to loudly and often by those in favor of using the most expensive and energy intensive means to manufacture water ever conceived by man.

    Don’t believe them. Do the research yourself.

  • Dave Greaves

    First thank you for your concern for our coastline and the issues we face. Ive lived my 50 years along the OC coast, Ive extensively studied its history, taught scuba diving on it, gave ecology tours to school kids at back bay… I walk all the way around back and upper bay loop about once a month for many years.. I walk well over a thousand miles a year in OC with dogs. Ive photographed king tides for ever. Studied nat history of ca in college and geology and oceanography as well as they have been life long interests… I already see the changes most do not and I know what is really coming as well…. It is nice to see someone else does to… RE the water plant. Im curious if any notice has been taken of the water treatment technology being developed by that 5 hour energy drink guy… That sure seems to hold great promise and would not face the issues that this plant would… ?

  • Paul Lucas

    One thing that is not being mentioned in all of this is the fact that it will ot be very long before the county state and most stringently the Federal Agencies will soon no longer allow us to discharge our waste water out to sea without capturing as much as possible. I repeat, it will not be long before the federal government forces the state and counties to stop all discharges of waste water out to sea. So whether you like it or not, or if you are a vested person in Poseidon such as Bert and LF,, we will no longer be allowed, by the feds state and county as well as regional agencies to discharge our waste water without recycling and reusing it.

  • Bert Ashland

    The sky is falling…the sky is falling…the sky is falling.

    • LFOldTimer

      Oh and don’t forget “And we need to spend more of your money and take away more of your rights in order to keep it from falling”
      There. Done.

      • Paul Lucas

        The moneys tha will be taken in this case are being taken by private corporations to line their pockets and saddle you with the costs. In this case, parcel taxes on your properties and higher water rates in North OC to subsidize land developers in South OC. You get the costs and they get the water.

        • LFOldTimer

          Costs to corporations are always passed along to the consumer. Think of it as just another tax. Like Cap and Trade. Some people subscribe to the myth that C&P punishes the evil corporations. They don’t realize that the corporations never eat the costs. The consumer pays their costs in form of higher prices for goods and services. All the while China, India, and the other emerging nations continue to pollute the planet and place us at a competitive disadvantage while the politicians to include Democrats) allow (play for pay) corporations to offshore all our jobs. Go figure.

  • LFOldTimer

    Let’s not catastrophize just quite yet. Ocean levels rise and fall. They have throughout history. First they called it ‘Global Warming’ and when they were called out on the data they changed it to “Climate Change”. In fact, there is evidence the politically correct scientists fudged the data. Life is ephemeral from one generation to the next. When we’re long gone they’ll be complaining about another ice age. Mother Nature controls the atmosphere short of a nuclear holocaust. So let’s be patient.

  • Paul Lucas

    “We can invest less than the cost of Poseidon but with greater water returns by expanding our existing world-renowned wastewater-recycling program. ”

    Not only that but the revenues we can generate beyond what we save will be able to pay for the hardening of he area against sea water encroachment. the revenues would be generated by continuously recycling and re-using water to the point we can generate excess water to compensate for the water produced in an inefficient way via desal and that water can be sold to south oc instead of placing parcel taxes on a huge waste of energy and resources that is Poseidon.