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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 19, 2017
Orange County Residents Will Continue to Fight Unnecessary and Irresponsible Desalination Project
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA—Today, more than 100 conservation and environmental justice advocates gathered at City Hall to urge the California State Lands Commission to take a reality check and defer action on an unnecessary, expensive, and irresponsible desalination plant. If approved by state and regional agencies, the desalination plant would drive up water bills, set back climate progress, and harm ocean wildlife.
Despite widespread opposition, State Lands voted today to certify an environmental impact report and renew Poseidon’s lease to operate pipes under state beaches. The decision was based on a narrow environmental review that only considered a small part of the project, rather than examining the full project’s full environmental costs and measures to avoid or reduce them. Critics like Orange County Coastkeeper and Irvine Ranch Water District have pointed out that the project would pollute coastal waters and area groundwater, limit the County’s incentives to invest in better alternatives like collecting and storing stormwater, kill millions of baby fish and eggs, and place significant pressure on the energy grid at a time when the state is trying to transition away from fossil fuels. There is also a real risk of flooding, since Poseidon wants to build in a coastal area vulnerable to storm surges and sea level rise.
Poseidon still needs approval from the Santa Ana Regional Water Board and California Coastal Commission. As proposed, the project would not meet state desalination requirements designed to reduce harm to sea life, so advocates are looking to the two agencies to enforce these sensible safeguards.
“Californians care deeply about our coast, and we won’t let Poseidon shortcut the smart safeguards in place to protect the ocean,” said Susan Jordan, Executive Director, California Coastal Protection Network. “We are disappointed with the State Lands Commission decision, and will redouble our efforts to ensure California regulators undertake a comprehensive and thorough review of Poseidon’s project.”
Privately-owned Poseidon has spent $1.6 million to lobby for approval of the facility, and is paying former Senator Barbara Boxer to help promote it. The company has a history of problems at its Carlsbad desalination plant, which failed to deliver 20% of the water promised to San Diego County Water Authority in its first year of operations, and shut down entirely for 46 days.
“We don’t need desalination, and we don’t want Poseidon. Orange County has already taken steps to guarantee long-term water security. We have a water recycling plant that produces twice the water for a fraction of the cost, and are expanding it now,” said Garry Brown, Executive Director, Orange County Coastkeeper.
“Huntington Beach community members will continue fighting because there is still more we can do to stop Poseidon. We urge the California Coastal Commission and the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board to reject this unnecessary, expensive, and irresponsible project. During the drought, Californians proved that we have better options to meet water needs, especially with the recent passage of water recycling and stormwater legislation,” said Debbie Cook, Residents for Responsible Desalination.
“We’re disappointed that the State Lands Commission has opted to give away protections for the public trust in favor of allowing one more step toward the privatizing of California’s water. This kind of large-scale desalination project discourages conservation and will cost the public greatly in the long run,” said Jennifer Savage, California Policy Manager, Surfrider Foundation.
“The State Lands Commission made a premature decision that does not comport with state environmental law and could undermine California’s desalination policy. For an agency that strongly supported the phase-out of damaging once-through-cooling technology—including the very pipe that Poseidon will use if its proposal goes forward—today’s decision is a sad departure from its mission and prior record,” said Sean Bothwell, Policy Director, California Coastkeeper Alliance.
To download photos of today’s rally in front of the Huntington Beach City Hall during the State Lands Commission meeting, please click here.
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