Final Report Identifies Steps to Lessen Impacts of Subsurface Intake Valves for Proposed Orange County Desalination Plant

Coastkeeper says limited time of mitigated harm is better for Orange County than guaranteed 50 years of marine life destruction

ORANGE COUNTY – November 12, 2015— Orange County Coastkeeper says the Coastal Commission’s final study shows that the only way to lessen the impact for Orange County residents and their community is to follow the steps of mitigation during the seven-year construction phase of subsurface intake pipes.

The report released today by the Independent Coastal Commission Panel, states that while many of the subsurface intake impacts have the potential to be severe and to create substantial disturbance during a construction period as long as seven years, there is a range of mitigation measures that would likely be implemented to reduce these effects.

“We all know that Orange County’s best drought defense is to maximize conservation and expand our internationally recognized groundwater replenishment system, which costs less and protects our Orange County way of life,” says Garry Brown, executive director of Orange County Coastkeeper. “However, if this desalination plant gets approved, we think seven years of limited environmental harm during the construction phase is better than 50 years killing marine life, as Poseidon wants to do.”

Desalination plant intakes draw in seawater to send through a process that removes the impurities and salt from the water. Surface intakes entrain and kill countless amounts of marine life, fish and larvae on a daily basis. By installing subsurface intakes, marine-life mortality is eliminated.

The environmental impacts of using a surface ocean intake are significant and well documented. The State Water Board is requiring power plants to quit using these methods and, according to the new statewide desalination policy, the State Board does not want desalination plants using them either.

“At the end of the day, there is greater environmental harm over the long term with surface intake valves and a limited cost and impact in the short term for the subsurface valves. It’s also important to understand that this report does not compare or make a recommendation that one type of intake is better than the other,” says Brown. “If this plant is not built the right way, it sets a bad precedent for desalination along the entire coast of California.”

Coastkeeper says the subsurface intakes are one of the many concerns not addressed for the Coastal Commission, including:

  1. The plant is still proposed to be built on an earthquake fault in a tsunami run up zone
  2. The brine discharge from the plant will still degrade water quality and marine life
  3. There is no proven need for the water 
  4. Poseidon has not studied alternative sites for the plant
  5. Poseidon has not studied the impacts of the plant on Marine Protected Areas
  6. Poseidon has not addressed the greenhouse gas footprint

As it stands the proposed Poseidon—Huntington Beach facility will damage the three E’s of Orange County: economy, energy and environment. 

For more information, read this story on the impacts of the Poseidon-Huntington Beach desalination plant.