King Tides Show Huntington Beach’s Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise

Coastkeeper says proposed desalination plant would become an island during 50-year lifetime

ORANGE COUNTY – December 8, 2016 – On December 13 and 14, the king tides – some of the highest annual tides – will roll into Orange County’s shoreline, providing a glimpse of what coastal communities can expect as sea levels rise in the coming years. Higher sea levels threaten thousands of coastal properties and would damage local infrastructure and wetland habitats. According to Orange County Coastkeeper, the proposed location for Poseidon’s billion-dollar desalination plant in Huntington Beach is vulnerable to sea level rise that would turn the plant into an island during flood events before its 50-year contract is up.

“Poseidon wants to construct its plant in a flood plain, where just one or two feet of sea level rise, combined with flood events would put the surrounding area underwater,” said Ray Heimstra, Associate Director of Programs, Orange County Coastkeeper. “With expensive protective infrastructure, the plant itself could stay afloat during the 50-year timeline, but it would essentially become an armored island.”

Before the end of the century, coastal cities across the globe could experience unprecedented rates of sea level rise, according to a recent study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Just 1.4 meters of sea level rise will put 110,000 people at risk of flooding in Orange County alone, according to the Pacific Institute.

Poseidon plans to construct its desalination plant in Huntington Beach, which is considered the second most vulnerable city to sea level rise in California. In the next 50 years, Coastkeeper says many studies project local sea levels to rise 15 inches or more — enough to flood the site before the agreement is up.

According to Coastkeeper, the vulnerability to sea level rise is one of the many reasons the desalination plant is not a good investment for Orange County.

“Why should Orange County’s taxpayers foot the bill for a water source we don’t need in a location that poses high risks of flooding?” says Heimstra. “Sea level rise already puts our homes and environment at risk. We should focus on sustainable solutions to prevent sea level rise and slow climate change.”

Coastkeeper says environmentally sustainable, long-term solutions — such as more conservation, groundwater recycling and stormwater capture — should be exhausted before turning to desalination. For more information, see this infographic on the true cost of desalination.

Coastkeeper says that the December 14 – December 15, 2016, and the January 10 – January 12, 2017, king tides will have similar impacts on the coastal region, giving residents a visual of a flooded proposed desalination location.

The Huntington Beach desalination project site can be seen at 16910 Pacific Coast Highway — Magnolia and Pacific Coast Highway. The best times to view the flooding are during the high tides.

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ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of the International Waterkeeper Alliance, which has 236 different independent programs across 29 countries. Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit www.coastkeeper.org or call 714-850-1965.