Statewide Coalition of Community, Equity and Environmental Leaders Speak Out Against Huntington Beach Desalination Plant

  • Coalition agrees plant will impose unnecessary costs on area ratepayers and move California in wrong direction on water sustainability

  • Environmental Impact Report fatally flawed, says coalition members 

ORANGE COUNTY – July 27, 2017 — Today, a statewide coalition of more than 25 community, equity and environmental leaders, and local experts submitted comment letters identifying significant problems with the proposed $1 billion Brookfield/Poseidon Water desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The groups say that while desalination facilities may be appropriate for some California communities, the Brookfield/Poseidon plant – a mega-facility that would continue the industrial use of Southern California’s coast and has been flagged for support from the Trump Administration – is not consistent with California’s science-based, progressive approach to water sustainability, climate change and ocean conservation. The coalition argues that the plant would:

  1. Impose significant and unnecessary costs on Orange County water districts and ratepayers;
  2. Set back California’s efforts to advance climate-smart water policy;
  3. Fail to alleviate reliance upon, or impacts to, freshwater ecosystems, including the Bay-Delta; and
  4. Fail to comply with California law and regulations that govern seawater desalination facilities.

On the basis of these shortcomings, the coalition urges California policy makers and regulatory agencies to deny the project as proposed and instead pursue innovative solutions that showcase California’s leadership in technology, sustainability and ocean conservation.

Local groups say alternatives such as water recycling could meet Orange County’s modest needs for new water sources at a lower cost and with fewer environmental impacts.

“We don’t need the water. Orange County sits on one of California’s largest aquifers, which is recharged by our world-renowned Groundwater Replenishment System,” says Ray Hiemstra, associate director of programs for Orange County Coastkeeper. “We know we can conserve at least 25 percent of our water use. That’s equal to three Poseidon plants right there – and it’s free.”

Several of the coalition members also filed comments detailing extensive shortcomings in a draft Environmental Impact Report that the State Lands Commission, a state agency responsible for coastal resources, prepared for the project in May. The State Lands Commission must authorize a lease of state-owned tidelands for the project to advance, but the groups argue that the agency has unlawfully truncated its review of the project. 

“Instead of doing its due diligence to analyze the full impact this plant would have on our marine waters and public trust resources, the State Lands Commission is proposing to patch together a partial review process, and trying to avoid consideration of the whole project as the law requires,” says Deborah Sivas, director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic.

“A partial review would set a bad precedent for unnecessary and poorly planned desalination facilities along California’s coastline,” says Sean Bothwell, policy director for the California Coastkeeper Alliance.

A study by the Pacific Institute, an independent nonprofit with expertise on water issues, shows that desalinated water is the most expensive supply option available to Californians. If the Brookfield/Poseidon Water plant is approved, Orange County would be locked into an agreement to purchase every gallon of the desalinated water for 50 years – whether it is needed or not. 

The State Lands Commission will evaluate the comments received and determine whether or not to recirculate the Environmental Impact Report. If the State Lands Commission does not revise the report to address the coalition’s concerns, the project could be heard at a public hearing in Southern California on October 19. If the State Lands Commission approves the impact report and tidelands lease, the project will proceed to be reviewed by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Coastal Commission.

Coalition Members Include:

  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Orange County Coastkeeper
  • California Coastkeeper Alliance
  • Residents for Responsible Desalination
  • Sierra Club
  • Heal the Bay
  • California Coastal Protection Network
  • Surfrider Foundation
  • Desal Response Group
  • Southern California Watershed Alliance
  • Environmental Water Caucus
  • Wholly H2O
  • Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation
  • Seventh Generation Advisors
  • Inland Empire Waterkeeper
  • Environment California
  • Oak View ComUNIDAD
  • AZUL
  • Food & Water Watch
  • Orange County Earth Stewards
  • Orange County Environmental Justice
  • Santa Barbara Channelkeeper
  • Amigos de los Rios - Emerald Necklace
  • The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
  • Endangered Habitats League