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Welcome back to another issue of Coastkeeper Chronicles, our monthly commemoration of a historic victory to celebrate our 25th anniversary! Head to our blog to read previous stories on preventing pollution at Crystal Cove and restoring native species in Newport Bay.

Today, we invite you to revisit one of our biggest advocacy wins: stopping Poseidon’s harmful and expensive desalination project in Huntington Beach. This project would have used outdated 70-year-old technology and required a $2 billion public subsidy. Then, Poseidon would’ve offered the water to Orange County residents at 4x the then-current rate.

The project was never about providing water security for local residents but rather lining the pockets of corporate interest.

In 1999, Poseidon approached me about its desalination plans for Huntington Beach. Despite a cordial first meeting, it became clear that Poseidon’s massive plant design would never match our hope for a sustainable, scaled water supply solution.

For the next 14 years, Poseidon conducted environmental reviews, secured permits, and established relationships with local agencies and officials to push their project forward. During that time, we worked with other environmental groups and local advocates to fight the project at every step. The conflict between our opposing sides culminated at a Coastal Commission meeting in 2013, where the project’s development permit was put to vote.

After eight hours of discussion and public comment, the Commissioners decided to delay the vote, and shortly after, Poseidon withdrew its application, knowing it did not have the votes to succeed. Our team celebrated the win for the coast and sustainable water policy, but we knew the project would eventually return.

Members of the Stop Poseidon coalition preparing to speak to the California Coastal Commission on May 12, 2022

Nearly a decade later, after Poseidon had spent upwards of $1.6 million lobbying for the project and repeatedly creating controversy, the project faced the Coastal Commission again to acquire its final required permit. The “Stop Poseidon Coalition,” of which we were a leading member, ramped up its outreach and grassroots efforts to stop the project for good. Leading up to the meeting, we held countless community meetings, conducted multiple studies, and battled the misinformation campaigns surrounding the project.

On May 12, 2022, after over two decades of hard work, we emerged victorious with a unanimous Coastal Commission decision to deny the project’s development permit. The Stop Poseidon Coalition delivered 12,000+ petition signatures alongside a 150+ page report to the Commissioners. In the months following the meeting, the project’s other permits and leases were revoked, effectively halting the project for good.

Since then, it’s become even more clear that stopping the desalination project was the right decision for our community. San Diego residents now pay the highest water rates in the country due to Poseidon’s Carlsbad desalination plant. On top of the sky-high water rates, taxpayers are forced to pay over $250 million to rebuild the plant’s water intakes and update the plant’s design to comply with state standards. Our region has many more sustainable and reliable options for addressing water insecurity than Poseidon’s desalination plant.

Thank you for strolling down memory lane with me for this month’s Coastkeeper Chronicles story! If you’d like to learn more about our current and past advocacy campaigns, click here to check out our advocacy webpage.


Garry Brown

Founder & President