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Coastkeeper Says it’s the Beginning of the End to the Proposed Desalination Plant


  • Orange County Water District stops work on environmental review for Huntington Beach desalination project

Orange County Coastkeeper welcomes today’s news that Orange County Water District is stopping all work on the environmental impact report for the proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant. Coastkeeper says that without a buyer of the over-priced, unneeded water, Poseidon Water faces another set of obstacles for its unwanted desalination plant.

“Without a buyer, Poseidon does not have the financing or justification for building the destructive plant on our coast,” says Garry Brown, executive director of Orange County Coastkeeper. “The hurdles continue to multiply, along with costs, effectively burying the project so deep, it will be next-to impossible to unearth.”

For 15 years, Poseidon’s proposed desalination plant lacked an interested buyer for the water, stalling its approval by the California Coastal Commission. Two years ago, Orange County Water District agreed to work on a term sheet for the water, subsequently agreeing to be responsible for the distribution system for the water. Orange County Water District narrowed distribution options to three, all of which included storing the water in the Orange County Groundwater Basin until the region needed water. The water agency was looking at a $100 million or more additional cost — on top of the $1 billion dollar price tag of the plant. With today’s announcement, says Brown, Orange County Water District is finally admitting it doesn’t need the water and won’t continue the environmental impact report to investigate the options for water distribution and storage.

“The fact that we would have needed to store Poseidon’s water in our aquifer proves that we don’t need the water,” says Brown. “Now we can focus our time and funds on more important and sustainable projects and technologies.”

Even when Poseidon had a potential buyer, the project still faced lengthy review by state regulatory agencies — California Coastal Commission, Santa Ana Regional Water Board and State Water Resources Control Boards and the State Lands Commission —to ensure it served the public interest and met all standards under existing laws and regulations, including the new desalination rules. As it stands Poseidon’s project still needs a new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, a Coastal Development Permit and a renewed lease for the surface intakes.
“The review process will take considerable time and money and now, with the scheduled expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System, increased conservation and healthy snowpack, selling this costly water to Orange County is like selling honey to a bee,” Brown said. “After our 17-year battle against an unnecessary plant that would harm marine life and burden ratepayers, we’re happy that Orange County Water District is thinking twice about locking itself into 50 years of buying water we don’t need.”


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 or call 714-850-1965.