Former Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook, who often contributes to the Surf City Voice, made the following remarks to the California State Lands Commission Oct. 19 about the proposed Poseidon Resources ocean desalination plant. She was preceded by Joe Geever of Residents for Responsible Desalination.
By Debbie Cook
My name is Debbie Cook. In 2003, when I was serving on the Huntington Beach City Council, I was asked to represent the League of California Cities on the California Desalination Task Force. By the time I left the council in 2008, I was well versed in desalination and Poseidon Resources in particular. Since 2008 I have tirelessly pursued Poseidon’s activities as they lobbied their way around the state trying to find a buyer for their water Continue reading Poseidon and OCWD: Manufacturing Consent at State Lands Commission Hearing→
As supporters and opponents of the proposed $1 billion (publically subsidized) Huntington Beach ocean desalination plant rev-up for a key hearing before the State Lands Commission, an environmental protection alliance led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has weighed in.
Kennedy, who Time magazine called “Hero of the Year” for taking the lead in helping to clean up the Hudson River, brings heavy-duty credentials to the long list of environmental organizations opposed to the Poseidon project.
By contrast, only one celebrity environmentalist, former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, has endorsed the project, but she is a Poseidon-paid “consultant.”
The letter, dated July 26 and signed by the 22 environmental protection organizations representing “hundreds of thousands of members,” says that the project would:
Impose significant and unnecessary costs on Orange County water districts and ratepayers;
Set back California’s efforts to advance climate-smart water policy;
Fail to alleviate reliance upon, or impacts to, freshwater ecosystems, including the Bay-Delta; and
Fail to comply with California law and regulations that govern seawater desalination facilities.
The project developer, Poseidon Resources, seeks approval for its Environmental Impact Report and the ability to continue to lease state land for its project, which would convert 100 million gallons of ocean water into 50 million gallons of drinking water each day.
Poseidon says that the project will protect against drought, is environmentally sensitive, and will cost the taxpayers nothing.
In reality, the project will cost the ratepayers of the Orange County Water District, which would receive the desalinated (purified) water (only to put most of it into the underground river basin to be purified yet again) hundreds of millions of dollars up front for startup costs.
Then, for the next 30 to 50 years, OCWD ratepayers would be required by contract (as now proposed) to buy the Poseidon water at rates 3 to 4 times higher than the imported water that OCWD imports now to help keep up its underground water supply.
The State Lands Commission hearing starts at 8 a.m. this Thursday (Oct 19) in the Huntington Beach City Council chambers.
Below is a complete list of environmental organizations that signed the letter:
California Coastkeeper Alliance
Orange County Coastkeeper
Residents for Responsible Desalination
California Coastal Protection Network
NRDC Natural Resources Defense Council
Heal the Bay
Sierra Club of California
Desal Response Group
Southern California Watershed Alliance
Environmental Water Caucus
Food & Water Watch
OC Earth Stewards
Orange County Environmental Justice
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper
Amigos de los Rios
EJCW Water Justice for All
“It is important to change the mindset from scarcity to surplus, and this project [the Poseidon desalination plant] is part of that vision,” he wrote.
“Contrary to popular belief,” Dewane claimed, “conservation does not come for free and in fact, prices have risen enough because of demand reduction [during the drought] that we could have paid for this entire project.” (emphasis added)
In a later (April 19) Facebook post, Dewane elaborated on that theme, speaking of water-use restrictions imposed by the state during the recent drought, which officially ended April 6.
“The truth is that the demand reduction accounted for a roughly 30% increase in the cost of ground water to the retail producers in the Orange County Water District are[a], which is passed along to the consumers. That same price increase would have paid for all of the water produced by the Poseidon project. Instead of a new water source, we simply got higher rates and no additional supply. Conservation is the most expensive source of water.” (emphasis added)
Are Dewane’s anti-conservation assertions correct? Mostly, they are not. Let’s examine them:
Dewane’s claim: that “we could have paid for the entire [Poseidon ocean desalination] project” with the amount of money collected from water price increases due to “demand reduction” created by state-imposed conservation measures during the drought.
Analysis: The estimated cost of the Poseidon project is $1 billion. In the fiscal year, 2014 – 2015, OCWD’s 19 member-agencies pumped 305,259 acre-feet (af) from the groundwater basin, according to staff reports. The following year, they pumped 281,750 af, or 23,509 af less water. OCWD’s 19 member-agencies would have to collectively pay $1,059 per af or $24,896,031 for imported water to make up for the revenue loss from the state-imposed restrictions. If those agencies were to apply that difference as a down payment for the desalination plant, they would still be $975,103,969 short. At that rate, it would take them about 40 years to pay for the plant, assuming that costs wouldn’t rise, which they would.
Dewane’s claim: that the replenishment assessment (RA) increase that OCWD charged its member-agencies to make up for revenue loss for conservation (the “roughly 30 percent increase”) “would have paid for all the water produced by the Poseidon project.”
Analysis: From 2015 to 2017, the RA rose from $322 af to $445 af, by 38 percent or $123 af. The OCWD predicts that its 2.4 million service-area residents will use 303,000 af of water for the fiscal year 2017 to 2018. For that amount of water, the $123 price increase comes to a total of about $37.3 million. The cost of a year’s worth of Poseidon desalination water (about 50,000 usable af of 56,000 af) would be (based on Poseidon’s nearly identical Carlsbad plant) about $2,500 af or $125 million.
Dewane’s claim: “Instead of a new water source [Poseidon’s desalination plant] we simply got higher rates and no additional supply.”
Analysis: The quickest way to increase water supplies in the Orange County water basin is by reducing pumping, as the OCWD chart (below) indicates. The Poseidon project would give a “new” source of water, but no more water, except a small amount (on paper only) during an extreme drought. That’s because for Poseidon to receive the $400 million subsidy it needs from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to build the desalination plant (without it, Poseidon says, the plant can’t be built), the water Poseidon produces must replace an equal amount of imported water. That replaced imported water would be sold to water agencies outside of the OCWD service area, at a lower rate than Poseidon water, courtesy of OCWD ratepayers.
Dewane’s claim: that conservation is the most expensive source of water. See part 2 and part 3 of this series.
The Mesa Water District and the Orange County Water District’s dual board member, Shawn Dewane, loves to spin alleged factoids comparing conservation as a water source to the billion-dollar ocean desalination plant that Poseidon Resources wants to build in Huntington Beach.
Dewane plays to his political base, hence his occasional appearance on Costa Mesa Public Square (CMPS), the Facebook page where he reigns as the (mostly) unquestioned authority on all water matters, especially Poseidon.
You can scroll down the CMPS page and see a series of misleading or false assertions made by Dewane related to Poseidon’s proposed project.
For example, on CMPS last April, Dewane posted that “The facts are that Conservation (sic) is the most expensive “source” of water and hurts the poor the most.”
The report concluded that using “urban water conservation and efficiency measures” is the most cost-effective way to meet future water needs and that ocean desalination is the most expensive form of water management.
The study found that, over time, many conservation-efficiency measures save money by creating a negative cost. A more efficient food-steamer, for example, saves 53,000 gallons of water and costs minus $14,000 per acre-foot per year.
By comparison, the cost of water now produced by Poseidon’s Carlsbad ocean desalination plant (nearly identical to its proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant) is plus $2,500 per acre-foot.
If OCWD’s 19 member agencies cut their basin pumping percentage (the amount of water they take from the groundwater basin vs. from more expensive imported water) from 75 percent to 65 percent to conserve water, the replenishment assessment (RA) charged by OCWD to refill the basin (with imported water) and cover fixed costs, would increase by $106 for a total of $508 per acre-foot, according to a OCWD staff report.
That’s about a fifth of what Poseidon charges now in Carlsbad.
Without the Huntington Beach Poseidon project, the RA will go up to $571 an acre foot by 2022; with Poseidon, it will go up to $830 per acre foot.
Comparing the cost of Poseidon water (at the most likely near-future rate) to the cost of the same amount of imported water that OCWD would buy within a year gives a clear-cut picture of the relative costs of conservation and ocean desalination.
The Poseidon plant would produce about 50,000 acre-feet of usable desalinated water per year. At a cost of $2,500 per acre-foot, that comes to $125 million.
The cost of untreated imported water, which the OCWD uses to refill the basin (aside from rainfall percolation), is about $746 per acre foot—or about $37 million per year for 50,000 acre-feet.
The cost of treated imported water, the water OCWD agencies would buy on their own to make up for pumping less groundwater, is $1,059 per acre-foot—or about $53 million per year for 50,000 acre-feet.
By comparing the real costs of desalinated ocean water to the costs of water conservation, it is clear that Dewane’s assertion that conservation is the most expensive source of water is false.
Next: I will look at Shawn Dewane’s claim that state-imposed water restrictions during the drought caused a water price increase that “would have paid for all of the water produced by the Poseidon project” and that “Instead of a new water source, we simply got higher rates and no additional supply.”
Shawn Dewane of Costa Mesa is the free-marketeer point man for Poseidon Resources, the water dealer that wants to combine public and private funds to build a $1 billion ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
The project would be built under the auspices of the Orange County Water District(OCWD), which manages the county’s groundwater basin and provides 2.4 million north-county residents with 75 percent of their water.
Underlying the long-running battles between proponents and opponents of the proposed Poseidon Resources ocean desalination plant is an ideological war between two roughly defined factions: conservationists and free-marketeers.
Huntington Beach Council-member Erik Peterson confirmed to the Surf City Voice by email this morning that Michael Hoskinson, his representative on the Planning Commission for the past two years, has resigned and will be replaced at tonight’s city council meeting.
Rumors of Hoskinson’s resignation have circulated since December 13 when he announced that he would not attend a Planning Commission meeting scheduled that night.
Surf City’s way cool and fully-macked dude of dudes, our surforexic congressman and former Mujahedin (Taliban) warrior, I mean Dana Rohrabacher, recently explained to his disappointed fans why he had to hold back his long awaited St. Patrick’s Day campaign fundrager at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.
Jon Voight, the acclaimed actor of Midnight Cowboy, Deliverance, Ali, and other way cool movies fame was to be the main act at the fundrager, besides Dana, and I was looking forward to getting his autograph on my sponge.
Voight is a former anti-war protester and McGovernite, a genuine rattly who, an unconfirmed but totally believable rumor has it, suddenly fell in love (rightly so) with Sara Palin after wiggin’ out on a slab of raw moose meat—and something else happened that he won’t talk about—on a Santa Ana River canoe trip with a bunch of Orange County neocons.
Dude, Dana bud was fetched to Washington D.C. by sistah Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house of representatives, for the epic showdown vote on “Obamacare,” that “government run” health care plan you probably heard all you need to know about from bodacious Glenn Beck.
Well, as any surfmastering Foxophile knows, Pelosi is one gnarly dudette to hang with.
Shyau!!! We got snaked over the rails and it was pure buggery.
We sympathize with you Dana bud, but no apology needed.
But not to worry, Danaphiles! Voight has agreed to come to a rescheduled fundrager at a date to be announced, soon we hope.
But d-u-u-u-u-d-e-s, hang on to your baggies, cawz I’ve got even better news.
Have you ever heard of Erik Prince?
No, I’m not talking about the singer who sprays a night club audience with water from a hose extending out of his crotch in that rad MTV movie in the 1980s.
Dudes, I am talking about Dana bud’s former intern who is now the founder, owner and commander in chief of Blackwater, the Christian-supremacist mercenary army that killed lots of innocent citizens of Iraq with impunity during the Bush’s epic invasion of that country.
Prince will hold a special fundrager for Dana, and if that doesn’t make your radalescent surfboner hard enough, Robert Duvall, another great actor and mack Republican dude, will also be there in all his manly splendor.
In Dana dude’s own e-mail words: “We are in the process of organizing a wonderful weekend for people from California who may want to have a memorable weekend in the nation’s Capitol as well as the historic Virginia countryside.”
That weapons-grade (wink wink) event will take place on Sunday, April 18 at Prince’s Virginia estate, located close to THE capital so that his holy A-Team can turn and burn on over to the White House and blow away those tea party crazies if they get too gnarly again.
Mr. Prince, no doubt, has a princely humongous fortune of dead presidents to give away to Danatypes from the $1 billion in no bid government contracts awarded to his private army (cowabunga, I bet he was stockaboka about that) to protect American officials from the evil doers on the ground in Iraq.
Note for ambitious dudettes: the dude factor that night promises to be pretty high, enhanced by a surge of testosterone oozing from the pores of a lot of rich poser freedom-fighters scoping for sweet nectar.
Word of caution to poser dudes looking for sweet nectar: make sure to bring your dude packs to prevent any accidents from friendly fire.
Maybe you forgot, but the Blackwater freedom fighters became famous after they terminated seventeen unarmed Iraqi dudes, dudettes and gromets and wounded at least 18 others at Nisour Square in Baghdad in Sept. 2007.
Blackwater said its men were under attack; and who would doubt it, right?
But just in case those hodaddy journos and outside investigators forgot what side they are on in the War on Terror, the potentially incriminating evidence was scrupulously washed away by an administrative tsunami, i.e. a Bush administration decree that still protects mercenaries hired by the State Department from prosecution in Iraqi courts—mondo!
It’s buggery, but even that didn’t stop separate investigations by the Iraqi government, U.S. Military, and F.B.I. , which each determined that most or all of the Blackwater killings were unprovoked and unjustified.
But standing by their buds, the Bush administration was in no hurry to prosecute Blackwater in courts of U.S. jurisdiction either. So, none of Blackwater’s soldiers of fortune have been fully tried in criminal or civil court so far in the Nisour incident or 128 other cases where Blackwater fired first, although some of them were fired from their $600 per day jobs and given free plane tickets home—ouch!
A U.S.federal court judge dismissed charges against five Blackwater defendants in the Nisour killings in December on technical and constitutional grounds—they were promised immunity from prosecution by State Department officials who were not authorized to do so.
A sixth operative already pleaded guilty to one killing, but his case remains in limbo after the dismissal of the charges against his colleagues.
For a lot more details about Blackwater, check out Jeremy Scahill’s book, Blackwater: The rise of the world’s most powerful mercenary army. Scahill is an investigative reporter for the Nation magazine and Democracy Now (www.democracynow.org). The book won the George Polk Book Award, which is given to writers who expose government or corporate malfeasance.
Alright, dudes, I know what you’re thinking: “Why should I read the book when I can watch the paintball tournament at the pier?”
Hmmm…Let me think….
Dude, the answer is that Scahill’s book really peels and will whack you like the gnarliest wave. That’s because Scahill explains everything about Blackwater, how it went from a tiny and unheard of security firm before the war to become the strongest mercenary army in the world a few years later, thanks to neocons George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and friends, who wanted to privatize the U.S. military, and to the coalition of the willing—meaning the Republicans and Democrats in congress who allowed it.
Scahill explains the righteous and Christian supremacist spirit that drives Erik Prince and his soldiers to fight for top dollars. Maybe it will inspire you too.
Here’s a sample of Prince’s philosophy in his own words: “Everybody carries guns, just like Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel—a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.”
If that’s not the way to give Osama a wabblybutthole, dudes, then what is?
Gale warning! This book does have its share of acid drops, dudes.
The book’s most obvious bummer is that killing innocent people seems pretty bogus.
And Scahill also explains how our top military leaders complained that the blowback from Blackwater’s indiscriminate killings of Iraqis worked against their efforts to win the respect and cooperation of the Iraqi people and endangered the lives of our regular troops.
Not only that, but a mercenary army violates the concept of sovereignty in other countries, thus increasing the chances of wars breaking out.
It also threatens American democracy. HELLO—have you ever heard of the Roman Praetorian Guard or a right-wing coup d’état?
But d-u-u-u-u-u-d-e-s, Dana and Erik are way cool, so who cares?
Time to get rubberized and hit the beach for some Dana spotting.
The D-u-u-u-u-d-e is a Surf City (that’s Huntington Beach, dudes)hodaddy who parties all night and stands on the beach all day watching the waves and hoping to catch a glance of Dana Rohrabacher, the man who invented surfing.