Category Archives: Poseidon

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Environmental Group Lends Support to Opponents of Surf City Desalination Scam

By John Earl

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.

The California Coastkeeper Alliance,  part of the Waterkeeper Alliance (an international network of water protection advocates led by Kennedy) which opposes the aggressive push for ocean desalination in California, has joined 21 other environmental organizations in a letter (Final Desal Principles in OPPOSITION of Poseidon-HB) sent to the Commission in opposition to the project.

World-renowned fighter for environmental justice, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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.

Twenty-two environmental organizations representing “hundreds of thousands of members” have signed a letter to the State Lands Commission to oppose the proposed Poseidon Resources ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach, California.

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:

  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.

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
Surfrider Foundation
NRDC Natural Resources Defense Council
Heal the Bay
Sierra Club of California
Desal Response Group
Southern California Watershed Alliance
Environmental Water Caucus
Wholly H20
Environment California
Oakview Comunidad
Azul
Food & Water Watch
OC Earth Stewards
Orange County Environmental Justice
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper
Emerald Necklace
Amigos de los Rios
EJCW Water Justice for All

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Fake News: OC Register Blows Poseidon’s (Horn) Before State Hearing

By John Earl

UPDATE (Oct. 17):  OC Register reporter Greg Mellen has produced a copy of the letter from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to the California State Lands Commission (SLC) about the proposed Poseidon Resources ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

Originally, when asked by Debbie Cook (see story below) for a copy of the letter (the basis for his story saying that Feinstein supported the project), Mellen produced a Poseidon press release containing quoted excerpts of the letter but not the letter itself.

After I published my story (below), Mellon sent Poseidon opponent Joe Geever a copy by email of Feinstein’s letter (Mellon never responded to my request for a copy).

That letter to SLC chairman (Lt. Gov) Gavin Newsom is dated Sept 28 (not reported by Mellen), two weeks before Mellen’s story appeared in the Register.  Based on how the events unfolded and the fact that Mellen’s story-quotes match excerpts used in the Poseidon press release, it’s reasonably clear that Mellen either did not read the letter he was reporting on or simply played off the Poseidon press release.

In any case, as Feinstein states in her letter (Letter – Senator Feinstein Support 2017.09.28 FINAL),  that her support for the Poseidon project is conditional, a fact not reported by Mellen probably because he didn’t read the letter.

Feinstein wrote:

“While the water supply and other benefits of this project are clear, my support is conditioned upon its development in an environmentally safe manner that is consistent with the California Water Code Section 13142.5 (b) and State Water Resources Control Board’s Desalination Amendment to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Ocean Waters of California. As outlined in the amendment, the proposed plant must ‘use the best available, site, design, technology, and mitigation measures feasible to minimize intake and mortality of all forms of the marine life.’ ”

Feinstein’s letter states her opinion that the Poseidon project meets those standards, but project opponents hotly dispute that claim, an all-important fact (left unsaid by Mellon) that will play out at the SLC hearing on the Poseidon project this Thursday (Oct. 19).

Feinstein’s letter has its own factual problems, also unmentioned in Mellen’s story.

For example, Feinstein’s letter states that the Poseidon project, which would make 50 million gallons (mgd) of drinking water per day, would be “expanding upon” the Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenish System, “and reducing demand on climate-dependent imported water.”

But the GWRS, which already produces 100 mgd of drinking water — at less than half the cost of what Poseidon’s water  — is already set to expand by another 30 mgd in the near future. Also,  it is a long-established fact (ignored by project proponents) that the Poseidon project will not result in decreased water imports from northern California.

Feinstein also states that the Poseidon project water would “meet a documented demand within Orange County,”  but in a letter (MWDOC letter 9-14-17) to the SLC, Robert Hunter, general manager for the Municipal Water District of Orange County, referring to the district’s Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) and its recent water Reliability Study, concluded that:

“Some projects make greater and more cost-effective contributions to reliability – paramount among these in our estimation is the California WaterFix. Thus, the Poseidon project is only one of several different projects that can provide that [water] supply, but neither the UWMP nor the Reliability Study state that the Poseidon project is specifically necessary to meet Orange County’s future water supply needs.”

By John Earl

I have written enough about the OC Register’s shilling for the proposed Poseidon Resources billion-dollar ocean desalination scam (stories that promote Poseidon push-polls) that I am not surprised by its latest PR blow-job written by reporter Greg Mellen.

Mellen’s story,  “Sen. Dianne Feinstein lends support to Huntington Beach desalination project,” published online Oct. 12,  is timed by Poseidon for release just before the company’s land lease will be considered by the State Lands Commission on Oct. 19 in the Huntington Beach City Council Chambers.

Mellen quotes a purported letter of support for the project written by Feinstein, but there’s just one problem: unknown to Mellen’s readers, nobody, including Mellen, can give a copy of the entire letter–only  selective quotes from it are given, and apparently (based on a web search) only by the OC Register and the OC Breeze, a public-relations website.

At press time, the letter doesn’t appear on Poseidon’s website, nor is it on Sen. Feinstein’s website, which lists her recent press releases. Poseidon Resources did not respond when I asked for a full copy of the letter.

Mellen did not respond to my email asking if he had read the entire alleged letter and if he could send me a copy. However, he did respond to Debbie Cook, former Huntington Beach mayor and a leading opponent of the Poseidon project, not with the letter but with a Poseidon press release sent by Poseidon to the Register. It also selectively quotes the alleged Feinstein letter but doesn’t show an actual copy of it, yet it is the source of the Register’s story.

Unless Mellen read the real Feinstein letter (there is no mention that he contacted the senator), he failed to verify the main source of his breaking story.

Because Mellen failed to do his job, readers really don’t know if the Feinstein letter exists (as of press time there is no solid evidence that it does) or, if it does exist, if it has been quoted in context by Poseidon and the Register.

 

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Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Pro-Desal Director Pushes False Conservation Stats

By John Earl

Part 4 of a series: part 1; part 2; part 3

In a January 26 Facebook post,  Mesa Water  and Orange County Water District’s (OCWD) dual board member, Shawn Dewane, proudly announced President Donald Trump’s decision to list Poseidon Resources’ proposed Huntington Beach ocean desalination plant as a “Top 50 Nation Priority Project.”

I am proud to be an advocate for pure, plentiful and affordable water supply for our community,” he declared.

Dewane’s words were telling of the ideological anti-conservation foundation upon which the Poseidon proposal rests.

Director claims conservation is more expensive.
Mesa Water/OCWD director, Shawn Dewane, uses Facebook to argue, incorrectly, that conservation is the most expensive water source and that its costs could have already paid for the proposed Poseidon ocean desalination plant.

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.
This OCWD options chart shows that lowering the basin pumping percentage (BPP) refills the basin at far less cost than ocean desalination (not shown), estimated to be from $1,900 af to $2,500 af (currently at Poseidon’s nearly identical Carlsbad desalination plant).

 

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Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Poseidon’s Point Man Spins Alternative Water Facts

By John Earl
Part 3 in a series: Part 1; Part 2

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.

Facebook post by Shawn Dewane
OCWD/Mesa Water Board director Shawn Dewane posting on Facebook.

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.”

But Dewane’s assertion is false.

Last October, the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank that uses “science-based” research to influence “efforts in developing sustainable water policies” worldwide, issued a comprehensive report that analyzes all of California’s water management options (“Cost of Alternative Water Supply and Efficiency Options in California”).

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.”

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Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Dual Water Board Director is Poseidon’s Point Man

By John Earl

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.

Shawn Dewane
Shawn Dewane at a OCWD Board of Directors meeting. Photo: John Earl

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.

Voters elected Dewane to the OCWD Board of Directors in 2010. Continue reading Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Dual Water Board Director is Poseidon’s Point Man

The Ideological War Behind Poseidon’s Proposed Desalination Plant

By John Earl

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.

The Orange County Water District (OCWD), which manages the Santa Ana River and the Orange County Groundwater Basin (a collection of aquifers containing 60 million acre-feet of water), is ground-zero in that war.

(The OCWD supplies 75 percent of the drinking water for 2.4 million residents of north Orange County) Continue reading The Ideological War Behind Poseidon’s Proposed Desalination Plant

Mesa Water on Conservation: In Cuba maybe, but not here

By John Earl

To the five elected directors of the Mesa Water District, conservation is a Trojan horse, unleashing Cuban-style authoritarianism, drop by drop.

The answer to the worst California drought in 500 years, they say, is to sell more water and build more ocean desalination plants.

“The solution to drought is water,” opined Director Fred Bockmiller during a recent (Nov. 10) Mesa workshop. Conservation doesn’t solve the lack of water, he reasoned, “It just means you don’t use it.”

In 2014, after three years of severe drought and foot-dragging by the state’s 400 water agencies, Governor Jerry Brown mandated state-wide conservation standards designed to achieve a 25 percent reduction in overall water use.

The Governor’s plan increased water savings by 28 percent at little if any inconvenience to Orange County residents. Continue reading Mesa Water on Conservation: In Cuba maybe, but not here

Poseidon Jokes and Mesa Water Laughs Over Proposed Tax Increase for ‘Privately Funded’ Desal Project

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Orange County taxpayers may have to pay a lot more for a $1 billion Huntington Beach ocean desalination plant if the Mesa Water District gets its way.

For the past decade the developer, Poseidon Resources, has promised taxpayers they won’t have to pay a cent for construction of the desal plant, which would create about 56,000 acre-feet of pricey drinking water every year, if approved.

The tax truth came out unexpectedly at a special Mesa Water board meeting held June 27 to promote the Poseidon project’s supposed benefits.

About 100 Mesa area residents were in the audience.

Invited speaker Robert Sulnick made Poseidon’s case during a 20-minute presentation.

Opponents of the desal plant were not invited to speak.

Sulknick was introduced as an environmental attorney and the executive director of OC WISE–with no mention (until questioned by this reporter after his presentation) that the group is a Poseidon front of developers and that he is one of Poseidon’s paid consultants. Continue reading Poseidon Jokes and Mesa Water Laughs Over Proposed Tax Increase for ‘Privately Funded’ Desal Project

Water Board President’s Coastal Commission Claims Questioned

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Sometimes a person wants something so badly that he or she starts to believe it’s real–or maybe it actually becomes real.

For Cathy Green, president of the Board of Directors for the Orange County Water District, that something is a $1 billion ocean desalination plant that Poseidon Resources Inc. wants to build along the southeast coast of Huntington Beach in order to sell 56,000 acre feet of desalinated water to the public agency for the next 50 years.

OCWD manages the Santa Ana River groundwater basin and operates the largest toilet-to-tap recycling system in the world, which uses the same reverse osmosis process that would be used by Poseidon but for less than half the price.

The Municipal Water District of Orange County passed the Poseidon project off to OCWD 18 months ago after it failed for years to find buyers for the desalinated water.

Poseidon would add nothing to the District’s water supplies but would replace an equal amount of much cheaper water currently imported from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Feigns of due diligence aside, the intentions of the Poseidon-obsessed OCWD board have always been clear: there will be a desalination plant and OCWD will contract to buy all of its 56,000 acre-feet of desalinated seawater for the next two generations at about three times or more the price of imported water, regardless the cost or need.

Green, who has often helped Poseidon by-pass important project-related questions, showed up at the June 12 meeting of the California Coastal Commission, which will approve or disapprove two of several permits Poseidon needs to resolve before moving forward.

In the hope of making that happen, she had an important announcement to make.

“I am here to inform the commission that on May 14 that Orange County Water District’s Board of Directors voted to approve a term sheet (pre-contract) with Poseidon Resources to purchase the full 56,000 are feet per year capacity of the Huntington Beach desalination project,” she announced, firmly.

“When the commission was considering the desalination permit application in November of 2013, the issue of who would buy the water was unresolved. Today, this issue has been resolved,” she added.

But Coastkeeper representative Ray Hiemstra, who opposes the Poseidon project, happened to be at the meeting on another matter and was jaw-struck by Green’s announcement.

“It appears that Cathy Green is moving faster than some of the board on OCWD’s support of Poseidon,” he wrote in an email to other Poseidon opponents and the Surf City Voice.

Hiemstra was concerned because he knew that the existence of water purchase agreements was a reason for the Commission’s previous approval of Poseidon’s nearly identical Carlsbad desalination plant.

But no such deal was made with Poseidon at the May 14 OCWD meeting, as Director Harry Sidhu explained before he voted to approve the term sheet and go forward with final contract negotiations.

“It is not a hundred percent done deal today. It is just a good start in moving forward,” he advised the overflow audience there to speak during public comments.

Sidhu was technically correct but he overlooked an important point explained in the staff report. By approving the term sheet, “the District is signaling a desire to explore in much greater detail the exact terms of a final Contract with Poseidon Resources to purchase the plant water.”

The Poseidon train has left the station but Green is highballing it down the track–with the help of most of the other board members, including Shawn Dewane, Stephen Sheldon, Denis Bilodeau, Harry Sidhu, Roman Reyna, and Dina Nguyen.

But OCWD’s chief engineer, John Kennedy, thinks that Green had her facts right.

“She [Green] was just saying that the OCWD, via the approved term sheet, would buy all of the water, which is 100 percent accurate,” he explained. “We are working to see what portion of the water would be recharged into the groundwater basin by OCWD and what portion would go directly to the cities.”

If the project proceeds, he added, OCWD “would have an agreement with Poseidon to buy all of the water,” (emphasis added) along with parallel agreements with any water agencies that agreed to buy the water directly that otherwise would be injected into the groundwater basin.

But that’s a far cry from Green’s claim that the issue of who will buy the water has been resolved.

Who will buy the water was just one of several cost and water distribution issues still unresolved, as Kennedy himself pointed out in his report to the OCWD board on May 14.

That’s why he asked for and received $230,000 for a study to help determine “how much would the Water District take, if we do take the water, how are we going to get it into the ground, how much do the cities’ retail water districts want to take. And we would figure out exactly where the water’s going to go, exactly what pipelines and distribution system improvements we need.” (emphasis added)

Until now, only one Orange County water agency, Santa Margarita in South County, has committed to buy Poseidon’s water. Nor have any of the District’s 19 members, who pump groundwater from the basin for 70 percent of their supply, indicated their willingness. One member agency, the Irvine Ranch Water District, has openly opposed the project.

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Poseidon’s Reliability Promise: Pay More For the Same

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Will water ratepayers benefit if the Orange County Water District partners with Poseidon Resources Inc. to build a $1 billion ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach?

The OCWD manages the Santa Ana River (groundwater) basin that provides over 70 percent of the water for central and northern Orange County.

For the past 19 months its board of directors has highballed the proposed project toward a contract with Poseidon that, so far, looks like a bad deal for ratepayers.

That deal would lock OCWD into buying 56,000 acre feet of desalinated water annually for the next 50 years, regardless of need.

And, at 3-10 times the price, it would replace an equal amount of water currently imported from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MET) to help keep the basin at safe levels.

But most of OCWD’s producers (the 19 member agencies who pump water from the basin) will end up paying for Poseidon’s water, whether they want it or not.

One of those producer agencies, the Irvine Ranch Water District, thinks that would be unfair. Continue reading Poseidon’s Reliability Promise: Pay More For the Same