The OCWD manages the Santa Ana River Basin and provides north Orange County with 75 percent of its water.
The developer, Poseidon Resources, wants to build the desal plant on state-owned coastal land in southeast Huntington Beach. The plant would produce about 56,000 acre-feet of drinking water from local seawater per year under a 30 to 50-year take-or-pay contract with the OCWD.
held in Huntington Beach last October 19. The SLC approved a
supplemental Environmental Impact Report for the project and extended
Poseidon’s 2010 lease with minor changes until 2025.
Board of Directors Dina Nguyen, Cathy Green, Shawn Dewane,
Steven Sheldon, with president Denis Bilodeau speaking on their
behalf, claimed that the board studied the project alternatives and
that there is a demonstrated need for the project.
guess what I’m looking for,” Commissioner Betty Yee asked,
skeptically, “is have you fully considered all these [alternatives]
before really looking at the water to be produced by the site, which
is obviously going to be the most expensive?”
yes. We certainly have,” Bilodeau assured. “Really, the only
opportunity we have besides Poseidon is the expansion of the
Groundwater Replenishment System [the District’s sewage recycling
plant],” he claimed.
missing, she said, “is the analysis of these alternative water
sources as compared to what would be produced by the Poseidon
Yee got to the heart of the matter:
it’s a little hard to figure out whether the Poseidon water that
would be produced is really more – I’ll use the word arbitrary –
with respect to a desire to replace imported water as compared to
really being integral to meeting the overall water needs.”
“Well, again, we have looked at all of the” –
“Yeah. I mean, we are obviously looking at all of our
the OCWD Board of Directors has all but officially backed the project
since 2013, working intimately and secretly with Poseidon to see it
through every stage of the permitting process.
fact, so far, the OCWD board has precluded its staff from reporting
back about project alternatives, instead glibly promising to study
them after all but signing a final contract with Poseidon.
the Municipal Water District sent a letter to the commission stating
that an in-depth reliability study it conducted for all of Orange
County found no special need for the project compared to many
if a need for Poseidon’s water could be demonstrated, it would not
add a drop to OCWD’s water supply.
because, under terms imposed on a required $400 million government
subsidy, Poseidon’s water would offset an equal amount of imported
water (that OCWD buys to replenish water pumped from the basin) and
the much cheaper imported water will go to residents located outside
of the OCWD service area, courtesy of OCWD ratepayers.
a ratepayer’s perspective, paying three times as much (estimated
cost of Poseidon water compared to imported water) for water that you
won’t get is absurd. But OCWD directors who support the project say
that the ocean is an endless supply of fresh drinking water that
provides security against vanishing imported water supplies; so the
Poseidon project is worth it, even if it costs a lot more and will
kill massive quantities of marine life.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires consideration of project alternatives, including no project at all. If there is no need for Poseidon, or if alternative approaches preclude that need, denying the project serves the public’s best interests.
The SLC violated CEQA by approving an Environmental Impact Report that didn’t consider those alternatives, according to plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in November to challenge the commission’s decision.
Bilodeau declined to respond for the record.
stories to come: detailed examples, including secret meetings, of how
the OCWD BOD has pushed aside alternatives in order to push forward
the proposed $1 billion Poseidon project, at all costs.
John Earl is the publisher and editor for the Surf City Voice and Poseidon Town. In the late 1980s, he covered local politics for the Huntington Beach News. In 2005, he was a founding member and first president of Residents for Responsible Desal, which he left in 2006 to become editor of the print newspaper, OC Voice.