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Climate and Environment

Plan For Huntington Beach Desalination Plant Is Rejected By California Coastal Commission

An aerial view of the proposed desalination plant, showing the ocean and the beach in the foreground
The proposed Poseidon Water desalination plant would be built on this site along the coast. Huntington Beach Channel runs through the site.
(Maya Sugarman
LAist/ (Aerial support provided by LightHawk))
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For more than 20 years, officials have wrestled with whether to build a controversial seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach. At a meeting Thursday, the California Coastal Commission voted to reject the plan.

Poseidon Water, the company behind the proposal, had said it could pump as much as 100 million gallons of ocean water a day and filter it into drinking water.

That $1.4 billion pitch recently earned the support of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called it an “important tool” to help the state navigate its severe drought conditions.

But environmentalists and tribal nations have worried about the harm the plant could cause to marine life, and others have worried about the cost that would ultimately impact water rate payers.

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Last month in a 200-page report the commission’s own staff recommended rejecting the project.

At Thursday's meeting in Costa Mesa, there were hours of presentations and comments. More than 200 people showed up.

Proponents said the project is expensive, but necessary amid unprecedented drought made worse by the climate crisis.

“The Huntington Beach desal plant would provide high-quality, locally-controlled, drought-proof water supply regardless of whether or how much it rains or snows,” said Cathy Green, vice president of the Orange County Water District board and former Huntington Beach mayor.

Oscar Rodriguez of community group Oak View ComUNIDAD said water recycling and stormwater capture would be better for low-income ratepayers. Rodriguez is also a planning commissioner for Huntington Beach.

“How can we justify building a facility that we already know produces the most expensive form of water and will only benefit private equity firms and its investors?” Rodriguez said.

The Coastal Commissioners ultimately voted unanimously against the plan.

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Updated May 13, 2022 at 9:55 AM PDT
This story has been updated to reflect the vote decision