California Coastal Commission
United States of America

Stop the approval of a permit for the proposed Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Plant

• Poseidon plans to use open ocean intakes, which Sierra Club National Policy specifically calls out as unacceptable for use in ocean desalination projects. Open ocean intakes suck in and kill billions of fish eggs, adult fish and other marine life. Also the outfall from the plan will discharge a hyper-saline brine as part of the desalination process. This will severely impact marine life in the area where it is discharged. Together the impacts if the intake and outfall will be devastating to marine life.
• Ocean Desalination is the most energy intensive (and costly) way to produce water and will increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This directly opposes the efforts of the Sierra Club to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions
• There are other viable, more environmentally sound, reliable and cost effective alternatives to open ocean desalination.
• This is a step in privatizing our water supply by out-of-state corporate interests.

• Because of these reasons, we, the undersigned request that the California Coastal Commission should notgrant a Coastal Development Permit to Poseidon Resources for the Huntington Beach Desalination Plant.

For more info see: coastkeeper.org/desal-hb.

September XX 2013,

California Coastal Commission,

Whereas the mission of the California Coastal Commission is to “Protect, conserve, restore, and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations”.

We, the residents of Orange County, believe the proposed Huntington Beach Desalination Facility does not honor this mission and should not be awarded a Coastal Development Permit. The plant, as proposed, would not conserve our marine resources, and is not a sustainable or prudent source of water while other sources are readily available. We are concerned about this project’s impacts on the Southern California coast, which this region heavily relies on to fuel our tourist driven economy.

The State of California is phasing out the use of destructive ‘Once Through Cooling’ facilities for power plants, including the one in Huntington Beach, due to the vastly negative impacts incurred on marine life. Allowing Poseidon to operate their Huntington Beach plant with this outdated technology would be a big step backwards for the state and would continue the fish kills and damage to marine resources that the state is trying to stop. In addition, zooplankton and phytoplankton along with billions of other invertebrates would be sucked into intake pipes and killed. Plankton play a critical role in our coastal ecosystems - including carbon dioxide sequestration and it would be devastating to lose them. Desalination plants also produce a hyper saline brine as a byproduct, and discharges it into the ocean. This will degrade water quality at these discharge points as it contains heavy metals and cleaning chemicals, in addition to being too salty for most marine life to remain in the nearby habitat. None of these practices are good for the health of our coasts and our people.

The State of California has also committed to reducing its contribution to climate change and sea level rise through legislation requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In its required greenhouse gas plan, Poseidon originally predicted needing to purchase 16,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents to offset its production. This number assumed that the desalinated water would replace imported water, which Poseidon later admitted it would not. Poseidon put its revised greenhouse gas emissions at about 83,500 MtCO2e instead. That is a huge addition of greenhouse gasses contributing to climate change when there are existing alternatives with much lower costs for the environment.

Creating freshwater from saltwater takes an immense amount of energy; the Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Facility is projected to use 289,715 MWh of electricity per year. That’s enough electricity to power 30,000 homes. As costs for energy use keep increasing, so will the cost of producing desalinated water, and that will be reflected in ratepayer water bills of the agencies purchasing the desalinated water. Since Poseidon Resources is a private, for-profit company, they can continue to raise rates without answering to ratepayers. In an uncertain economy, that is a concerning direction in which to take our water supply.

We are also concerned that the plant will produce water that is significantly more expensive than options currently available, and will pass that burden on to ratepayers. The tentative price for buying Poseidon’s water will be $1800 per acre-foot per year. Compare that to around $800 per acre foot for imported water, and $400 for groundwater. Furthermore, according to our water districts, we don’t need additional sources of water. In the 25 year outlook included in the 2011 Municipal Water District of Orange County’s Urban Water Management Plan it states that no additional water sources will be needed at least until 2035, including increased demand from population growth and drought years. We should be increasing our conservation, efficiency, and recycling efforts rather than seeking out the most expensive option available.

Proponents of desalination argue that we should diversify our water sources for protection against disasters or droughts. However, the water produced by Poseidon is not intended for local use. The proposed pipelines taking desalinated water across the county are no more secure from earthquakes or tsunamis than any of our current sources. In fact, since the desalination plant is located so close to the coast, in a known tsunami run up zone and near an active fault zone, it is more likely to be damaged from earthquakes, coastal storms, flooding, tsunamis, or sea level rise than other water supply options. Conservation, groundwater, and recycled water are much more secure options that are already in use.

We have already spent the time and money to implement Marine Protected Areas along our coasts, and allowing the desalination plant would greatly compromise these efforts.

For these reasons, we request that the Coastal Commission upholds its mission to protect our coast and deny the Coastal Development permit to Poseidon Resources.

Thank you.


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