California Coastal Commission unanimously rejects bid for $1.4B desalination plant

(UC) — The California Coastal Commission on Thursday voted unanimously against approving a permit for the Poseidon Water desalination facility in Huntington Beach, according to Yahoo News.

The $1.4 billion project had been in the works for two decades.

In denying Poseidon a permit, the commission demonstrated its independence from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration – a supporter of the plant. The decision signaled that high costs, vocal opposition and hazards such as sea-level rise can present major hurdles for large desalination plants on the California coast.

The project would've provided 50 million gallons of drinking water for Orange County residents every day by using reverse osmosis to remove the salt from ocean water, according to Poseidon Water.

However, the project encompassed a list of contentious issues including the proposed plant's effects on marine life, its vulnerability to sea-level rise and the company’s heavy political lobbying.

Poseidon’s opponents argued the desalinated water is unnecessary because northern Orange County already has ample groundwater supply and is recycling its wastewater. They said the project would only benefit Canadian parent company Brookfield Infrastructure and its investors, while low-income people would be hit especially hard by rate increases.

"Orange County has since been remarkably successful in developing additional supplies of water, most notably through its groundwater replenishment system which provides more than 100 million gallons of water each day for the region," said the coastal commission's Tom Lester.

The company said the costs had yet to be finalized but that monthly water rates could increase by roughly $3 to $6 per household. The commission’s staff concluded that despite a lack of detailed information on costs, the water rate hike for the project “would disproportionately impact millions of low-income residents.”

In a statement, Poseidon Water said it was not the decision they were hoping for, adding that the project "would have created a sustainable, drought-tolerant source of water for Orange County, just as it has for San Diego County."

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