Huntington Beach desalination plant is a no-go

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
From Chapter reports

The California Coastal Commission last week put off a decision on plans for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach -- a plan strongly opposed by Sierra Club Angeles Chapter.

Hundreds, including Chapter activists, packed the commission hearing in Newport Beach to point out the destructive impacts on ocean water quality and climate change. "This is not an issue of water supply, it is about upholding the Coastal Act and opposing a bad proposal," Jennifer Robinson, acting co-director for the Chapter, said at the hearing. "The Sierra Club doesn't oppose all desalination, but this project as proposed is NOT the one to approve."

The Chapter had already submitted petitions from more than 2,500 individuals opposed to the proposed Poseidon Desalination Facility that would harm our marine resources, contribute to pollution and heath concerns and negatively impact the Southern California coast and the region's tourist-driven economy.

The proposal

Poseidon had planned to use open ocean intake pipes, which the State of California has required all coastal power plants to discontinue using by 2020. Open ocean intakes suck in and kill billions of fish eggs, adult fish and other marine life. Not only is desalination harmful when taking water in, but also when it expels hyper saline brine, the salt by-product of the desalination process. In addition to a very high concentration of salt, brine also contains other pollutants such as heavy metals that can bioaccumulate throughout the food chain.

According to a study by the Pacific Institute, “direct discharges into estuaries and the ocean disrupt natural salinity balances and cause environmental damage of sensitive marshes or fisheries.” The brine discharge from the Poseidon plant will cause a dead zone off the coast of Huntington Beach.

The Huntington Beach Independent reported that Coastal Commission staff members had urged the commission — which is tasked with protecting access to California's coastline — to approve the project, but with major caveats that officials with Stamford, Conn.-based Poseidon Resources said would effectively kill the project. (Read the full news story here.)


Water supplies across California are already at drought level for the past decade or more, and the only possible other source of water is the ocean. Sure, the plant(s) sure be created sustainably with as minimal as possible environmental impact, but they are an absolute necessity for Californian cities and farming, and given the very long lead time in building them, we are already too late. We should be building several dozen of these along the entire coastline, not trying to block them!

I agree with the above viewpoint. We need and will continue to need usable, potable water. Desalinization plants, among other resources are needed. Perhaps the salt residue or by product can be re-directed to the upper Newport bay area where they are harvesting sea salt. Sea salt is a preferred commodity for cooking.

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