May 14, 2009

Nation's Largest Desalination Project Gets Final Approval

San Diego Regional Water Quality Board approved plan to build $320-million desalination plant along coast

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board unanimously approved a plan to build a $320-million desalination plant along the coast of northern San Diego County, California, Greenwire reported.

The 9-0 vote ended a six-year battle with the project's developer, Poseidon Resources, fighting against local opposition from environmental groups, surfers and many politicians.

Poseidon made a number of concessions along the way to help gain approval, including an agreement to create 55 acres of coastal wetlands in the region to offset the plant's footprint, and was also faced with numerous lawsuits from the Surfrider Foundation and the Planning and Conservation League.

After the vote, Poseidon issued a statement hailing the work of both regulators and activists for helping to "refine" its blueprint.

"While we did not always see eye to eye, the rigorous and thorough scrutiny unquestionably produced a better project," the company said. "As a result, California will soon boast the most technologically advanced, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere."

Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes recently dismissed a suit against the California Coastal Commission over the project’s approval, ruling that the commission's decision did not violate the state's water code.

Surfrider has two other cases pending against the San Diego board and the State Lands Commission, which are scheduled to go before Hayes next month.

The plant, set to be constructed next to a coastal power station in Carlsbad, Calif., is scheduled to be operational by 2012. Poseidon expects the plant to produce 50 million gal of water per day, supplying enough water for 300,000 San Diego residents.

The Carlsbad plant is seen by many in the desalination industry as a bellwether that could pave the way for more development, especially along California’s coast, Greenwire reported.