Turning Water into Whine

Environmental concerns stall HB desalination plant

Of course, the Poseidon project was never about helping Huntington Beach. The plant would have been owned and operated by Poseidon Resources Inc., a Connecticut company whose sole interest was selling water to thirsty South County cities. The EIR never identified Poseidon's potential customers, but the liklihood that the project's water would be used to support new home construction led the Huntington Beach Planning Department to declare that the Poseidon plant would have a significant impact by "directly or indirectly inducing population growth." (Poseidon's website boasts that the Santa Margarita Water District has already agreed to purchase half the plant's water—25 million gallons per day.)

"The Huntington Beach project's EIR provides the best example in the state of how not to go forward with desalination," said Marco Gonzales, an environmental attorney who represents the Surfrider Foundation. "They moved too quickly, they didn't consider the environmental impacts, and they didn't identify the end users of the water. The project would facilitate new development, and that's one of the criteria that makes desalination really unattractive in Southern California."

"In the EIR, they are supposed to analyze the impact of the project—specifically who the water is for—but they didn't want to do that because it will be a bone of contention," said Huntington Beach councilwoman Debbie Cook. "As far as I know, this project has no benefit for the city whatsoever."

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