The Seal Beach Sun is reporting that the city council has unanimously approved a non-binding letter of interest regarding the purchase of water from Poseidon Resources Inc., the Connecticut-based company proposing a $1 billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Thirsty Seal Beachers queuing up at the communal spigot with canteens in hand, be advised, the deal is far from assured.
According to the Sun, the city council heard doubts about the project, not just from environmentally-concerned citizens, but from Planning Commissioner Robert Goldberg, who estimated the Poseidon deal could raise water rates by 20 percent.
"That's a pretty big hit if we don't need this," he said. "I'm sure I'm underestimating the water costs."
The process of removing salt from ocean water in order to make it drinkable is energy intensive and therefore more costly than water from current sources. A draft term sheet released by Poseidon in January estimated the price of its water at $1,424 per acre foot, versus the current price of about $950 per acre foot.
Critics have decried not just desalination's impact on ocean life but also the increased cost, which they say would be silly to pay for in lieu of abundant conservation opportunities.
In comments with various media outlets, Poseidon VP Scott Maloni (who has yet to return the Weekly's calls) has said that higher water prices are something people will have to consider if they want a drought-proof source of H2O.
In addition to the planning commissioner's concerns, Seal Beach Mayor Gary Miller asked the city attorney to adjust the wording of the letter to clarify that the city had no contractual obligation to buy.
Though Poseidon has received approval from the Huntington Beach City Council and other local agencies to move forward with construction of its project (which would use pipes located at the AES power station on PCH to draw water in from the ocean), the company is still awaiting approval from the California Coastal Commission, which is expected to rule on the proposed plant early this summer.