The proposed Poseidon desalination plant has been described as many things: a boondoggle, a drought-buster, necessary, a scheme. But one thing it has never been called until now is the Cesar Chavez of municipal projects. Okay, it still hasn’t been called that officially, but that’s the gist of a bewildering column recently put out by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
Dave Rodriguez, the California State Director and President of LULAC, endorsed the Poseidon desalination project in an editorial written for the Register last Friday, saying that it’s a “matter of environmental justice and civil rights” for Latinos in Orange County. He argues that nothing is more vital to Latinos than water (um, doesn’t that apply to everyone?) and moving forward with the project will allow Orange County to have a “drought-proof” future. The message of the piece strongly implies that everyone in OC, Latinos in particular, will live happily ever after if the Poseidon facility gets approved by the Coastal Commission.
“For too long the interests of Latino communities on local water issues have been overlooked,” he writes. “While wealthy coastal communities have debated their options, inland and heavily Latino communities like Porterville have endured a total lack of water.”
Wait: why mention Porterville in a column for OC?
Framing the desalination project as a matter of environmental justice and civil rights for Latinos in OC isn’t only a stretch, but it doesn’t make much sense. And the article’s claim that Latino voices have been left out of the Poseidon debate is not only laughable, but a lie. SanTana councilmember Roman Reyna is on the OC Water District (OCWD) Board of Directors and has supported the project since he was voted onto the board in 2015. (The OCWD meeting on July 6th was the first time he’s voted no on the project.) Vincent Sarmiento, also of SanTana, served on the board before Reyna, too.
In LULAC’s defense, they have been pro-Poseidon for years as a member of the Poseidon-apologist organization OC WISE. Members have gone to OCWD meetings again and again to express their support of Poseidon. That said, Rodriguez’s pro-Poseidon piece seemed so talking-point that folks on Facebook immediately began questioning the motive for such a ringing endorsement, leading OC LULAC head Benny Diaz to strenuously deny that the org has taken money from Poseidon. Benny is a good guy, but really: “environmental justice”? That’s what’s happening with the garbage dump across the street from Huntington Beach’s Oak View barrio—and LULAC hasn’t written any Register opinion pieces about that.