For more than two decades, California’s Orange County has debated whether to build a seaside plant to convert the Pacific Ocean’s salt water into drinking water in hopes of buffering against droughts like the one now gripping the nation’s most populous state.
Now, the $1.4 billion proposal by Poseidon Water faces a critical review Thursday by the California Coastal Commission, which is tasked with protecting California’s scenic shores.
Poseidon and its supporters, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, contend the Huntington Beach plant will produce 50 million gallons of water a day that are crucial to help weather cutbacks on state and federal water supplies following years of drought. Newsom, a Democrat, recently told the Bay Area News Group editorial board that a denial would be a “big setback” and “we need more tools in the damn tool kit” to address drought.
But environmental groups and the Coastal Commission’s staff, which reviewed the plan, oppose it. They argue it will damage marine life by killing tiny organisms that form the base of the ocean’s food web. They also say it’s vulnerable to flooding and other hazards. And some in the water industry say the cost of desalinated water is too high and isn’t needed in an area with access to cheaper sources.
“The ocean is not our reservoir. We don’t own its contents,” said Susan Jordan, executive director of the California Coastal Protection Network and member of the Stop Poseidon coalition. “It belongs to the planet, but they’re using it as their personal piggybank and it is not a piggybank. It needs to be protected.”
California has spent most of the last 15 years in drought conditions. Its normal wet season that runs from late fall to the end of winter was especially dry this year and as a result 95% of the state is classified as in severe drought.
Newsom last summer urged residents to cut consumption by 15%, but since then water usage has dropped by only about 3%. Some areas have begun instituting generally mild restrictions, in most cases limiting how many days lawns can be watered. More stringent restrictions are likely later in the year.
Much of California’s water comes from melting snow and with a far below normal snowpack, state officials have told water agencies they will receive only 5% of what they’ve requested from state water supplies beyond what’s needed for critical activities like drinking and bathing.
The idea of desalination has been debated for decades in Huntington Beach, a coastal community southeast of Los Angeles known as “Surf City USA” that relies on its sands and waves for tourism. These days, discussion of the project has also centered around the impact of climate change on regional water supplies and on sea level rise in the low-lying coastal area where the plant would be built.
Desalination takes ocean water and removes salt and other elements to make it drinkable. Those elements are discharged back into the sea, while the water can be channeled directly to consumers or used …read more
Source:: Headlines News4jax
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