Carlsbad desalination plant set to start construction soon

The Carlsbad desalination plant jumped two of its final hurdles towards starting construction this week when it was backed by the courts and the local water quality board (WQB).

On 12 May 2009, Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes rejected arguments by the Surfrider Foundation and the Planning & Conservation League that the California Coastal commission failed to consider alternative sites for the 50 MGD (189,000 m³/d) plant, among other issues, when granting a permit to Poseidon Resources, the plant’s proposer.

Then on 13 May, the San Diego Regional WQB, by a majority of 9-0, gave final approval to the project, which has taken six years to wend its way through the permitting thicket that protects the Californian coastline. This has included 14 public hearings and over 70 hours of public testimony and deliberation.

What was seen before the water quality board hearing as a stumbling block, an apparent disparity in calculations about the amount of wetland habitat Poseidon needs to create to compensate for its potential sealife impingement and entrainment, was passed at its original size of 55.4 acres (22.4 ha).

Following the approval, Poseidon issued the following comment:

“Public officials, environmental scientists, private citizens, non-profit volunteers and legal professionals from across the ideological spectrum dedicated countless hours to examining the project. Poseidon is appreciative of the regulatory agency staff and the handful of environmental activists whose dogged input challenged us to refine the project. While we did not always see eye to eye, the rigorous and thorough scrutiny unquestionably produced a better project. As a result, California will soon boast the most technologically-advanced, energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere.”

Poseidon has always maintained that once the permitting and court actions were done, the financing would be tied up. The company is in the process of selecting its lead banker, and says it should be in a position to discuss its plans in about two weeks.