Marin MWD wins but desalination EIR challenge looms

Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) won a ruling in March 2011 by a Marin superior court judge which keeps its option of a seawater desalination plant on track.

But a further court case challenging the California water district’s environmental impact report (EIR) for the 5-15 MGD (19,000-57,000 m³/d) reverse osmosis plant will start later in April.

The March ruling rejected a contention from by opponents of the project that a measure chosen by voters last November barred the MMWD from continuing with the project. The measure allows planning to proceed, but requires voter approval before the district can authorize actual construction or financing of a desalination plant.

“It’s a telling decision on the part of the judge,” Paul Helliker, MMWD general manager, told the Marin Independent Journal . “It would be good to have this whole issue behind us.”

But residents worried that the desalination plant will lead to a population increase of up to 85,000 in Marin launched a lawsuit in 2009 against the EIR seeking an injunction to halt progress on the proposed desalination project and to “protect the San Francisco Bay and the citizens of Marin from the harmful effects” of desalination.

The lawsuit alleges the proposed US$ 105 million plant would discharge up to 30 million gallons (113,000 m³) of harmful brine into San Rafael Bay, increase energy consumption by the water district by up to four times and expose the public to potential contamination.

· Read a 2008 D&WR magazine article on the project.