Orange County Desalination Plant Wins Key Approval

A desalination plant proposed for the Pacific Coast in Dana Point, California, gained key approval from the California Coastal Commission (CCC), just months after the CCC rejected a proposal for another power plant in Huntington Beach, 30 miles up the coast. 

Brooke Staggs reports in a paywalled article for the OC Register that the approval of the Doheny project in Dana Point gave some in California a sigh of relief, knowing that the May decision to reject the Poseidon plant in Huntington Beach was not the ultimate demise of desalination in California—a state sorely in need of solutions to water supply limitations expected to worsen with climate change. 

Some of the experts that testified at the CCC hearing on the Doheny plant called comparisons between the two projects “ludicrous.” The Doheny plant will only cost $140 million, rather than $1.4 billion, for example. The Poseidon project was also located in Central Orange County, which is located on top of a large underground aquifer. 

“Costs also should be shared between several agencies who can benefit from the added water supply. That means monthly bills are projected to go up $2.38 per bill once the plant is built, vs. a projected increase of as much as nearly $9 per bill for the Poseidon project. And the costs connected to Doheny won’t hit all customers as a flat increase, SCWD says, with plans to study different rate structures,” explains Staggs.

If completed, the Doheny plant would turn 5 million gallons of ocean water a day into drinking water as soon as 2027. The plant “still needs one more key permit to reach full regulatory approval,” according to Staggs. “Also, South Coast Water District, the Laguna Beach-based agency developing the project, still needs to hammer out complex agreements with potential water agency partners before an estimated three-year construction process can begin.”

The article notes that despite the Doheny plant’s key victory with the CCC, it still faces political opposition, including from the same environmental groups that opposed the Poseidon plant.

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