By Anthony Clark Carpio
8:31 PM PDT, August 2, 2013
The state legislators representing Orange County unanimously asked a state water agency to approve Poseidon Water's permit to build a desalination facility in Huntington Beach, according to a statement by Poseidon Water.
The Thursday letter to Coastal Commission Chairwoman Mary Shallenberger stated that "the Huntington Beach Desalination Plant is a critically needed and environmentally responsible solution to the county's water supply needs. We urge your immediate approval."
Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) and Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) were among those who signed the letter.
Democrats in the county also back Poseidon Water, the Connecticut-based company that recently changed its name from Poseidon Resources, according to company spokesman Brian Lochrie.
"We're extremely excited to get bipartisan support for the project," Lochrie said. "I think it's a big deal and it shows the strong level of support that we have throughout the county for this important water reliability project."
The letter states that though Orange County is using less water than in previous years, it "must import 50% of its water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project in order to meet the demands of our constituents and keep our economy strong."
The letter comes weeks after the Orange County Water District voted 8 to 0, with two members absent, to extend its confidentiality agreement with Poseidon to study the possibility of buying water from the desalination plant, director Cathy Green said.
Green said the confidentiality agreement — which essentially makes Poseidon's private research on the plant available to the water district — isn't new, as the two have had an agreement since April 2010. Directors voted July 24 to extend it to April 7, 2016, and to create an Ocean Desalination Citizens' Advisory Committee to provide input on the desal project, she said.
"We just want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence," Green said.
She added that though their research on feasibility of buying water from Poseidon may be done behind closed doors, all actions on the matter will be made in public.
It was earlier reported in the Daily Pilot sister paper the Huntington Beach Independent that underground pipelines could possibly run through Costa Mesa. Lochrie said it could still be an option should other agencies and cities decide to buy from Poseidon.
He added that the Coastal Commission hearing regarding Poseidon's permit should happen some time in the fall.
The desalination plant, projected to produce about 50 million gallons of water daily, may be an alternative that OCWD is looking at to prepare the county for water shortages in the future, but some believe Poseidon's product isn't needed.
Former Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook, who has followed the topic closely, said many urban water management plans in Orange County say the county has enough water until 2035. She doesn't understand why legislators would support the project.
"It's interesting that you have all these legislators who are saying, 'You guys need to approve this project,' but we don't have any cities who actually want the water," she said. "These guys are clearly not keeping up with current events."
Huntington Beach Councilman Joe Shaw has opposed the project as well and is bringing an item to Monday's council meeting asking the dais to send a letter to OCWD expressing an opposition to the confidentiality agreement.
"I don't think any body of officials, elected or appointed, should having any confidentiality agreements with preparations or any other group," he said. "They should do everything in public so that the public sees everything and that public scrutiny is always there."
Shaw said he believes state legislators don't have all the information regarding the project to make an informed decision.
"Most of our elected officials who have signed that letter, I don't have that much faith in their abilities anyway," he said.