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Carlsbad Desalination Project Gets Approval


The State Lands Commission today voted 3-to-nothing to approve a lease of state property for a desalination plant in Carlsbad. It's the last major regulatory hurdle the project had to clear before construction could start. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce has details.

The state coastal commission approved a construction permit earlier this month for Poseidon Resources to build the desal plant.

The plant would be built at the site of the Encina Power Station.

Scott Maloni of Poseidon Resources says the company is looking forward to turning seawater into freshwater.

Maloni: Well we're done with the permitting process, the five-year process comes to a close. We'll spend the rest of the year closing construction financing and we expect to break ground the first half of next year.

The company's plan calls for using an ocean intake pipe to suck in 300 million gallons of seawater a day and converting it to fresh water.

The State Lands Commission today decided that Poseidon's plans to offset greenhouse gas emissions and losses to marine life were sufficient.

Lt. Governor John Garamendi is one of three commissioners who approved the land lease.

We were concerned about the loss of marine life. And once again the project was mitigated in a way that I believe will fully mitigate whatever losses there are to marine life as this water is taken from the ocean.

Poseidon has proposed restoring up to 50 acres of marine wetlands to offset damage the desal plant will do to marine life.

San Diego Coastkeeper's Bruce Reznik says he's disappointed in the lands commission decision.  

He says says there could be legal challenges based on how the plant would harm the ocean ecosystem.

Reznik: The impacts from sucking in the 300 million gallons a day and the impacts on 35-million-organisms every year - that that would have. I think there is potential litigation. I think there are some groups that are at least exploring that option.

The project still has to get a final permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

But Poseidon's Maloni says that won't affect the construction timeline.

There's also a pending lawsuit the Surfrider Foundation has filed over the coastal commission's earlier approval of the construction permit.

Poseidon's Maloni says the company doesn't expect legal challenges to delay the project.

Maloni: The only thing left to resolve would be the legal claims filed by Surfrider and Coastkeeper. But as I said, I don't expect those to hold up construction nor do I expect that they'll be successful.

The desalination plant would be the largest in the western hemisphere.

Nine public agencies from throughout San Diego County have signed 30-year water purchase agreements with Poseidon Resources including the Carlsbad Municipal Water District and the City of Oceanside Municipal Water District.   


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