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Carlsbad Desalination Plant Moves Ahead


A state agency approved plans that would offset environmental damage from a proposed desalination plant in Carlsbad. Several legal challenges remain, but the company building the plant doesn't expect any delays. KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce has details.

The California Coastal Commission says the desalination plant would harm the equivalent of at least 37 acres of sensitive lagoon habitat.

The commission also determined the plant's operation would discharge at least 97,000 metric tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

Connecticut-based Poseidon Resources has plans to offset those impacts and the coastal commission approved them.

Poseidon's Scott Maloni says the company will restore 55 acres of wetlands and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Maloni: We will invest $60 million in the latest technology in the plant to reduce the energy needed to desalt seawater. In addition, on an annual basis, we will calculate what the indirect greenhouse gas emissions are from the project. And we will go out into the marketplace and purchase renewable energy credits or invest in offset projects.

But there are three legal challenges to the project.

One lawsuit questions the commission's approval of  the coastal development permit for the plant.

Gabe Solmer with San Diego Coastkeeper says the permit process was backwards.  

Solmer: Where they approved a project and just now are looking at the impacts and how to mitigate for them. The question that we have to ask is how can a project move forward before we know how that facility is going to operate and how its going to mitigate its impacts.

Poseidon's Maloni says he doesn't expect the legal challenges to delay construction.

Maloni: Each of the three remaining suits have a hearing date before the court in the first half of next year. We don't expect any of those suits to slow down or prevent the start up of the project. Construction's on schedule to start in the summer of 2009 and we'll be operational before the end of 2011.

The desalination plant would be the largest in the western hemisphere and make 50 million gallons of fresh water a day from sea water.

Nine public agencies in San Diego County have signed 30-year water purchase agreements to get water from the plant.   

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.


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