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Delay In Carlsbad Desalination Approval


Aired 4/20/09

A company that wants to turn seawater into fresh water in Carlsbad says it's on track to start construction later this year. But Poseidon Resources has to wait at least another month to find out they get over the last regulatory hurdle in a six-year process.  KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce explains.

After a six hour public hearing Wednesday, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board postponed a vote on a discharge permit for Poseidon Resources' desalination project.

Board staffers will revise the discharge permit and the board will likely vote on it next month.

The board's staff had recommended that Poseidon add more acres of wetland restoration to offset potential damage to marine life.

The company is already required to restore 55 acres of wetlands as a requirement for state permits.  

The revised permit could require on-going monitoring of the restoration sites to ensure new life offsets any losses from the plant's operation.

"We were obligated to do that as part of the marine life mitigation plan approved by the Coastal Commission last year," said Scott Maloni with Poseidon Resources. "It was an idea that we introduced and we accept. We think it's a good idea because it will allow us in a real time evaluate the marine life impacts and the effect of the mitigation."

Attorney Marco Gonzalez represented the Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper at the hearing.

He says the project sets a bad precedent and Poseidon should be held to a strict standard in protecting marine life.

"We know that there's more than 20 plants proposed up and down the coast," said Gonzalez. "And what we do here in Carlsbad as the first one in the state of this size, we know that everybody's going to look to us as setting an example. So, we should be as conservative and protective of marine life as possible."

Poseidon's Scott Maloni says construction of the plant could start later this year.

The desalination plant would be the largest in the western hemisphere and could produce 50-million gallons of drinking water a day by 2012.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.


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