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Legal Challenges Remain For Carlsbad Desalination Project

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Aired 8/7/09

A San Diego Superior Court Judge has rejected a legal challenge to a proposed desalination plant in Carlsbad. Poseidon Resources says the ruling means construction of the plant can start later this year. But environmental groups say "not so fast."

— A San Diego Superior Court Judge has rejected a legal challenge to a proposed desalination plant in Carlsbad. Poseidon Resources says the ruling means construction of the plant can start later this year. But environmental groups say "not so fast."

The Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper challenged the approval of the project by the State Lands Commission.

The state agency approved a lease for the plant to co-locate with an existing power plant in Carlsbad.

But the groups say the approval came two years after initial environmental review documents were completed.

They argued changes to the project since that time required further review. Those changes include the future operation of the plant as a stand-along facility because the Encina Power Plant is shutting down in the future.

But San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes denied the challenge.

Scott Maloni with Poseidon Resources says the judge's ruling puts the company closer to construction.

"The court determined that the project did not require additional environmental studies that the environmental work that was done under the auspices of the Carlsbad City Council was robust and accurate and that the project's environmental impacts are fully accounted for," Maloni says.

Maloni says construction is expected to start this year.

But Marco Gonzalez with San Diego Coastkeeper says the ruling is tentative and other legal challenges remain.

"We have more than two months to decide whether to appeal," Gonzalez says. "And it will be 30-45 days before we make up our minds. But importantly, we also have an appeal pending before the state Water Resources Control Board. There's quite a few hoops that Poseidon still needs to jump through before this thing really does become final."

Poseidon's Maloni doesn't expect the legal challenges to delay construction of the plant.

The facility is expected to produce enough drinking water to meet the needs of 300,000 people a year.

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