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Desalination Plant Named For Former Carlsbad Mayor ‘Bud’ Lewis

Lewis, who died last year, served on the City Council for four decades

Photo by Erik Anderson

Pipes at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, Dec. 14, 2015.

Desalination Plant Named For Former Carlsbad Mayor 'Bud' Lewis

Julia Chunn-Heer, policy manager, Surfrider

Mark Weston, chairman, San Diego County Water Authority

Transcript

The $1 billion desalination plant in Carlsbad was dedicated Monday in the name of the late Mayor Claude "Bud" Lewis, who died last year. Lewis served on the City Council for four decades, including 27 years as mayor.

A $1 billion desalination plant in Carlsbad that could provide a significant boost to the region's supply of potable water was dedicated Monday in the name of the late Mayor Claude "Bud" Lewis.

Lewis was mayor of the North County coastal city for 24 years, part of the four decades he spent on the Carlsbad City Council. During that time, Lewis, who died last year, was instrumental in making Carlsbad the host city for the plant, which was constructed over the past three years at the inlet to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

"The Claude 'Bud' Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant opens a new chapter in water supply reliability for the San Diego region and the state by tapping the potential of the Pacific Ocean and reducing dependence on strained resources such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta," said Mark Weston, chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority.

"It is bolstering the San Diego region's self-reliance and, in turn, its future," Weston said.

"The roots of this facility really date back 25 years. It was a similar multi-year drought in 1991, when we were going to be cut 31 percent of our water supply," he said.

Weston said the facility is a milestone in the agency's efforts to diversify the region's supply of fresh water, most of which is imported from the State Water Project and Colorado River.

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Besides the plant itself, construction included installation of a 10-mile pipeline to carry fresh water to water authority facilities in San Marcos, along with upgrades to other water authority infrastructure.

When the reverse osmosis plant goes into full operation, it's expected to produce 50 million gallons of drinking water a day, roughly one-tenth of the region's supply and about one-third of the fresh water generated locally.

Approval was bitterly fought by environmental groups, which contended it would harm marine life.

Julia Chun-Heer, spokeswoman for San Diego County's Surfrider Foundation chapter, said water managers should be considering alternatives before they approve such an expensive water source. Desalinated water costs twice as much as imported water.

"Desalination may very well be a part of the equation, but it certainly should be the last tool in the tool box not the first,” Chun-Heer said. “And I think the public should also understand when it comes to marine life impacts. That's why the power plant in Carlsbad was moving away from an open ocean intake because of its impact on marine life."

Coast Law Group attorney Marco Gonzalez said the plant's opening doesn't signal an end to the debate.

“At the same time that we have Poseidon throwing up its arms in victory claiming to provide as much as 10 percent of the regions water needs, we also have the county water authority going up to the state water quality control board and the governor and complaining we don't need to conserve water anymore," Gonzalez said.

A private firm, Poseidon Water, built and owns the plant. The water authority has the option to purchase the facility in 10 years. In three decades, the agency will have the right to buy the plant for $1, according to the water agency.

Peter MacLaggan, Poseidon's senior vice president, said it's rewarding to see the facility doing what it was designed to do, because so many people invested so much time on the project.

"We're so happy to see the plant now fully operational, and I think it's going to change the way we look at water for decades to come in California. Obviously this will not be the last seawater desalination plant to be built in California,” MacLaggan said.

Video by Katie Schoolov

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