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EPA lends $170 Million for Bud Lewis Desalination Plant environmental upgrades

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest seawater desalination plant in the U.S., is shown in this aerial view, Sept. 4, 2015.
Associated Press
The Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest seawater desalination plant in the U.S., is shown in this aerial view, Sept. 4, 2015.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has lent $170 million intended to reduce financing costs for environmental upgrades at the Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, it was announced Friday.

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, helped secure the funds, which he said would save ratepayers up to $54 million compared with alternative financing strategies.

"As we continue to confront increasingly frequent and intense droughts, the EPA announcement is an exciting step in our efforts to provide sustainable, reliable water supplies for San Diego County," Levin said in a statement. "This low-interest federal loan will not only allow the Carlsbad Desalination Plant to improve its efficiency and environmental practices but will also save local water ratepayers tens of millions of dollars."


The loan funds come from the federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and are intended to help Poseidon Resources "continue to provide local, sustainable, drought-proof water to the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies while reducing costs of the current intake modification project," according to a statement from the San Diego County Water Authority.

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is touted as the "largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient desalination plant in the nation," and has produced more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water for San Diego County since operations began in December 2015, officials said.

"Saving ratepayers money while enhancing environmental protections is solid gold," said Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz. "The team effort between Poseidon, the Water Authority and Congressman Levin illustrates our commitment to find cost savings wherever we can while continuing to provide safe and reliable water supplies for our region."

The environmental upgrades funded by the loan will include new intake and discharge facilities at the plant that are intended to ensure it continues to meet California's Ocean Plan standards for protecting marine life. Work started in January, and the new facilities are anticipated to be operational by December 2024.

"Since the beginning, Poseidon Resources' mission has been to provide high-quality drinking water and a long-term sustainable solution for San Diego County while protecting ratepayers," said Sachin Chawla, president of Poseidon. "This infusion of low-interest capital and close partnerships with U.S. EPA and the Water Authority will further support modernizing Carlsbad's Desalination Plant for future generations."


Construction is not anticipated to impact water production, the water authority statement read, with the exception of a planned outage near its completion to connect the facilities to the existing intake system.