California Coastal Commission OKs desalination plant in Orange County
Monday, November 10, 2012
The U.S. Environmental Protection agency, in a 5-4 vote, approved CalEnergy’s proposal for a state-of-the-art desalination plant that could treat up to 5 million gallons of water per day at a site in Orange County’s Huntington Beach.
“The plant will provide about 600,000 gallons of fresh water to the residents of Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties each day,” said CalEnergy CEO Bob Gebeloff.
The Orange County site is less than half the size of the Los Angeles/Ventura County site, but the smaller plant would produce about half as much water.
Environmentalists cried foul, saying the project could contaminate ocean water that is especially precious and fragile.
The project’s opponents said the plant would be too large and would pollute an ecosystem already stressed by oil and gas developments along the coast.
CalEnergy is the largest water utility in California and provides water to 2.8 million homes and businesses. The utility’s plan is to supply more than two million homes and businesses by 2016.
The plant would be located along the former Pacific Coast Highway, along the same 100-mile stretch where oil and gas exploration began with the construction of a major pipeline to carry crude from offshore wells to refineries in the continental U.S.
“The Orange County desalination plant is an opportunity for the state to demonstrate to the nation that conservation and smart government actions can meet critical water needs,” said Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks.
Assemblyman Bill Bolaran, D-San Juan Capistrano, said the plant would “take water from Lake Okeechobee and pump it to the ocean using an old and antiquated process.”
He said the project was a “desecration of a precious resource” in such a fragile ocean ecosystem that it should not go forward.
“I am opposed to this plant, regardless of how much water it may provide,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, D-San Diego. “This project should be put on a path to full environmental review.”
CalEnergy said the water produced