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Hundreds turn out for coastal commission meeting on controversial desalination plan

People on both sides of a plan to put a desalination plant in Huntington Beach turn out for a California Coastal Commission meeting Wednesday.
People on both sides of a plan to put a desalination plant in Huntington Beach turn out for a California Coastal Commission meeting Wednesday.
Ed Joyce/KPCC
People on both sides of a plan to put a desalination plant in Huntington Beach turn out for a California Coastal Commission meeting Wednesday.
Hundreds turn out for a California Coastal Commission meeting on the fate of plans to put a desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
Ed Joyce/KPCC
People on both sides of a plan to put a desalination plant in Huntington Beach turn out for a California Coastal Commission meeting Wednesday.
Many who turned out in support of plans to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach included members of the Sheet Metal Workers' union, who see the project as a source of jobs.
Ed Joyce/KPCC
People on both sides of a plan to put a desalination plant in Huntington Beach turn out for a California Coastal Commission meeting Wednesday.
A sign spells out opposition to Poseidon Water and its plans to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
Ed Joyce/KPCC
People on both sides of a plan to put a desalination plant in Huntington Beach turn out for a California Coastal Commission meeting Wednesday.
An artist rendering depicts a proposed desalination plan in Huntington Beach. The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the plant today.
Courtesy of Poseidon Water


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A standing room only crowd of about 200 people packed a California Coastal Commission meeting Wednesday in Newport Beach for a hearing on a proposed desalination plant in Orange County.

Poseidon Water wants to build the plant in Huntington Beach next to a coastal power plant and use its existing open-ocean water intakes, a process that the state has determined harms marine life.

As a result, the state is phasing out open-ocean water intakes for power plants. 

The coastal commission staff has recommended approval of the desalination plant with several conditions, including one requiring intakes be installed beneath the ocean floor — so-called "subsurface intakes."

Poseidon Water has said that condition would effectively kill the project due to the costs involved.

Poseidon won a decade-long fight to get approval for a similar facility in Carlsbad. But subsurface intakes were not a condition for that project because the geology offshore was not suitable.

Poseidon Water has said a desalination plant in Huntington Beach would produce 50 million gallons of water a day for the region, providing a "drought-proof" supply.

Opponents of the project, including Orange County Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation, said the water isn't needed and would further harm the ocean ecosystem off Huntington Beach.

On Wednesday, coastal commissioners are considering Poseidon's application for a Coastal Development Permit, the last bureaucratic hurdle for the company's project. Poseidon received its first permit for the Huntington Beach plant in 2006.