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The Poseidon Desalination Plant would be built near the AES power plant in Huntington Beach, pictured here. The facility, if approved, would eventually have to stand on its own because of a new state policy that will require AES to reduce its saltwater intake by 2020.
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Poseidon desalination plant back to H.B. council

Desalination plant back to H.B. council


HUNTINGTON BEACH-The City Council will take a second look at environmental impacts for a desalination plant on Tuesday after the company had to change its plans and find a way to operate as a stand-alone facility because of new state criteria.

Opponents of the $350 million Poseidon desalination plant say converting sea water into fresh water would be costly to taxpayers and could potentially harm ocean life; however, company officials say more than a dozen Orange County cities are on board to support the project.

The facility at Pacific Coast Highway and Newland Street is proposed to offer an alternative water source to help combat the drought plaguing Southern California. Poseidon is expected to turn out about 50 million gallons of fresh water a day to be used in Orange County.

City Council members will consider five pieces of the Poseidon project on Tuesday: a supplemental environmental report, an amendment to Poseidon's conditional use permit, an updated owner agreement between the city and the company for the land, escrow instructions for the land and a pipeline franchise agreement, which is expected to bring in $168,000 annually for the city.

Poseidon gained its city approvals in 2006 but needs to come back because of changes to its plan.

The original proposal had the desalination facility working with the AES Power Plant to process the water used to cool AES' equipment, but a recent state policy change forced Poseidon to tweak its plans.

The State Water Resource Control Board will require AES to reduce its salt water intake by 2020, which means Poseidon will have to operate independently of the power plant. Poseidon would use AES discharge water until the state policy takes affect, company spokesman Brian Lochrie said.

The new proposal would allow Poseidon to either take discharged seawater from the Huntington Beach Generating Station or the facility would pump its own ocean water using the generating station's pipeline, according to city reports.

The desalination facility has been a source of contention for environmentalist groups in the city who contend desalinated water could cost four times as much as using reclaimed or recycled water.

Some from the Residents for Responsible Desalination also say the process of sucking in large amounts of salt water to cool power plants and eventually make fresh water can kill sea life including fish and larvae and, in some cases, seals and sea lions.

Poseidon officials have said studies on the project's environmental impacts determined there would be no significant effect on marine life.

Company spokesman Brian Lochrie said Poseidon also has plans to create 66 acres of new coastal habitat that will serve as a breeding ground for fish.

Company officials say the plant would provide eight percent of the county's water supply and 20 water agencies, which include eight cities, have signed tentative agreements saying they would purchase the water.

Another 13 Orange County cities have signed letters of support for the Poseidon Project, Lochrie reported.

Company officials say the project could go before the State Lands Commission by the end of the year and final approvals would have to be obtained by the Coastal Commission. Construction is expected to begin in 2012, if it is approved.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7953 or jfletcher@ocregister.com

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