Seal Beach City Council Approves Letter of Interest For Desalinated Water

Categories: Environment
Brandon Ferguson
Site of Poseidon Resources Inc.'s proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach
The Seal Beach Sun is reporting that the city council has unanimously approved a non-binding letter of interest regarding the purchase of water from Poseidon Resources Inc., the Connecticut-based company proposing a $1 billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Thirsty Seal Beachers queuing up at the communal spigot with canteens in hand, be advised, the deal is far from assured.

According to the Sun, the city council heard doubts about the project, not just from environmentally-concerned citizens, but from Planning Commissioner Robert Goldberg, who estimated the Poseidon deal could raise water rates by 20 percent.

"That's a pretty big hit if we don't need this," he said. "I'm sure I'm underestimating the water costs."

The process of removing salt from ocean water in order to make it drinkable is energy intensive and therefore more costly than water from current sources. A draft term sheet released by Poseidon in January estimated the price of its water at $1,424 per acre foot, versus the current price of about $950 per acre foot. 

Critics have decried not just desalination's impact on ocean life but also the increased cost, which they say would be silly to pay for in lieu of abundant conservation opportunities.

In comments with various media outlets, Poseidon VP Scott Maloni (who has yet to return the Weekly's calls) has said that higher water prices are something people will have to consider if they want a drought-proof source of H2O. 

In addition to the planning commissioner's concerns, Seal Beach Mayor Gary Miller asked the city attorney to adjust the wording of the letter to clarify that the city had no contractual obligation to buy. 

Though Poseidon has received approval from the Huntington Beach City Council and other local agencies to move forward with construction of its project (which would use pipes located  at the AES power station on PCH to draw water in from the ocean), the company is still awaiting approval from the California Coastal Commission, which is expected to rule on the proposed plant early this summer. 

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That's Poseidon's first little foray this season into getting cities to sign letters of "interest" or "intent" - they can't seem to settle on the term.  Since they emphasize that these letters don't commit the city legally, many councils will do as Seal Beach did the other night and say "What the heck, let's sign it so we can keep a 'seat at the table.'"  Problem is, Poseidon's gonna collect a packet of these letters, and wave them around to impress the permitting authority with how many "interested customers" they have.

Garden Grove has actually turned Poseidon down.  Not officially, but staff did in a closed meeting, we have double confirmation of that.  I mentioned that to Seal Beach Council the other night.  They then double-checked with the Poseidon guy to see if I was lying, and he hedged his words:  "As far as I know, no CITY COUNCIL has turned this down."  These councils are all such followers though, all it'll take is one or two brave councils to turn them down and they'll drop like dominoes.  They don't need the water!!


PS Brandon, this should be categorized in more than just "environment" but also "corporate welfare" or "taxpayer ripoff" or "scams" or whatever you guys got along those lines.  Thanks...


Why sign a non binding contact when it’s non binding.  What is the SB City Council signing. Who received campaign contributions from Poseidon?  If the contract is non binding, then what are you signing.  Will the SB City Council sign a non binding contract from me to purchase sand on the beach where there is already sand.   Helpme out here as am I just  that stupid.


Poseidon's exuberant proclamations deserve closer scrutiny. OCWD provides far greater water reliability at half the cost with the GWRS. The media hype of a water crisis is in actuality a story of mismanagement and need for significant changes in water policy. Water demand has been declining much to the chagrin of water districts whose budgets depend on water sales. Throttling us with unnecessary capital projects will only exacerbate the situation. Unfortunately the desal rhetoric belies a greater understanding of the financial constraints of this project. Let's bring on a public dialogue...if they dare.

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