At a nine-hour meeting of the California Coastal Commission yesterday, Poseidon Water managed to wriggle free of the proverbial noose and keep alive its plan to build a nearly $1 billion desalination facility in Huntington Beach. By day's end, as the 13-member Commission deliberated, it became apparent that several members remained insistent that Poseidon invest in expensive upgrades to its intake system. Company lawyer Rick Zbur abruptly announced that Poseidon would withdraw its permit application, which came as a shock to some as the company has spent more than 10 years working its way through the regulatory process.
The legal maneuver will allow Poseidon to reapply for a permit at a date of its choosing, and company reps said they will now work with the Commission to address specific concerns. A study will be conducted to determine the feasibility of using environmentally friendly sub-surface intake pipes; Poseidon's current plan called for the company to use existing intake pipes owned by the AES power plant on PCH. In addition to drawing in 100 million gallons of water daily, the open-ocean intakes also draw in larvae, fish eggs and other marine life.
Longtime critics of the project, including former Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook say the move is likely a cynical ploy by the company to buy time so it can continue lobbying state officials and build the plant on its own terms.
"They're not going to work with the Commission. It's not like they suddenly found religion," Cook said.More »