California Coastal Commission OKs desalination plant in Orange County
The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Thursday to send a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “expeditiously” approve the Southern California-based Ocean Gate Project.
The agency gave Ocean Gate an expedited, $5 million review without a public hearing, a change from the earlier process that was criticized by opponents and the media.
The project would convert the Orange County-developed Oceanside Shipyard into a massive, $200 million desalination plant.
The plant would use ocean water to make up the salty salt waste from the Orange County Water District’s water desalination plants without any waste at all. The plant would then store the seawater in a massive underground tank, where it would evaporate and be fed back into the plant’s water recycling system.
No impact on local environment
“We never considered the effect of the ocean water discharge to be a waste,” said Ocean Gate Water Technologies CEO David Sommers. “To us, it is very different than sending wastewater or wastewater treatment sludge down the drain.
“We are going to take the ocean water that is the output of the desalination plants for our plant to pump back in the ocean here. All it does is return the water for the marine life and the life below the surface.”
“This issue is more complicated than I thought,” said California Coastal Commission Commissioner Bill Carrigan. “If you are going to have an ocean desalination plant, shouldn’t the water have to be treated before it is discharged into the ocean?”
Several environmentalists said the project was not necessary based on existing technologies and local laws.
“We believe it is a completely inappropriate use of the government’s land-use authority,” said Andrew Sheehan, a lawyer for the Santa Monica-based Center for Biological Diversity.
A representative of the San Diego-based Environmental Defense Fund said in a letter that “allowing ocean drainage in this form (without wastewater treatment) will require ocean aquifers to become ‘non-organic’ — or contain non-biological matter — with