CARLSBAD — The desalination plant proposed to be built on the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon is one step closer to reality after receiving approval of wetlands mitigation plans by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“It now clears the way to start construction,” Scott Maloni with Poseidon Resources, Inc. said. “In the next couple of weeks we will announce a lead financial arranger, and begin construction before the end of the year.” The board gave approval to Poseidon Resources, Inc. at its May 13 meeting.
According to Marco Gonzalez of Coast Law Group, representing the Surfrider Foundation, the approval came despite a letter from the California Coastal Commission’s executive director, Peter Douglas. Days before the approval, Douglas said he issued a letter to the regional board warning that approval of the mitigation plans would contradict action taken by the coastal commission.
At issue are the new estimates San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation say revealed the desalination process could trap and kill up to 5,781 pounds of fish per year, a number that is reportedly much higher than the initial estimates given by Poseidon Resources, Inc.
According to Livia Borak, attorney for San Diego Coastkeeper, the regional board gave a much higher range. However, Maloni said the original estimates for the larger fish caught on the screen, or impingement, was 2.2 pounds of fish per day, and was revised last year to 3.4 pounds of fish per day.
The regional board may have calculated more, but regardless, Maloni said, the board determined that
the 55.4 acres of new
coastal wetlands being created in six different sites in San Diego County is sufficient mitigation.
The Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper filed three earlier lawsuits against the regional board’s conditional approval of the plan last year. The agencies pointed to “gaps” in information and flawed analysis in the permitting process.
More analysis is needed before mitigation plans, Borak said.
However, the judge ruled in favor of the California Coastal Commission on the first lawsuit. Two other related lawsuits are still pending.
When completed, the desal plant will be able to make 50 million gallons of fresh water from 100 million gallons of saltwater taken from the lagoon basin, and supply water to nine water agencies in San Diego County.
The public agencies have each signed a 30-year contract with Poseidon Resources, Maloni said. He added that Poseidon Resources is designing, building and operating the pipeline which will eventually be turned over to the public water agencies.