August 19 2011

Legal Battle Against Poseidon Continues

The Surfrider Foundation filed appeal today of Superior Court Judge Judith F. Hayes’ ruling siding with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board’s determination to allow “open ocean” intake to withdraw seawater for an ocean desalination facility on the Carlsbad coast, the largest ever planned in the United States, and the first to be scrutinized by the California courts.  The issue will now go to the Court of Appeal in the 4th Appellate District, which covers San Diego.
The question before the Superior Court of San Diego was whether the site, design, technology and mitigation measures chosen by Poseidon Resources will successfully minimize the marine life killed in the seawater intake process.  While the lower court answered the question in the affirmative, Surfrider thinks the Appellate Court will disagree.
This project plans to use the discharge from coastal power plants that withdraw seawater to cool the steam generators as source water for the desalination process.  Surfrider Foundation and other environmental organizations argue that these “cooling water intakes” are being phased out by regulatory agencies to eliminate the associated marine life mortality.  Larger fish are trapped on the “trash screens” and smaller animals that get through are killed in the cooling process.  Allowing other industrial facilities such as desalination plants to continue to use this outdated technology does not comport with California’s law.
“California coastal protection policies are clear that desalination project proponents must protect our marine life, and it is clear that this project fails to do that,” says Joe Geever, Surfrider Foundation’s California Policy Coordinator.  “We turn to the courts as a last resort, because while the State Water Resource Control Board and the Ocean Protection Council are developing policy on protecting marine life from ocean desalination intakes, it is too late to affect this particular project.”
“If California is moving away from open-ocean intakes for power plants, then they should not allow desalination plants to use them,” says Julia Chunn-Heer, Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego Campaign Coordinator.  “The plant in Carlsbad is the first of twenty proposed for California’s coastline, so Surfrider is emphatically vested in ensuring policies are interpreted correctly to protect our threatened ocean ecosystems.”
Surfrider Foundation believes that ocean desalination is harmful to the marine environment.  The costs associated with desalination undermine efforts to develop alternatives that would provide reliable water sources that simultaneously resolve problems of ocean pollution, habitat degradation and the growing energy demand while saving money for regional ratepayers.