California coastal commissioners Wednesday postponed a vote on a proposed desalination plant that would suck in 127 million gallons of seawater a day off Huntington Beach.
Poseidon Resources — a small, privately held company that is building the nation's largest seawater desalination facility in Carlsbad in San Diego County — wants to construct a similar plant next to the AES Huntington Beach Generating Station on Pacific Coast Highway.
The panel was most concerned about Poseidon's plans to use the power station's offshore intake to supply the desalter with about 127 million gallons of coastal water a day.
The commission staff said that open intakes would kill masses of plankton, fish eggs and larvae, and recommended that the company instead be required to construct subsurface intakes just below the seabed.
Poseidon countered that that technique would be prohibitively expensive, would not work on a large scale and would destroy 64 acres of seabed.
The postponement capped a long day of testimony at a packed Coastal Commission hearing in Newport Beach, where nearly 300 people signed up to speak for and against the long-planned project.
Some commissioners were clearly prepared to make Poseidon change the open ocean intakes to subsurface, saying that the company had failed to provide information documenting that the technique would not work at Huntington Beach.
"I don't believe this project is right," said Commissioner Dayna Bochco, adding that the open intakes would kill "a lot of sea life."
Others on the panel noted that the company had provided staff with only a few of the requested studies about offshore conditions.
A motion was made to continue the matter. Poseidon, sensing that things were not going its way, offered to withdraw its application to allow more time to perform the technical studies requested.
"We're not just going to go away," Poseidon Vice President Scott Maloni said after the panel voted to continue the matter.
He was not certain how long it would take to develop the information wanted, but predicted that it would be at least six months before the Huntington Beach proposal was back before the commission.