Town hall meeting airs concerns about Huntington desalination plant before state hearing

About 200 residents turned out for a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Huntington Beach to hear from opponents of Poseidon Water’s proposed ocean desalination plant.

The meeting at John Eader Elementary School was intended to prep those in attendance on how they can voice concerns when the California State Lands Commission holds a hearing Oct. 19 on an environmental impact report for the plant.

The commission will meet at 9 a.m. in the City Council chamber at Huntington Beach City Hall, 2000 Main St.

Poseidon’s project has long been disputed by some residents and environmental groups who say the $1-billion plant proposed for Newland Street and Pacific Coast Highway would harm marine animals by trapping them in the plant’s intake system and by discharging briny water after it is separated in the desalination process.

Poseidon has said there would be no significant impact on sea creatures.

People packed the school auditorium Wednesday to hear from former Huntington Beach mayors Connie Boardman and Debbie Cook as well as Joe Geever, a consultant for Residents for Responsible Desalination. Also in attendance was Ray Hiemstra, associate director of programs for Orange County Coastkeeper, a Costa Mesa-based environmental group.

A pamphlet distributed at the meeting provided talking points for people who want to speak against the plant at the commission hearing. Hiemstra urged plant opponents to dress in white at the hearing to signify that they are “the good guys.”

The pamphlet included the claim that “Poseidon’s outrageous energy requirements will increase greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate change.”

Poseidon rolled out an environmental plan for the plant last month, including installing as many solar panels and purchasing as much “green” power as possible. Company Vice President Scott Maloni said in a statement at the time that “we are taking unprecedented steps to protect California’s environment and ensure the project is 100% carbon-neutral and that it is the most energy-efficient large-scale desalination facility in the world.”

Boardman and Cook said the region has recovered from the state’s long drought and doesn’t need the water from the proposed plant.

“We have lots of needs, but Poseidon isn’t one of them,” Cook said.

Boardman said the environmental report the commission will consider is insufficient, particularly because it doesn’t take into account the cumulative effects of a series of large projects in southeast Huntington Beach.

The AES power plant on Newland Street — near the proposed site of the desalination facility — is being updated, and plans are in the works to redevelop the nearby Magnolia Tank Farm. The former Ascon landfill is undergoing a cleanup, and some neighbors say they are plagued by a mysterious odorous dust they believe is coming from the site.

benjamin.brazil@latimes.com

Twitter:@benbrazilpilot

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