Poseidon fails in Costa Mesa

Opponents of the proposed Poseidon desalination plant walked out of City Hall last week with a major victory, their biggest since Huntington Beach leaders turned down the plan's environmental report in December 2003.

Unfortunately for them, the City Hall was across the Santa Ana River in Costa Mesa, and the vote didn't doom entirely the $250-million plant, which has come back from its earlier defeat. But the Costa Mesa decision not to allow Poseidon to put six miles of pipeline through that city is a crushing blow, one that certainly cannot help but weigh on Huntington Beach leaders as they decide on the future of the proposal at their Nov. 21 meeting.

As it stands now, the Poseidon plant has no way to get its promised 50 million gallons of water a day from the Surf City shoreline to a regional distribution spot 10 miles away in Costa Mesa.

Of course, much can change in the coming months, and Poseidon officials say they hadn't planned an official presentation to Costa Mesa for another year. Costa Mesa leaders suggested their opinions could change, although they made it clear that isn't the likely scenario. Any compensation that Poseidon might offer to sweeten the deal "would have to be such a huge benefit to offset the huge inconvenience, and I don't know if that's possible," Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor said.

The Costa Mesa reaction against Poseidon seems yet another example of the company's being unable to reach out effectively to the community to sell the merits of its proposal. Thus far, the firm's main success has been persuading a majority of the Huntington Beach City Council to approve their plans, with the big test -- the proposal's conditional-use permit -- on the agenda later this month. But getting four people to vote for the project is never going to be enough to win community-wide support.

Poseidon officials need to do better. Members of the City Council should remember that as they discuss the plan on Nov. 21.


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