Poseidon goes for another permit

HB Independent

Poseidon Resources, the company the City Council approved in 2006 to build a controversial water desalination plant in Huntington Beach, is seeking a second approval following a recent state ruling on cooling technology.

Earlier this month, the State Water Resources Control Board voted to phase out once-through cooling, a process that involves drawing in and recycling seawater, in power plants across California. Poseidon had planned to build its facility next to the AES plant at 21730 Newland St. and use the plant's cooling system to bring in water.

Now, with the AES plant given until 2020 to change its technology, Poseidon will seek a permit to draw in seawater on its own, spokesman Brian Lochrie said. The state's ruling applies only to power plants and not desalination plants.

The Poseidon plant would continue to use AES' once-through cooling technology until the power plant had to change, Lochrie noted.

"We actually don't have to get new approval at this time," he said. "We could wait until 2020, when — and if — the AES power plant has changed its cooling system. However, to ensure the project's long-term viability, we think it's important that we make those assumptions and get those permits now."

The company, Lochrie said, would have a new public hearing before the council this summer. If the council approved the project again, Poseidon would then seek approval from the State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission, with hopes of breaking ground on the plant in 2011 and starting production in 2014.

The city has prepared a subsequent environmental impact report on Poseidon, which outlines the impacts of the plant drawing in its own seawater and moving the location of some buildings to give AES more room to construct new technology.

The report can be viewed on the city's website, and a public meeting to discuss the project's environmental implications is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 10 at the Huntington Beach Central Library.

Eric Pendergraft, the president of the AES plant, said he was disappointed that the state board had ruled against once-through cooling, which he believed was efficient and had a minimal impact on the environment. However, he said the plant was commencing plans to replace its technology.

"All things being equal, we would not support elimination of once-through cooling," Pendergraft said. "However, if that is the direction the state wants to go in, we will do our very best to comply."

The Poseidon plant aims to produce 50-million gallons of drinking water a day, which Lochrie estimated as about 8% of Orange County's supply. The project has come under fire from some residents who view it as a burden on the environment and, potentially, on taxpayers, although Poseidon has insisted that no tax dollars will be used to fund its plants.

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