Huntington Beach is one step closer to building a desalination plant that is expected to produce about 50 million gallons of fresh water a day.
At a five-hour public hearing Tuesday, the City Council approved a final subsequent environmental-impact report for a proposal by Poseidon Resources Corp. to build a seawater desalination plant. Mayor Pro-Tem Jill Hardy dissented in the 6-1 vote.
The $350-million plant would be able to sell water to surrounding cities and reduce Orange County's reliance on imported water, project proponents said.
Councilman Devin Dwyer said the project is just one of the solutions for the water needs of the city and Orange County.
"It's just a piece of the puzzle," he said. "This is going to be just one of the reasons why we can maintain our water usage."
The project's environmental impact report was originally given the go-ahead in 2005, but a recent state ruling brought the project back to the council. The proposal will need further entitlements from the council Sept. 20, and then it has to gain the approval of the state Coastal and Lands commissions.
The proposed desalination plant at Newland Street and Edison Avenue would bring in nearly $63,000 in property taxes and almost $2 million in improvements at the project's site, according to city documents. Poseidon has also agreed to pay the city $2 million.
Hardy said she had many concerns about the project that weren't addressed, and while she supports the idea of desalination, she couldn't support the project.
"I want to do it right," she said. "I want to have the best facility out there, and I just don't trust that is what we are getting."
More than 100 people spoke during public comment, including representatives for several elected officials and officials from the Mesa Consolidated Water District.
Proponents spoke of the area's serious need for a stable water supply and applauded the jobs the plant would create along with the tax dollars it would bring to Huntington Beach.
"We must find creative solutions to these [water] problems," said Perry Cain, president of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce. "Poseidon offers a reliable water source that minimizes any negative impact on our environment."
Project opponents raised concerns about the accuracy of the environmental-impact report, noise issues for nearby residents and environmental concerns. Residents also questioned whom the plant is really for.
"We don't want Poseidon," said Joe Shaw, a council candidate. "Huntington Beach doesn't need the water — this water isn't for us."
The project's environmental-impact report was approved in 2005, but the State Water Resources Control Board ruled that power plants have until 2020 to phase out once-through cooling, which takes in and recycles sea water — a process that Poseidon was going to utilize through the AES plant.
Poseidon officials said they will continue to utilize the process while they can, but also received city approval to take in seawater through the Huntington Beach Generating Station.