Former mayors lend support to desal plant

A dozen former Huntington Beach mayors recently sent a letter to the California Coastal Commission, urging that it approve the permit for a long-proposed desalination plant.

The commission, which has oversight over coastal access, will consider Connecticut-based Poseidon Water's development permit Nov. 13.

Gaining the approval of the powerful state agency is the last hurdle the company must overcome before it can build a facility in Huntington Beach that can turn sea water into potable water.

The former mayors who signed the letter dated Oct. 28 are Don McAllister, Peter Green, Jim Silva, Vic Leipzig, Ralph Bauer, Shirley Dettloff, Dave Garofalo, Cathy Green, Gil Coerper, Keith Bohr, Don Hansen and Joe Carchio, who is a current council member.

"Everybody is recognizing that desalination is going to be needed in the future," said Carchio. "Everybody that's made any presentation in the last two years has said that we're going to have to use desalination."

The councilman said having a desalination plant would be a "good deal" for the city. He said it would give the city a water source in emergencies and also provide jobs for the community.

"I think Poseidon is going to deliver," Carchio said. "Times have changed. I think that the engineering of desalination has changed from seven or eight years ago or whenever we started this conversation with Poseidon."

Current Mayor Connie Boardman believes otherwise.

"Poseidon has never built a successful desal plant, but they're excellent lobbyists," she said. "This doesn't surprise me. They know how to do PR, and they know how to do lobbying."

In May, Boardman made a failed attempt to send a group letter on behalf of Huntington Beach to the Coastal Commission urging denial of the project. The council voted 4-3 against sending the group letter for fear the city might be sued by Poseidon.

The mayor said she hopes the recent letter doesn't sway the commission toward supporting the project and will be in attendance at the Nov. 13 meeting, in Newport Beach.

"This is so important for the future of Huntington Beach and the health of our ocean," said Boardman, who has concerns about the effects of desalination on the ocean environment. "I wouldn't miss this."

Twitter: @acocarpio

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