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Coastal Commission wants more from Poseidon on permit application for desalination plant

The California Coastal Commission has told the developer of a proposed ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach that its application for a coastal development permit is incomplete.

Tom Luster, an environmental scientist with the state agency, told Poseidon Water in a letter dated Oct. 2 that the application would not be filed and placed on a meeting agenda until commission staff receives information about recent modifications to the project.

“A notice of incomplete application is very standard, and in our experience, it’s par for the course,” Poseidon Vice President Scott Maloni said Tuesday. “Since 2006, when we first submitted our application, we received 12 notices of incomplete application. It’s not inadequacy of the application, in our opinion. It’s just the desire of the Coastal Commission staff to have voluminous information.”

On Sept. 2, Poseidon resubmitted its coastal development application after pulling it in November 2013 to commission a study on the feasibility of subsurface water intakes for the plant.

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Maloni said he met with Coastal Commission staff members in September and knew the application would be deemed incomplete.

He said the requested information should be submitted in the next 30 to 45 days.

Poseidon expects the Coastal Commission to consider the application sometime in the first quarter of 2016, Maloni said.

Luster listed 15 topics where information is lacking, including the Orange County Water District’s role in the project and whether new proposed modifications to the facility — using a rotating screen on its intake pipe and a diffuser for its discharge pipe — require additional approval under the California Environmental Quality Act.

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For more than a decade, Poseidon has been looking to build a desalination facility near Pacific Coast Highway and Newland Street, next to the AES power plant.

The company originally proposed using a stationary filter on the intake pipe to address the possibility of marine life becoming trapped. The discharge pipe initially was proposed without a diffuser.

Commission staff also is asking Poseidon to clarify whether it will include in its application the subsurface intake feasibility studies drafted by two independent panels of experts. In October 2014, one panel reported that seabed and beach intakes were technically feasible. However, a draft report by a second panel concluded in August that such systems would not be economically viable for the company.

Luster said “the ball is in [Poseidon’s] court.”

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Joe Geever, a consultant for the Surfrider Foundation and Residents for Responsible Desalination — two groups that have opposed the desalination project since its inception — said the Coastal Commission’s letter solidifies their belief that Poseidon has yet to give the agency all the information it needs. He said he believes the company submitted a “skeleton” application in order to determine what commission staff wants to know.

“This is not new. This is information that has been requested since we filed an appeal on their first application in 2006,” Geever said. “Everyone knows that this is the information that has been missing for the past eight years. Just cough it up.”


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