Coastal Commission to Review Desal Facility at AES Plant The California Coastal Commission April 12 said it will review a local permit for Poseidon Resources to construct a desalination plant at the 904 MW AES power plant in Huntington Beach. The proposed desalination facility associated with the AES power plant is seen as an avenue to make the aging power plant useful by using its wastewater and thermal output. "We're not opposed to desalination," said Joe Geever, Surfrider Foundation Southern California regional manager. "It's just getting off to a poor start." The Surfrider Foundation, Residents for Responsible Desalination, and coastal commissioners Michael Riley and Mary Shallenberger petitioned for the appeal, challenging the city council's finding that the plant would be consistent with the local coastal plan. The Huntington Beach City Council approved the controversial desalination project by a 4-3 vote on February 27. Geever said that the foundation and other appellants have two major concerns. First, he said, the plant will harm marine life. Second, he said, the city failed to analyze how the plant would continue to harm marine life should AES eliminate its once-through seawater cooling system from which Poseidon would draw water for desalination. Poseidon, Geever said, should explore intake technologies that do not harm marine life or draw in water by drilling wells into briny undersea aquifers. The Coastal Commission is expected to hear the appeal sometime this summer. Meanwhile, Poseidon is taking the development in stride, maintaining confidence that its project ultimately will be approved because of its environmental benefits for distant freshwater ecosystems and its ability to protect Southern California against droughts. "We always anticipated the Coastal Commission would grant appeals," said Chris St. Hilaire, Poseidon spokesperson. He said the company believes that to deal with an increasingly tight water supply situation, Southern California must step up conservation efforts and develop new supplies, including desalination plants and water recycling. Under an option agreement with AES, Poseidon would build the plant on the generator's site, said Eric Pendergraff, AES plant manager in Huntington Beach. "They have a lot of hurdles they have to overcome," said Pendergraff, but if the company is successful in building the plant, AES would like to be able to sell power directly to Poseidon. However, it would take regulatory changes for that to happen, he said. Until then, Poseidon plans to purchase the 35 MW of electricity it will need to operate the plant from the grid. Poseidon's proposed $240 million plant would generate 50 million gallons of water a day, enough to serve 7 percent of the households in Orange County. It would draw water from the power plant's cooling system effluent stream and force it through reverse-osmosis membranes to eliminate ocean salt. Hilaire said the technology is highly proven, already being used in 12,000 locations worldwide to purify drinking water. The company hopes to have the plant on line no later than 2008 but must obtain permission from some 20 government agencies. Key permits must be granted by the Coastal Commission itself, the Department of Health Services, and the State Lands Commission. Poseidon would provide Huntington Beach with a package of benefits if its plant is built, said Laurie Payne, city community relations officer. Among them would be increased utility tax and property tax revenue, mitigation fees, and an option to purchase water at prices below those charged by the Metropolitan Water District of Orange County. Hilaire said the benefits for the city would total some $80 million over the life of the project. Poseidon plans to sell the water for around $800 an acre-foot, but it has no buyer yet because its project is too early in the permitting process to negotiate water sales agreements, said Hilaire. Poseidon's price for water would not be regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission because it would be considered a wholesaler.