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Back to Coastal Commisson for Poseidon desal plant

May 8, 2009 - 2:06 pm

The California Coastal Commission wants another look at Poseidon Resources’ proposed desalination plant in Carlsbad. The move comes as a response to the discovery earlier this spring that Poseidon had dramatically underestimated the number of fish  that would be killed by the plants oceanic intake pipes.

In a letter (PDF) sent to the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas lays out the problem with Poseidon’s calculations, namely that they say they can suck in 304 million gallons of water a day at a slow rate – .5 feet per second – that Commission staff has determined to be “physically impossible.” If the water is flowing faster, more fish will be unable to escape the sucking power of the intake pipes, and thus more will die, up to seven times more. In the end, Douglas says, Poseidon may need to restore 11 acres of additional wetland to compensate for the deaths.

Poseidon didn’t return calls in time for this writing, but they have argued in the past that the mitigation they’re already doing has “excess mitigation” that can be used up to make up for the higher fish kill. Douglas made it clear he wasn’t buying this argument.

The Water Board will meet on May 13 to vote on whether to approve Poseidon’s permits. At the end of his letter, Douglas also lets the Water Board know that if it approves permits for the desal plant, it may  put Poseidon out of compliance with its coastal permit. In  past deliberations on this project, the Water Board has made it clear that they are relying heavily on the Commission’s approval for their own. The end result could be a delay of the Water Board’s vote.

If Poseidon does submit a revised permit, the permit would have to be approved by the Coastal Commission again, meaning yet more delay. Naturally, Poseidon isn’t keen on this. Commission staff scientist Alison Dettmer told CityBeat that Poseidon disagrees with the idea that they need to revise their permit, and the two sides hope to meet soon.

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