State Lands Commission acts on Desalination Plant, securing significant funding for Wetlands habitat


HUNTINGTON BEACH - The California State Lands Commission authorized a lease amendment to Poseidon Resources for the proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach on Thursday, to facilitate modifications that reduce marine impacts and requiring significant compensation to be paid by Poseidon to benefit the nearby Bolsa Chica Lowlands Restoration habitat.

"This project has a long road ahead and the State Lands Commission's action enables a local agency to offer its assessment based on local needs and additional environmental considerations," said Lt. Governor and Commission Chair Gavin Newsom. "The lease amendment offers important economic, employment, and environmental safeguards, including doubling Poseidon's contributions for wetland habitat preservation, and places Orange County on stronger footing to weather the major droughts that scientists have forecast for California's future."

Bolsa Chica Basin State Marine Conservation Area, the nearest Marine Protected Area to the proposed project site, will receive over double the funding originally agreed for public trust resources on the existing lease, bolstering protection and rehabilitation of the habitat, which includes commercially important fish species and migratory shorebirds. The newly negotiated lease amendment will require Poseidon to contribute more than double its original contributions to protect and enhance public trust resources, from $115,500 to $300,000 annually. Additionally, the revised terms include a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, which commit Poseidon to avoiding or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from the plant's energy generation.

The agreement amends an initial lease amendment authorized by the Commission in 2010, which originally authorized Poseidon to use the intake and discharge pipelines as part of the proposed Huntington Beach Desalination Project. Poseidon was required to seek this second lease amendment following new state regulations, issued by the State Water Board, designed to reduce the environmental impact of the intake and outfall infrastructure that would be utilized by Poseidon to draw and discharge water to and from the Pacific Ocean.

In addition, the Commission certified a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR) assessing the environmental impact of the modifications to the intake and outfall infrastructure on Public Trust Lands, building on an EIR certified in 2010 by the City of Huntington Beach for the whole project. As part of that process, the Commission identified environmentally-superior technology as part of the lease condition, adding to the environmental protections required by the State Water Board. The terms of the lease require Poseidon to install a multiport seawater diffuser on the outfall to enhance brine mixing with seawater and, to reduce impingement and entrainment of marine life, rotating brush stainless steel wedgewire screens with 1-milimeter spacing at the end of the intake pipeline, combined with decreased volumes of water intake.

The proposed project will next be considered by the Santa Ana Regional Water Board who are expected to evaluate broader water policy considerations, and finally the California Coastal Commission, who are entrusted with coastal land-use planning. Any additional modifications to the project infrastructure on public trust lands will likely require further review by the State Lands Commission.

Through the State Lands Commission, Lt. Governor Newsom is addressing the complex challenges of climate change and California's clean energy future, and has positioned California as a leader in land and resource management. From guiding the retirement of California's last nuclear plant, negotiating the closure of the nation's last mainland coastal sandmine, and to defending the coast from more offshore oil drilling, Lt. Governor Newsom's twenty-first century focus has set the highest standards of safety and preservation of California's natural resources, ensuring that California's economic growth is future-oriented, smart, and sustainable.