California Coastal Commission OKs desalination plant in Orange County
The California Coastal Act, which governs the state’s coastal areas, has been amended. As a result, the commission has issued three new orders that could impact the future of the desalination industry in Orange County.
The first order, No. 18-1, signed by commission chairwoman Loretta Sanchez, directed the commission staff to evaluate the economic feasibility of the San Onofre Marine Laboratory’s plans to build a desalination plant in Newport Beach. The second, No. 18-2, signed by Sanchez and commission executive officer and CEO Steve LeBlanc, ruled against plans to open the proposed facility at the Port of Irvine in Irvine. As a result, the commission has determined that the Orange County Water District does not have to provide water to the facility. Orange County was the second water district in the state to file an appeal of the commission’s September 2014 decision that Orange County and Orange County Water District should share water with San Onofre Marine Laboratory.
The third order, No. 18-3, signed by Sanchez on behalf of the commission, was directed to evaluate and approve the location and operation of the proposed San Onofre Marine Lab desalination plant in Newport Beach. The commission must approve the location and permit the facility to operate before construction can begin.
A map of the planned desalination facility in Newport Beach.
The Orange County Water District’s appeal will be heard on March 6 in a lawsuit brought by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which seeks to block construction of the proposed desalination plant and block the commission’s approval of a plant located at Irvine.
A new state rule now allows the Orange County Water District to begin construction of a desalination plant in Santa Ana, which would likely serve more than 30,000 Orange County residents. The Orange County Commission approved the proposed plant in January, but two environmental organizations appealed the decision for technical reasons.
A majority of the commission did not vote to approve the project on Tuesday, March 6, but did approve it after commissioners changed their vote during a marathon session that