Re­port fu­els de­bate on de­sali­na­tion plant project

State com­mis­sion says wa­ter dis­charged from the pro­posed fa­cil­ity in Hunt­ing­ton Beach could hurt marine life.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Ben Brazil benjamin.brazil @la­ Brazil writes for Times Com­mu­nity News.

The pro­tracted de­bate over Po­sei­don Wa­ter’s pro­posed ocean de­sali­na­tion plant in Hunt­ing­ton Beach was re­newed this week when the State Lands Com­mis­sion re­leased a draft re­port an­a­lyz­ing planned ad­di­tions meant to re­duce po­ten­tial harm to marine life and in­crease the plant’s ef­fi­ciency.

The sup­ple­ment to a 2010 en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact re­port ad­dresses the pos­si­ble ef­fects of a screen and dif­fuser added to the in­take and out­flow pipes, re­spec­tively, that would be used by the $1-bil­lion de­sali­na­tion fa­cil­ity pro­posed at Newland Street and Pa­cific Coast High­way.

The State Lands Com­mis­sion re­port con­cluded that the screen on the in­take pipe would help re­duce harm to marine an­i­mals. The 2010 re­port had al­ready con­cluded that the in­take wouldn’t sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact sea life.

The screen would have 1mil­lime­ter seg­ments to keep marine life from be­ing sucked into the tube.

The dif­fuser would en­able salt wa­ter leav­ing the plant to bet­ter mix with the ocean be­cause it would be sprayed in mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions.

Op­po­nents of the plant are con­cerned that the re­turn­ing salt wa­ter is es­pe­cially briny af­ter it is sep­a­rated in the de­sali­na­tion process, and that if it doesn’t mix well when it goes back to the ocean, the high con­cen­tra­tions could harm marine life.

The com­mis­sion re­port said the salin­ity of dis­charges through the dif­fuser wouldn’t pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat to marine pop­u­la­tions.

The com­mis­sion did con­clude, how­ever, that the force of wa­ter from the dif­fuser could put uniden­ti­fied sea crea­tures at sig­nif­i­cant risk, though it said it could not find such spe­cial species dur­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Po­sei­don Vice Pres­i­dent Scott Maloni called that find­ing “sci­en­tif­i­cally un­sound.”

“We don’t think there is ev­i­dence that there will be any sig­nif­i­cant im­pact to any species, not to men­tion a species with spe­cial sta­tus,” he said.

Ray Hiem­stra, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of pro­grams at Orange County Coast­keeper, a Costa Mesa-based en­vi­ron­men­tal group, said the com­mis­sion should have con­ducted a full EIR rather than fo­cus­ing on the in­take and out­flow sys­tems, cit­ing changes in the project over the past seven years.

He said he also be­lieves the new sys­tem would do lit­tle to pro­tect small fish.

Maloni has said that the com­pany de­ter­mined the open-faced in­take pipe called for in the ear­lier plan would take in about two fish eggs for ev­ery 1,000 gal­lons of wa­ter, an amount he char­ac­ter­ized as small. He said the amount would be even smaller with a screen in place.

The com­mis­sion said the cop­per-nickel ma­te­rial of the pro­posed wedge wire screen could leach and af­fect wa­ter qual­ity nearby.

The panel said a su­pe­rior al­ter­na­tive would be a stain­less-steel wedge wire screen be­cause it wouldn’t leach as badly. But that type of screen also poses is­sues be­cause it is sub­ject to ac­cu­mu­la­tion of or­gan­isms on the sur­face, or bio­foul­ing, the re­port said.

Maloni said cop­per­nickel is pre­ferred be­cause it bal­ances cor­ro­sion with bio­foul­ing. He added that the pro­posed steel screen hasn’t been tested in an open ocean set­ting so it’s not clear it’s a fea­si­ble al­ter­na­tive.

The re­port also listed is­sues that could arise dur­ing con­struc­tion of the sys­tem, in­clud­ing in­creased emis­sions into the air and un­der­wa­ter noise af­fect­ing marine an­i­mals.

The pub­lic can com­ment on the draft re­port un­til July 12.

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