The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board announced that it is postponing its decision on a waste discharge permit renewal for a proposed desalination project in Orange County and requested more information from staff.
The announcement comes after multiple lengthy public hearings and intense debate about the facility.
Regional board members previously raised questions about the need and cost of desalinated water, Orange County Water District’s commitment to purchase the supply, the potential harm to marine life; focusing on whether the Bolsa Chica wetlands mitigation plan complies with the state’s Ocean Plan requirements for coastal desalination plants.
The board concluded that more expansive restoration measures were needed to offset the environmental harm and asked staff to research the appropriate ratio between restoration efforts and preservation – mainly dredging the Bolsa Chica inlet channel – and report its findings at a special meeting scheduled for September 17.
If approved, the $1 billion facility would be built on 12 acres of the AES Huntington Beach Generating Station and produce 50 million gallons per day of potable water. It would be the second largest desalination plant in the United States, behind the Claude “Bud” Lewis facility in Carlsbad, 30 miles north of San Diego.