California Coastal Commission OKs desalination plant in Orange County
The California Coastal Commission has approved the construction of a desalination plant in Orange County, which will eventually employ more than 1,300 people.
The Commission’s unanimous vote comes in the wake of an April 2012 decision by the Coastal Commission to impose a moratorium on the construction of potential desalination plants in Orange County. The moratorium followed a four-year investigation of a proposed desalination plant by the Coastal Commission’s staff, which concluded that the plant would interfere with existing uses of coastal waters and would be likely to threaten migratory birds and their habitat.
The Coastal Commission granted the city’s applications to build a desalination plant on the city’s coastal property east of the Santa Ana River and adjacent to the Santa Ana Creek, which is the site of the proposed plant, at the request of the city of Newport Beach, which will operate the plant. The Coastal Commission granted the application after finding that the plant will not interfere with any existing uses of and will not adversely affect migratory birds or their habitat.
The plant will be built on a 16,500-square-foot site on a 1.75-acre parcel near North Ocean Boulevard and North Orange Street. The city of Newport Beach will operate the plant, which will convert its sewage into potable water through a method called reverse osmosis.
To operate the plant, the Newport Beach city council voted to seek approval from the California Department of Conservation following an “extensive public participation and engagement process,” according to the application for the approval of development permits. Approval of the project will require that the Newport Beach city council approve amendments to the development agreement, which will provide Newport Beach with a “special use permit” allowing it to operate a “dry-siting facility” on the proposed plant site.
The development agreement prohibits the operation of a potable water plant on the site for 30 years, although the agreement also provides that the “City shall have the option of converting the Development from a Dry Site to a Potential Potable Water Plant facility�