Poseidon & OCWD bring their Snake-Oil Show to the County’s Pumpers tomorrow morning – SHOW UP!


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Tomorrow morning should be a real good show, at a nearly-ungodly 8AM Wednesday meeting of the Orange County Water District, at 18700 Ward Street, Fountain Valley, just south of Ellis.

This is when, as the third part of the 3-part propaganda blitz Poseidon Inc. has been engaged in since faceplanting a year ago at the Coastal Commission, the Poseidon-beholden OCWD officially unveils its new “financial analysis” by Clean Energy Capital (CEC) on the affordability and utter necessity and wonder of the Connecticut firm’s proposed billion-dollar Huntington Beach desalination plant.

If you recall, the first part of this propaganda blitz, which we demolished here, was a 5-minute CNN puff piece on how amazing Poseidon’s Carlsbad project is looking like it’ll be.  The second was a Jury-Rigged Grand Jury Report instructing us all to make good speed approving the HB project;  I didn’t get around to debunking that on this blog, but it remains a mystery as to how this question came under the OC Grand Jury’s purview, and who filtered the information that informed their conclusion.

And now, as expected, comes the presentation of the sunshiny financial analysis provided by CEC, the same consultants who provided the same service for Poseidon’s Carlsbad plant a few years ago.  You could read that here.

But wait – why is this report being presented at 8AM on a Wednesday morning in an out-of-the-way facility, and as usual not televised or videostreamed?  For whose benefit is this show?  It couldn’t be for the public, which has no idea this is happening.  The answer, my friends, is:

The Pumpers.

That’s the handy name for the “member agencies” of the OCWD, the 19 local water districts who buy their water from them – your Irvine Ranch WD, your Anaheim Public Utilities, your Mesa Water, City of Fullerton, Rancho Margarita Water District, Huntington Beach, etc.

See, tomorrow what the OCWD – one of the few agencies totally in the bag for Poseidon – hope to get from these pumpers, is an agreement to have their “replenishment assessments” raised, for the water they pump and sell their thirsty residents.

And those rates are going to have to be raised quite a bit – on ALL of us who drink and use water – in order to finance the building of this billion-dollar plant and its very energy-intensive production of desalinated water.

The Pumpers are not Stupid.

As much as the majority of the OCWD Board, and the majority of our local Republican and Democrat politicians, are in the bag for this Poseidon plant – which MAY have something to do with the company’s generosity at campaign time – most of the local water pumpers are still possessed of a healthy skepticism, seeing – as most of us citizens who pay attention do – the plant’s staggering expense and utter lack of necessity.  The letters from some of them make for good reading, and nice material for if you care to come and speak to the Board tomorrow.  (I’ll summarize each of them this evening, but I’m trying to write this fast…)

And while you’re at it, you can read the critiques of two groups long critical of the project:

OCWD and Poseidon Don’t Want You There Tomorrow.

This particular board, the Orange County Water District, has a history of trying to conduct their business in secret as much as they can;  the Surf City Voice has documented how their most important discussions and decisions are made not at the (lightly attended) evening meetings, but the unpublicized “subcommittee” meetings which they hold in the morning in small rooms.  They’ve resisted other measures aimed at transparency, like video-streaming their meetings as most city councils do.  When Fullerton’s Jan Flory recently joined the board, and suggested video-streaming and consolidating meetings (both to save cost and for more public involvement) the rest of the Board treated her like some space alien.

And tomorrow morning’s meeting also should have been an evening one, it’s that important;  but it’s best from the Board’s point of view to allow only Poseidon cheerleading.  Any criticism will be confined to 3-minute public comments at the beginning of the meeting – even more restrictive than what the Board had previously agreed to.   So, doesn’t that just make you want to inundate them?

There is a LOT of good material you can get from any of the above links, for your comments.  But the BASICS, apart from the well-documented environmental impacts (which might not bother most of the Pumpers) are:

  • The project is ridiculously expensive, as is the water it will produce – three times the cost of the water we have now, because its production is so energy-intensive – and it will be YOU AND I paying for it;
  • The project is completely unnecessary, as there’s MUCH MORE we can do with expanding recycling, capturing rainwater, and conservation, that are not only way cheaper, but have positive environmental benefits instead of damage, AND will provide AT LEAST as many union jobs.
  • The project is driven by the greed of a hedge-fund company from Connecticut that doesn’t care about our coastline, a couple legions of on-the-take politicos and middlemen, and a couple of short-sighted unions who are desperate for the 2000 TEMPORARY construction jobs (only 25 permanent jobs.)
  • Even IF you believed desal was a good way to go, WHY ON EARTH would you go with THIS company Poseidon, with their record of failures and stunning cost over-runs?  At the very LEAST we should wait a few years to see how things turn out with their Carlsbad facility before committing to anything – the commonsense position of many including HB Councilman Dave Sullivan.

Are Poseidon Opponents Anti-Growth? And other things to debunk…

We sometimes make the point that existing OC cities don’t need this expensive desal, if it’s needed at all it’s for future developments in the South County ( create TWO, THREE, MANY Ranchos Santa Margaritae!)  And this is underlined by the fact that the very development-enthusiastic Rancho Margarita WD is one of the few pumpers pumped-up about Poseidon.  And then we hear some pro-Poseidon people tar us Poseidon critics as “anti-development” or “anti-growth,” as though that were the only reason to be against this boondoggle.

Well, I’m tired of that:  SOME of us Poseidon critics might be against further growth and development, and some of us might NOT be, but that’s irrelevant:  The salient point is if there IS gonna be more development in the South County, YOU AND I should not have to SUBSIDIZE it.  Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Garden Grove, Fullerton and Irvine should NOT have to pay double or more their current water rates so that there can be two, three, many Ranchos Santa Margaritae.

2.  Does Huntington Beach have a Great Deal?  Some of my Poseidon-backing friends tell me something they’ve evidently “learned” from Keith Bohr or something:  that Surf City residents, thanks to a special deal worked out by a previous pro-Poseidon council, will be able to purchase our desal water at a special discount – something like a bribe for allowing the company to fuck up our shore and the Southeastern neighborhood.

Well, there is truth to that – such a deal was made.  Here’s the bad news, which MAY not have been expected by those negotiators:  Now that Pumpers including HB are going to be expected to pay a much higher replenishment assessment (see above) we will STILL be losing money – that discount will be dwarfed by the new expense.

3.  Maybe this is the biggest:  Is this a doomed fight?  Is it a done deal?  Are we wasting our time?  A lot of folks would like us to think that.

Hell no, it’s not a done deal.  This plant can’t happen without BUYERS – pumpers – agreeing to buy this expensive water.  And that’s why tomorrow is so important.  There are other hurdles in front of Poseidon as well – legal hurdles, other agencies besides the Coastal Commission.  But mostly it comes down to the county’s pumpers – the Member Agencies of OCWD – USING THEIR BRAINS.  And I think they just might.

See you tomorrow bright and early!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.