$1 Billion Subsidized Desal Plant pushed by Water Board that ignores Cheaper Alternatives.

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Sheldon’s nap continues. The OCWD director called requests for further study of alternatives to the Poseidon project “Orwellian.”

by John Earl, cross-posted from Surf City Voice

Five members of the Orange County Water District Board of Directors (OCWD), with President Denis Bilodeau speaking for them (and presumably on behalf of the entire 10-member board) gave false and misleading information at a State Lands Commission(SLC) public hearing on Poseidon Resource’s proposed Huntington Beach ocean desalination project, as recently reported by the Surf City Voice.

The hearing was held in Huntington Beach last October 19. The SLC approved an Environmental Impact Report for the project and extended Poseidon’s lease of state-owned beach-front land with minor changes until 2025.

Responding to questions by Commissioner Betty Yee, Bilodeau assured the commission that the board had fully considered less expensive alternatives to the proposed $1 billion project, about two-thirds of which would be funded by government subsidies through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and by the OCWD’s assumption of construction costs for a desalinated-water conveyance system, if it is approved by other state agencies and the OCWD.

But Bilodeau knowingly misled the SLC. The OCWD Board of Directors has not studied project alternatives despite promising for years to do so.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), agencies must study project alternatives to establish if there is a need for the project or not. Bilodeau falsely told the SLC that the OCWD board had fully considered those alternatives, which include:

The OCWD’s Long-Term Facilities Plan, which identifies potential future water management projects, lists some of those alternatives and others, including desalination.

The OCWD made the Poseidon desalination project its top priority in 2013 after 15 years of failed efforts by the company to convince member agencies of the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) to pay for its more expensive desalinated water.

A pro-active coterie of Poseidon loyalists on the OCWD Board of Directors led by Cathy Green, Shawn Dewane, Stephen Sheldon, and Denis Bilodeau, has blocked every attempt since 2013 to study project alternatives. Every related staff report, every paid consultant’s project-analysis, and all Poseidon related committees pushed the project forward without considering its alternatives.

Based on figures provided by OCWD staff, those pro-Poseidon efforts cost OCWD ratepayers an estimated $783,073, $400,000 of which was on staff time (most of which came after 2013).

Those figures do not include money spent in the past five years on countless board and committee meetings, including secret and arguably illegal meetings with Poseidon representatives, in the form of directors’ stipends and benefits.

The Poseidon coterie double-talks at the Coastal Commission: Nguyen, Dewane, Bilodeau, Sheldon, Green.

Since 2013, the Poseidon coterie has insidiously and relentlessly fought for the desalination project, saying “nothing is final” but doing everything in its power to make it final; it either ignores, redirects, or mocks any request by OCWD ratepayers or other Orange County water officials to study project alternatives. Other board members either go along quietly or are outvoted.

By refusing to seriously study project alternatives, the Poseidon coterie gives itself unlimited opportunities to propagandize for Poseidon and against its alternatives almost without rebuttal…

Continue to Surf City Voice for more damning examples and anecdotes!

About Surf City Voice

John Earl is the editor of the Surf City Voice. Frequent contributor Debbie Cook, a former Huntington Beach Mayor, is board president of the Post Carbon Institute.