Surf City Voice: Poseidon Town through the Wormhole

Cross-posted from John Earl’s new, improved Surf City Voice.

Think of it as a parallel universe that you could stumble into unsuspectingly, like in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

On Wednesday, May 26, I will post the first in a series of stories called “Poseidon Town Through the Wormhole” about a bizarre world that I wandered into about 18 years ago and have been unable to leave since.

At the center of Poseidon Town is a still imagined $1.4 billion ocean desalination plant, to be built by Poseidon Water, that would sit menacingly on the coast of southeast Huntington Beach as if to reclaim the lost domain of its godly namesake.

That ocean desalination plant would create ten percent of the drinking water for 2.4 million residents in the boundaries of the Orange County Water District (OCWD), which manages the Santa Ana River groundwater basin that provides 75% of their drinking water.

Currently, there is no established need for the 56,000 acre-feet of water that Poseidon would produce annually. But the OCWD would be required to buy that water regardless of need for 30 – 35 years. In fact, the Poseidon water would only replace an equal amount of much less expensive water that the OCWD already imports from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

By colonizing (i.e. financializing) a significant part of the county’s water infrastructure through a public-private-partnership, Poseidon Water would create a profit for itself, its parent company, and many other private and public sector investors—mostly at the expense of OCWD’s ratepayers.

Poseidon Town also includes a political infrastructure that extends from San Diego and Orange counties all the way to Sacramento and directly into Governor Gavin Newsom’s office.

That infrastructure consists of paid lobbyists, politicians who benefit from campaign funds spent by Poseidon Water and its allies, and harried staff at regulatory agencies. It creates an uneven playing field for Poseidon that allows the company to oversee and strongly influence the permitting process for its proposed Huntington Beach project.

But Poseidon Town is more than just a desalination project and colonized public infrastructure.

Think of it as a parallel universe that you could stumble into unsuspectingly, like in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Welcoming billboards just outside of the wormhole entrance advertise Poseidon Town as a drought-proof paradise where the public’s need for water, the key to life, will be endlessly supplied by sucking water out of the ocean for the price of a monthly latte at Starbucks and a few dead fish.

Poseidon Town officials tell visitors that living there will protect them from global warming, the limits (and evils) of conservation, and economic calamity.

Poseidon Town is real and surreal. It’s a place where the meanings of words and facts are reliably unreliable, where greed is often confused with need, and where justice is turned on its head in the name of justice.

The purpose of my Poseidon Town Through the Wormhole series is to examine and try to explain the evolution of the Poseidon Water ocean desalination project and the world it has created.

But like the universe that contains it, Poseidon Town has no provable beginning or end. And like a river flowing through geologic time, my series will take a winding and perhaps unpredictable course.

Reader participation is encouraged. We are all residents of Poseidon Town, much more than we might have realized, and we all have something to contribute to its story.

Feel free to leave your comments and insights after each post or to send them to me privately. Personal anecdotes and photos about your experiences and the people you have met on your own journey through the Poseidon Town wormhole are welcome.

Poseidon Town Through the Wormhole, starting Wednesday, May 26.

Just SOME of the Orange Juice Blog’s Previous Coverage of Poseidon:

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.