Coastal Commission Unanimously Rejects Poseidon Plan

The Coastal Commission’s rejecting the Poseidon plan wasn’t surprising. But its doing so UNANIMOUSLY was shocking!

And just like that, it’s over. The primary animating force in corrupting Orange County’s Water Board races — the two-decades old Poseidon ripoff — is defeated. Poseidon could try to bring it back someday, but its loss here was so unequivocal, and it disgraced itself so much during this process — especially in its final days — that if it ever comes before the California Coastal Commission again it would likely be with its plans so dramatically scaled back that it might, after some substantial changes in personnel, might even have a chance. (But don’t bet on that!)

The discussion on the Commission was brilliant and the result was decisive. Even the Commission members considered closest to Governor Gavin Newsom — who had put a lot of his reputation on the line in lobbying for the plan and deriding its opponents — ultimately decided to reject it. This may have had a lot to do with an bizarre, unprecedented, and outrageous maneuver by Poseidon the day before the hearing, when it printed up its own rebuttal to the Coastal Commissions blistering and comprehensive staff recommendations by putting out its own version of the recommendations it wanted to see. That’s not the crazy part. It did so using Coastal Communication letterhead and the same font and style as the original Staff Report — apparently trying to pass their report off as a sort of changeling! This led some media groups to ask whether the Coastal Commission had revised its staff recommendations — which did not endear it the the Commissioners.

Arguably, Poseidon knew that it was dead in the water once that overwhelmingly devastating Staff Report had come out, but this act was so outrageous — who did it think it was going to fool, and for how long? — that it will long persist as a punchline whenever law firm Latham and Watkins is mentioned. Latham was the law first supporting Poseidon and doing an energetic (if sometimes implausible and disingenuous) job of defending a poor case — and it certainly seems that Latham’s arguments were the ones used in what one commissioner dubbed the “fake report”. So — did Latham put out the fake report itself — in which case whoever decided to dress it up is presumably going to receive an unpleasant reception back at the office — or did Poseidon decide to take Latham’s words and use it for their own public relations purposes? I don’t know which it was — last I’ve heard, the report itself was not generally available — but if it was the law firm’s gambit I expect that it will have some exciting repercussions.

I’m going to add substantially to this piece — with photos of brownfields expert Dr. Scott Wilson Badenoch, Jr., Metropolitan Water District of Orange County member Karl Seckel, the Coastal Commission’s brilliant Executive Director Dr. Charles Lester, and scads of celebrating activists, on the one hand, and various of the losers in this battle (Poseidon figures, Building Trades representatives, local water board members, etc.) on the other — but it’s not going to happen right away. Thursday was exhausting and there’s a lot of time to take stock of what this will mean for Orange County — which may now have gotten a gigantic kick in the butt towards getting its house in order.

I’ll add “Updated” to this piece once it merits that term. But, for this blog — which has been covering Poseidon for over a dozen years, often what seemed like virtually alone — this is an enormously rewarding day. And we’ll have some great things to report on what the Commission thinks are good likelihoods for future water developments.

Our thanks go to the memory of the late lamented Gus Ayer, who got us onto this mission; John Earl, who has been an important ally and guide; Merle Mohseri and others from the Responsible Desalination citizens group; Kelly Rowe, who (along with Karl Seckel) was one of the bright spots not only in giving us some of the electoral success that we’ve needed to sustain ourselves during these decades, but in both giving crucial speeches to the Coastal Commission that showed them that Orange County’s water policy makers were not simply an undifferentiated echo chamber of Poseidon thralls, Peer Swan of the Irvine Water District Board, for his continual insight and inspiration; Hans Johnson, who has bucked the Governor and State Democratic Party to organize activists within it on this issue; and environmental justice advocates like Oscar Rodriguez, who himself gave a fantastic speech to the board from the perspective of a Huntington Beach resident and politician who had resisted Poseidon’s pressure and lived to tell about it. (I can’t wait to share video of that speech here.) So, like OC’s water policy itself, this will be a work-in-progress!

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

(and there are even older pieces, by Gus “Mayor Quimby” Ayer and Sandy “La Femme Wonkita” Genis…)

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)