The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board voted Friday to renew a five-year permit that would allow the Poseidon plant to draw in water from the neighboring AES power plant's pipes. In addition, the new permit features an amendment that would let Poseidon take in water directly from the ocean.
The ruling, Lochrie said, left him optimistic about Poseidon's chances for state approval.
"Every time we achieve another success in the permitting process, that's one step closer to creating a new reliable water source for Huntington Beach and Orange County," he said. "We're now one permit away from having regulatory approval to begin construction on the project, so we're pleased the regional board relied on facts and science to come to their determination. We look forward to the Coastal Commission doing the same."
Lochrie said he expects Poseidon to go before the commission by the end of the year. If approved, the project would likely be completed by 2017, he said.
The desalination plant would aim to produce 50 million gallons of drinkable water a day, exclusively for Orange County.
Huntington Beach would have a special agreement to buy its first 3,300 acre-foot of water at 5% less than the cost of imported water, Lochrie said. An acre foot of water is about what it takes to supply a family of four for a year.
Orange County Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation and Residents for Responsible Desalination are among those who have fought Poseidon's plans in recent years. Opponents have said the plant will prove costly to taxpayers and harmful to marine life.
Joe Geever, the water programs manager for Surfrider Foundation, said his group and others will likely appeal the regional board's decision in the coming weeks.