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Poseidon wetlands questions persist

Coastal Commission asks once again for a tour of proposed desalination plant site.

March 28, 2012|By Michael Miller

A state commission has reiterated its concern that the site for Poseidon Resources' proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant may contain wetlands.

The California Coastal Commission, in a March 20 letter to Poseidon, requested a number of documents it called necessary to complete the Connecticut-based company's application for a coastal development permit. Among the requested items are data sheets that would indicate whether the land contains wetlands.

The commission also asked for a tour with Poseidon officials, which it previously requested in May.

Poseidon spokesman Brian Lochrie acknowledged that the company had not yet arranged a site visit. He explained that officials had been preoccupied with getting a water-intake permit from the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, which voted in Poseidon's favor in February. Several environmental groups have since appealed the decision.

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Poseidon now plans to coordinate with the neighboring AES power plant, which owns the property, to set up a site visit with the commission, Lochrie said.

A 2010 environmental impact report by the city concluded that all wetlands on the property were legally converted to uplands when they were drained and filled in the early 1960s. The commission, however, has raised the possibility of surviving wetlands based on an inspection it did several years ago, as well as documents included in a draft of the city's report.

The commission's letter also asks for documentation on tsunami risk, effects on marine life and other factors. Lochrie said such clarification requests were "par for the course" and that Poseidon went through a similar back-and-forth to get a plant approved in Carlsbad.

"We have provided an abundant amount of information that they have asked for, but every time we provide the information, they come back with additional requests," he said.

Tom Luster, an environmental scientist for the commission, countered that his group had only added new requests for information when parts of the project changed.

"If they've given us all we needed, we would take it to the commission," he said.

Lochrie said Poseidon still expects to go before the commission for approval later this year. The Carlsbad plant, approved in November 2007, has yet to be built.

michael.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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