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California Coastal Commission Considering New Desalination Plant in Orange County

The California Coastal Commission is set to vote Thursday on a proposed desalination plant in South Orange County at Doheny State Beach, but some campers oppose the idea.

There are 122 camping sites at Doheny State Beach, so popular campers tell NBC4 they have to make reservations six months in advance. This is also where the South Coast Water District wants to build four underground wells for a new desalination plant.

The water district says Doheny State Beach is drought proof. The Pacific Ocean could provide as much five million gallons a day of drinking water.

Currently the district imports about 85% of its water for some 35,000 customers.

The other 15% comes from this plant where unusable storm creek runoff is treated through reverse osmosis then sent to homes and businesses.

The $140 million desalination plant would be placed on land the water district owns just north of Pacific Coast Highway.

On the south side coveted beachfront camping spots that go for about $65 a night. The water district says the entire campsite would have to be closed for at least 18 months while it drills well underground that reach out into the ocean.

Anthoni Holley a camper sees this as a trade off.

“I was looking forward to coming here yearly but I’m all in favor for that,” Holley said.

Opponents question whether a project of this size is needed.

In letters to the Coastal Commission groups like CAPO Cares and Clean Water Now call the plant risky, expensive, and say they have concerns about toxic waste.

“You will not impact marine life at all. You will have fully submerged slant well 600 to 1,000 feet long at a 10 to 12 degree angle,” said Rick Shintaku, from the South Coast Water District. “That never breeches the surface.”

If approved the water district plans to sell some of what it produces to other water districts and consider this way of making the ocean drinkable part of the solution to the drought.

While the camp sites are closed state park officials say they would look for other sites to reopen but not in this park. As for the cost of that desalination water plant, it’s estimated to add $2.38 to the average monthly bill.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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