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San Diego board approves desalination plant on coast

May 13, 2009 |  4:11 pm

A plan by a private company to build a $320-million desalination plant along the coast of northern San Diego County was approved unanimously today by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Proponents say the plan could provide more than 56,000 acre-feet of drinkable water by 2012, enough to satisfy the needs of more than 100,000 families. Connecticut-based Poseidon Resources has been planning the project for a decade and navigating the complex permit process for five years.

But environmentalist activists, who believe the project would harm the coastal environment, plan to appeal to the State Water Quality Control Board and to continue at least three lawsuits aimed at blocking the project.

Under the plan, the plant would be built adjacent to the Encina power plant in Carlsbad.

The plant would turn salt water into fresh water by a reverse osmosis process. Poseidon has yet to announce its full financing plan for what is proposed to be the nation's largest such project.

San Diego County is largely devoid of groundwater, making it dependent on imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and, in recent years, on a complex water transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District. Several suburban water districts have shown interest in buying some of the water from Poseidon.

—Tony Perry