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Tapping In: Water District Seeks Partner for Ocean Desal Project

While the progress of the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project appears to now be gaining steam, South Coast Water District staff members are aware of the process’ tediousness.

The project, which would construct a facility on SCWD-owned property near San Juan Creek to draw water through the ocean, remove all the salt, and distribute clean drinking water throughout the district—including Dana Point and partnering entities—has been in the works for more than 15 years.

SCWD to Receive $8.3M From Feds For Desalination Project

South Coast Water District is set to receive an $8.3 million federal grant for the Doheny Ocean Desalination project secured during the previous round of funding, a district spokesperson said Wednesday. The grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was green lighted by Congress in 2019. SCWD is in line to receive an additional $11.7 million grant for the desalination project that could potentially be approved by lawmakers this year or next.

Polls Show Public Support for Two O.C. Desalination Proposals

Public support for proposed desalination plants in Huntington Beach and Dana Point appears strong in two recent polls, although opponents call the surveys biased and say neither poll addresses key obstacles facing these very different projects.

One poll showed 76% support among Huntington Beach residents for the proposal there. Another said support ranged from 64% to 80% for the project located near Doheny State Beach, depending on how the question was framed.

Alternative Desalination Project to be Studied for Doheny Beach

With its proposed Doheny desalination plant facing hurdles because of costs and a lack of partner water districts, the South Coast Water District board has agreed to spend $73,000 to study a scaled-down alternative. The district has spent $7.9 million so far for the preliminary design, environmental impact report and other early development steps for a standalone four-well plant near Doheny State Beach. And it is continuing its pursuit of necessary permits, which it hopes to have in hand by mid-2021.

Doheny Desalination Plant Still On Track Despite Higher Cost Estimates

While projected cost increases to the proposed Doheny desalination plant drew concern from two South Coast Water District directors at a meeting Wednesday, the majority of the board took the updated analysis in stride and the district continues pursuit of the project.

The bottom line for the average residential customer is that the expected monthly bill increase is now $10 — a 9% hike — rather than the $5 to $7 estimated in a 2017 report. Three members of the five-member board appeared comfortable with the latest estimates.