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Doheny Desalination Plant in Dana Point Clears Final Regulatory Hurdle

State officials on Friday cleared the final major regulatory hurdle for the Doheny desalination plant, which aims to use ocean to help shore up drinking water supplies for drought-ridden Southern California. The California State Lands Commission unanimously granted South Coast Water District a 20-year lease for land off Doheny State Beach, in Dana Point.

California Approves Desalination Plant as Historic Drought Hits Water Supplies

California regulators this week approved a $140 million desalination plant that could convert up to 5 million gallons of seawater each day into drinking water, as the state grapples with a persistent megadrought and plummeting water supplies.

The state’s Coastal Commission on Thursday voted 11-0 to approve the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project in Orange County in Southern California. The plant could be functioning within the next five years and supply water for thousands of people in the South Coast Water District.

Amid Historic Drought, California Expected to Approve $140 Million Desalination Plant

A $140 million desalination plant is expected to be approved by California regulators on Thursday as the U.S. state contends with how to convert ocean water into drinking water amid the worst drought in 1,200 years.

Just five months ago, the Coastal Commission by an 11-0 vote rejected a privately owned plant that would have been 10 times the size of the proposed South Coast Water District’s Doheny Ocean Desalination Project in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles.

Key Vote for Doheny Desalination Plant Coming Thursday

The California Coastal Commission is slated to vote Thursday on a crucial permit for a project that would draw ocean water through the sand off the coast of Dana Point, purify it and use it to help bolster water supplies for communities throughout Southern California.

A dozen desalination plants are permitted to turn ocean water into drinking water in California today, from as far south as Carlsbad to as far north as Monterey Bay. A year ago, three new desalination projects were pending in Southern California alone. But only one still remains viable: the Doheny Ocean Desalination Plant, which is being developed by South Coast Water District.

San Clemente Council Approves Letter of Support for South Coast Water’s Desalination Plant

As the South Coast Water District prepares to present its proposed desalination plant to the California Coastal Commission next week, the San Clemente City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night, Oct. 4, to publicly back the project.

The council will send a pre-written letter of support to the Coastal Commission, which will consider on Oct. 13 whether to approve SCWD’s application to construct the proposed Doheny Ocean Desalination Plant.

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.