By JOE GEEVER — Surfrider Foundation
The Perspective article, “Enough is enough with desalination lawsuits,” written by Ted Owens and published in your paper Jan. 10 contains enough offensive inaccuracies that it demands a response. It is unfortunate that Mr. Owen, rather than focusing his comments on what he sees as merits of the Poseidon proposal, or the actual reasons why the project continues to be scrutinized and challenged by our state regulatory agencies, instead resorts to personal attacks.
It is completely inaccurate to characterize the scope of opposition to the project as “two fringe environmental groups.” Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper are local grassroots organizations that have taken a lead in challenging this proposal. But there is a growing coalition of organizations opposed to this poorly designed facility —- ranging from water management policy institutions to organizations representing the fishing community to groups protecting public health to environmental organizations like ours. The scope of concerns over this project, and the organizations opposing it can hardly be described as “fringe”.
Mr. Owen also characterizes us as “obstructionists” who are the cause of delays in the project’s final approval.
First, we are opposed to this project for sound public policy reasons. But we are also advocates for meeting our local water needs through alternatives that are cheaper for ratepayers, reduce reliance on imported water and are sustainable from both an economical and environmental perspective —- including advanced recycling and conservation.
These alternatives reduce pollution, costs and energy demand while ensuring a local and reliable future source of freshwater. This in stark contrast to ocean desalination which requires more energy than the current most energy-intensive water supply option in Southern California (pumping water from Northern California).
More to the point, the delays in final approval of the project are the result of Poseidon withholding information that was critical to a thorough analysis of the project prior to issuing the permits. Ironically, it is Poseidon’s pattern of secrecy that has resulted in the latest round of re-consideration of the project’s permits.
As new facts are revealed, it mandates reconsideration of prior approvals to ensure the integrity of the approval process.
Surfrider Foundation has attempted to bring facts and sound science to the deliberation of this project from the beginning. We will continue this effort until the public and our decision-makers have all the facts right so that the laws protecting our coast and ocean are fully enforced.
Mr. Owen is wrong that the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is simply a voluntary commitment by Poseidon out of the goodness of its heart. Global warming, sea levels rising and ocean acidification are all threats to our coast and ocean, and the California Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission are mandated by law to protect against these threats.
Mr. Owen ventures into pure imagination and fantasy when he states, “… Surfrider abandoned its legal strategy when it determined that a significant number of its members did not agree with its position. …”
We are a grassroots organization with local chapters nationwide. Our San Diego chapter has not “abandoned” anything. We continue to oppose this project, and we’re simultaneously continuing our advocacy for preferred water management alternatives that meet our mission of restoring and protecting our coast and ocean.
Finally, Mr. Owen asserts that our efforts are aimed at undermining Poseidon’s efforts to get government subsidies and finance the project through the sale of corporate bonds. Nothing could be further from the truth. Investors and the communities planning on this new supply of water should know that none of the permits or entitlements is final. Investments in the financial markets come with risks. We will leave it to individual investors to decide whether a project with so many outstanding “clouds” on the project entitlements is a wise use of their money.
Like Mr. Owen, we “look forward to getting on with the business of creating high-paying jobs and providing a reliable water supply.”
We respectfully disagree that Southern California’s water supply portfolio demands this project, and we will continue advocating for sound alternatives that provide multiple benefits like reducing wasted energy, pollution prevention and protection of marine life and healthy coasts and oceans. We also look forward to getting on with the state’s efforts to restore and protect our precious marine life and reduce the multiple threats of climate change.
We hope Mr. Owen will join the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper and more than 40 other statewide groups to ensure we meet this critical goal.
JOE GEEVER is the California policy coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation based in San Clemente.