Trump’s alternative facts continue. On Tuesday night McClatchy News published a story revealing the new Administration’s priority list of 50 Emergency and National Security Projects. Included is Poseidon’s proposed, long-controversial Huntington Beach Desalination Plant. And as expected, Trump and his team of nimrods are spreading false information about the project.
A PowerPoint document explaining each project describes the Poseidon desalination plant as a “cost-effective, environmentally sensitive solution to provide a safe and reliable water supply to Orange County residents and has the potential to bring significant economic benefits for the city of Huntington Beach and the region.”
The PowerPoint slide then cites the project as costing a total of $350 million, claiming it’ll create 400 direct jobs. But anyone who’s followed the Poseidon project over its tortured, 15-plus years journey knows it’s going to cost $1 billion of taxpayer money to build the desal plant. It’s then going to cost an additional $100 million for the Orange County Water District (OCWD) to install a water-distribution system. That doesn’t add up to $350 million—hell, even New Math wouldn’t come up with that figure.
Furthermore, the cost of water in the areas receiving Poseidon’s desalinated water—Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach—will increase by 20 percent for the next 15 years. According to the right-leaning Pacific Institute, Poseidon water is the most expensive water supply option for OC by far. Oh, and although the desalinated water will technically meet drinking water standards, the quality will decrease from what’s currently spilling out of north OC faucets now. In other words, people will pay more for lower quality water loaded with boron—and too much boron keeps plants from growing. So to say the Huntington Beach desal project is a “cost-effective solution” is utter bullshit.
Besides, analysis conducted by the researchers for OCWD proved long ago the desal plant is unnecessary for OC. Between the amount of water stored in its aquifer and the 130 million gallons of water from the expanded Ground Water Replenishment System— which will create 80 million more gallons of water than Poseidon’s desal facility promises to produce—north Orange County has enough water to happily survive until 2040 even if another drop of rain never came
It’s also appalling (but not necessarily shocking) that the Trump Administration calls the project “environmentally-sensitive.” Nothing about the project is respectful to the environment or marine life. Poseidon’s desal plant uses three times the amount of energy to create drinking water than it does to purify recycled water. Additionally, the intake pipes needed to transfer water from the ocean to the facility for the purification/reverse osmosis process can suck in small sea creatures—plankton are the most vulnerable. Harming any ocean critter is bad, but killing plankton is like killing the bees: It badly disrupts the food chain, which will eventually have a negative impact on humans.
On top of that, once the ocean water goes through the purification process, the salt removed from the water (also known as “brine”) is flushed back into the ocean. The concentrated salt-liquid, according to environmentalists, is much too intense for marine and oceanic life to survive because of how dependent and sensitive they are to their environment. Just as a freshwater fish can’t survive in saltwater, too much salt—even for saltwater animals—can cause them to die.
Lastly, the Trump administration says Poseidon’s desal plant will create 400 direct jobs. But according to Poseidon Water’s website, that’s not true either. Their website explains that the desal plant will create 18 full-time jobs and 322 indirect jobs after construction. According to a study by the Economic Roundtable, a non-profit urban research organization, alternative water supply options, such as water recycling and conservation, create 12,600 – 16,600 permanent jobs. Once again, Trump doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about and can’t do basic math.
Despite Trump’s support of the Poseidon project, Ray Heimstra, the Associate Director of Programs at Orange County Coastkeeper, says just because the project’s on Trumps to-do list doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. “I think part of the reason Poseidon is on the list is because [Trump] sees it as a privately funded project that will generate jobs,” says Heimstra. “[Poseidon is] politically savvy, so they’ve been talking to [Trump] for months about the project, but they’re not really going to gain anything from this because all the permits they need are from the state, which are non-federal agencies, so the federal government doesn’t have much influence there.”
Although Trump wants to push the proposed desal project forward, Poseidon has a number of hurdles to overcome that they legally can’t bypass. Heimstra points out that the State Lands Commission still has to complete an Environmental Impact Report, while the State Water Board has environmental assessments to conduct as well. They also have less permits now than they did six months ago, steepening the incline of their uphill fight.
“Poseidon is really on the ropes right now from my perspective,” says Heimstra. “The only thing they’re getting out of this is being able to say that the Donald supports their project, as well as getting some press… But this is just another politico weighing in on the project, which is nothing we haven’t seen before.”