San Diego Business Journal

Carlsbad's planning board gave its wholehearted support for the construction of a large-scale desalination plant May 3.

The city's Planning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend the project's environmental report and land use permits for the Carlsbad City Council's approval.

The environmental impact report and related land use permits are scheduled for review by the City Council on June 13.

The desalination project would be developed by Stamford, Conn.-based Poseidon Resources Corp., which is proposing the $270 million project be built at the Encina Power Plant owned by Cabrillo Power.

Peter MacLaggan, senior vice president of Poseidon Resources, said the desalination plant would provide a reliable supply of high-quality water that would not be affected by drought or snowfall conditions in the mountains.

MacLaggan said the plant provides the city with infrastructure that will help it attract and retain high-paying jobs in the high-tech and biotech sectors that rely on steady supplies of clean water.

"What this approval means to Carlsbad residents is they're closer to having a drought-proof supply of drinking water from the Pacific Ocean," MacLaggan said.

The seawater desalination plant would produce 50 million gallons of drinking water daily, or 56,000 acre-feet per year. Its annual output would supply enough drinking water for 300,000 residents in Carlsbad, Oceanside and nearby communities.

The environmental review process began in May 2004. The Planning Commission concluded that there are no significant, unavoidable impacts for the construction and operation of the plant related to 13 areas of study, including noise, traffic, air and water quality, and land use.

The Encinitas-based engineering and environmental consulting firm Dudek & Associates, Inc. prepared the environmental review document.

Poseidon Resources has been working with the city of Carlsbad since 1998 in developing a public-private partnership to build the plant. Poseidon specializes in developing and financing water infrastructure projects, primarily seawater desalination and water treatment plants.

MacLaggan said Poseidon is working with the city to meet certain conditions, such as building a low-profile desalination plant no higher than 35 feet above ground, maximizing beach and lagoon access, and dedicating land for the expansion of a fish hatchery.

Poseidon also has agreed to provide water at a price not to exceed the standard rate for imported water supplies.

"Historically, the imported water rate has escalated at a rate higher than that of inflation," MacLaggan said. "We have agreed to provide a quantity, quality, and reliability of water at a guaranteed price not to exceed what they would have paid for the status quo going forward."

The project is supported by the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

Farm Bureau Executive Director Eric Larson said the desalination plant will create a local source of high-quality drinking water and reduce dependence on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Colorado River as the region's primary water suppliers.

, Julie Gallant