Opponents of a proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach have released a 3D simulation of how water moving inland as sea levels rise in the future could flood the area to help make their case against the project.
Poseidon Water’s proposal for the plant is making its way through various agencies obtaining the necessary approvals to begin construction. Project officials say they have done their own research based on standards used by the state for sea level rise and tsunami hazard in the project area and that it does not would not be vulnerable given what was expected during its lifetime.
Last year, the proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach won the necessary approvals from the Regional Water Quality Board, prompting two environmental groups – Orange County Coastkeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance – to file suit. a lawsuit in September, claiming the council’s environmental review of the project was inadequate.
To help make their case about the sensitivity of the coastline to rising seas, the groups commissioned the simulation from Dr. Juliano Calil, scientist and co-founder of Virtual Planet Technologies.
“As a local resident, I’m just very concerned about what I’ve seen — this visualization of what the science is showing,” said Ray Hiemstra, associate director of programs for Orange County Coastkeeper. “It’s just one of those things, ‘seeing is believing’, and it really shows us what we’re planning for the future. I can’t imagine putting anything of significant value on this site.
The controversial $1.4 billion project has been in the works for more than two decades. It still needs a permit from the California Coastal Commission, which will hear the proposal in March, before it can negotiate a final contract with the Orange County Water District and begin construction, possibly by 2023. .
The Coast Commission viewed the simulation video at its meeting on Friday, but no discussion took place.
The video, released by a coalition called Stop Poseidon which includes Azul, the California Coastal Protection Network, Orange County Coastkeeper, Sunrise Movement and the Surfrider Foundation, calls the project “unnecessary development”.
Opponents of the Poseidon tap water project are also concerned about the potential for negative impacts on marine life, with the projected cost of water being higher than other sources, and whether the water is needed.
Proponents of the plant to desalinate ocean water say another source of clean drinking water is needed with continuing and worsening droughts and the possibility that Orange County will get less water imported from northern California and the Colorado River.
Poseidon says his project would produce enough drinking water for nearly half a million residents of Orange County, using pipes to draw water directly from the ocean.
In the video released this week, various scenarios are simulated, such as what the area might look like with just one foot of sea level rise of up to 6.6ft, with viewers able to switch between levels to see how much of water filling up.
At 4.1 feet above sea level, for example, powerful storm surges seen in a 100-year-old storm are expected to flood Highway 1, or Pacific Coast Highway, into nearby neighborhoods. Surrounding areas at lower levels are completely flooded in the simulation. If levels were to rise 4.9 feet, such a storm could lead to major flooding that would create a plant island, impacting facility access roads, power and making it difficult to repair pipes. water distribution.
At 6.6 feet of sea level elevation during such a storm, the simulation overwhelmed surrounding neighborhoods, infrastructure, access, utilities, and water lines. Hydrocarbon containment berms built in the 1950s would be insufficient to protect the facility.
The impacts of a possible tsunami were also simulated.
Mandy Sackett, California policy coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, said the simulation helps show just how vulnerable the region could be in years to come.
“I really hope this helps us make smart planning decisions for the coast, for this at-risk coastal area, so that we can protect our precious coastal resources,” she said.
“We know these impacts are not a matter of if, but when, at this site,” she said. “It’s surprising, but it also sheds light on decision-making pathways and hopefully helps us make better and wiser adaptation decisions in the future.”
The simulation comes from projections from the California Ocean Protection Council and the California Coastal Commission, while also incorporating sea level rise and tsunami risk from the US Geological Survey, Sackett said.
Calil said the video was created using drone footage and 360-degree video photos, incorporating artistic renderings of flat maps.
“It’s really clear that the proposed plant would be prone to flooding over its lifetime,” Sackett said.
Moffatt & Nichol, an engineering and infrastructure firm which has advised a number of coastal towns, carried out studies for Poseidon Water on the impact on the site of sea level rise and the risk of tsunami which have also been submitted to the Coastal Commission.
“Relying on the best available science on climate change adopted by the State of California and the regulatory guidelines of the California Coastal Commission, Moffatt & Nichol performed extensive site-specific numerical modeling studies and calculations of risk assessment, which inform project design,” a statement released by the company said. “The result is that the facility is not vulnerable to any reasonably expected sea level rise or tsunami flooding risks that are expected to occur during the facility’s 50-year lifespan.”