Desalination Foes Privileging Tiny Critters Over People

California environmental regulations go too far.


It's getting increasingly difficult to exaggerate the degree to which some environmental activists and bureaucrats have placed the needs of California's critters above the needs of its growing population. Many of these stories are almost literally unbelievable.

I've reported on the government's decision to largely empty a massive reservoir in the Sierra foothills to save about a dozen hatchery fish, an otherworldly story given it took place at the apex of the drought—and given those non-endangered fish would be eaten by other species before they meandered to the ocean. Then there were the shutdowns of the water pumps in Tracy because of the fate of a handful of bait fish (Delta smelt).

I still roll my eyes at a proposed project—at an estimated cost of $70,000 to $300,000 per fish—to help salmon swim around Don Pedro dam. It's easy enough to identify a salmon. What explains efforts to halt a major source of water supplies in Orange County over concerns about the fate of some plankton?

Sure enough, concerns about those small and microscopic organisms continue to slow efforts to build a much-needed desalination project on an industrial site in Huntington Beach. The rains have started again, but Californians are still facing drought conditions. It's best to plan now to avoid a future crisis. Turning ocean saltwater into drinking water remains one of the most sensible long-term options to provide at least some of our water needs.

As the Orange County Register reported recently, "Huntington Beach residents urged a state agency to require a more comprehensive environmental impact report before the proposed Poseidon desalination plant could receive a new lease on state land." The plant's developers proposed even smaller screens, but that's not enough to satisfy opponents.

Debate over the intake system has been a sticking point. In 2013, the California Coastal Commission staff—an environmentally oriented agency that has ironclad control over developments along the coastline—had called for the construction of cost-prohibitive subsurface water intakes to minimize the harm to these tiny species. Other agencies must also give their OK.

Desalination plants take water from the ocean and filter it to create clean drinking water, so critics have focused on the nature of these water intakes as they try to stop construction. The project wants to use the existing water intake pipe from the old neighboring power plant.

The project has been in the planning stages for many years, as its developers navigate the political approval process, produce environmental impact reports and try to get regulatory approval. The plant is similar to one that opened in Carlsbad in San Diego County, but the political makeup of the coastal commission has changed since that one got its approval. Poseidon Water, which has had the lease for the site since 2010, continues its efforts to get approval for the privately funded $350-million project—a source of jobs as well as water.

The company has spent $1.6 million in lobbying and campaign contributions for its Southern California plans, according to a Los Angeles Times report. It's hard to criticize the company for spending money on the political process, given that without political approval the projects would never come to fruition. It's a statement on what's required to build infrastructure these days. The approval process is more time consuming than the construction of the plant.

Even during the worst part of the drought, San Diego water officials had so much available water they didn't have places to store it. Foes of desalination say it's proof that these new water supplies aren't really needed, but it's only proof that good planning—i.e., building needed infrastructure despite all the obstacles—remains the best solution for dealing with current and future droughts.

I've got nothing against plankton, which are a necessary part of the food chain. I'm not against reasonable measures to save any manner of wildlife, but these fights fundamentally aren't about larvae, salmon, trout and smelt. They are about growth. No-growth activists have long understood that the battle over water sources is a battle over people. The critters are just pawns in this tiresome game.

"(N)ew California regulations (from the state water board) governing desalination plants make subsurface intakes mandatory unless it can be shown they're not economically and/or technically feasible," reported Water Deeply. "The new rules—the only such regulations in the world—are forcing additional delays for the proposed plant, which has been seeking state permits since 2001." The publication puts the issue in stark terms: The Huntington Beach battle is about the future of desalination in the state, and the future of several other proposed plants along the coast.

That's an important battle for those of us who want to assure enough water in this state so that our kids and grandkids have a prosperous future here. There's no question which side we should choose: Let's put people over plankton.

NEXT: Brickbat: You Are Going for a Ride, Grandpa

Environmentalism California

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104 responses to “Desalination Foes Privileging Tiny Critters Over People

  1. “What explains efforts to halt a major source of water supplies in Orange County over concerns about the fate of some plankton?”

    This is just another plot to steal the Krabby Patty formula, isn’t it?

    1. Why do libertarians hate plankton? #Kochtopus

    2. *rise to begin thunderous ovation*

      1. So this is how plankton dies, to thunderous applause.

    3. Thanks to a visit from my grandkids this week, I actually UNDERSTAND that comment!!!

      Well done, sir. Well done.

    4. +5 mind control devices

    5. But, Wind farm sues to block bird death data release – http://www.sanduskyregister.co…..ta-release

      1. I don’t understand why a wind farm would be overly concerned about the bird deaths caused by their windmills. The transmission lines kill several orders of magnitude more birds. Since windmills provide power where and when we need it one would think revealing the numbers would be in their interest.

        Comment from the peanut gallery, “Windmills are typically built in the middle of nowhere and, thanks to the intermittent nature, need more extensive transmission networks over larger areas to mitigate the problem.”

        Never mind then. Proceed with the bird death cover-up.

      2. Makes me wonder what the windmill carnage would have been like if the passenger pigeons were still around. Might have been a good side business in meats from the windfarms. Still, I suppose chicken is better than squab in the long run.

        1. Just like the electricity, the meat supply is intermittent. Having a chicken farm with a regulated output is more efficient that paying people to stand under power lines/windmills waiting for a bird to chance into its demise.

          The one advantage the power line deaths have is that the meat is precooked. Windmills tenderize the meat but not in the way most consumers want.

          1. Its not only about the bird meat, the pillow industry doesn’t stuff itself, you know.

            Also can’t make candy corn without ground up pigeon feet and beaks.

        2. So you want us to butcher the eagles? Eagles are large raptors that coast along the same strong wind currents that wind engineers drool over. They love those currents as windmill pushers. Windmills kill mucho eagles as they coast through the giant table fans.

          So relabel them as chicken and sell? As long as the windmill gets credit for the butchery somewhere on the label.

          For all who focus on the plankton, plankton doesn’t matter to the enviro’s making the decisions. Oh, sure, some enviro TV spokesman or “protester on the scene” cares a lot about the plankton.

          But the eagles show that it’s not the critter, it’s the specific enviro cause. Windmill power instead of power plants is a cause, and the enviro decision makers accept the eagle butchery.

          Notice that regular news isn’t regularly running sad stories of eagle deaths. Don’t expect it to start, unless its part of one the remaining Duck Dynasty episodes.

    6. Every time I hear about a water problem in California I think about how they canceled their plan to build a massive nuclear desalinization complex in the 1970s. Then, I laugh on and on into the night.

      1. I like dis guy! Da Stiletto rules! I was just reading some old Petr Beckmann newsletters and will look that one up.

    1. Nail ? head ? hit.

      When anyone starts thinking of Calizuela as if they have a defensible reason for anything they do, first view it through the lens of a socialist. Private project = ultimate evil.

      Eco warriors = watermelons. All of them.

      1. What does the pejorative “watermelon” mean in this context?

        Just curious, I’ve never heard that one before.

  2. And in other news, it looks like Putin has punked Obama, once again.

    Russia will not respond to Obama’s tantrum

    1. How much of an embarrassment is Obumbles when deplorable Americans take satisfaction in seeing him punked by the likes of Putin? The guy is a disgrace. Jan 20 cant get here fast enough.

      I haven’t said it enough; fuck everyone who voted for this guy.

      1. Oh, please, no. Many of them are MOST unsanitary…..

  3. Water, water, everywhere,
    Nor any drop to drink

  4. The critters are just pawns in this tiresome game

    I misread that as “…just prawns in…” I liked it better that way.

  5. I have been saying for several years now that two offshore desalination plants will solve CA’s problems. All I ever got in response was whining about money and power to operate such plants.

    1. The problem with California isn’t the water – it’s the people. Albeit not in the same sense as the people living there think. The problems are being caused by the insanity that has taken root. There are a great many options for dealing with the water shortages – all of which have been thwarted by the same set of madmen and madwomen.

      1. Indeed, I think that’s kinda my point. If the problem is water shortages, a state with the largest coastline should have no problem fixing it. When the people in charge come up with a hundred different reasons why the obvious solution won’t work, it’s clear you have a management problem.

      2. Environmentalists are mostly water…

        1. Fremen prepare accordingly.

          1. Bless the maker and his water.

            1. Share water… just… get paid for it.

  6. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the modern-day environmental movement is, when taken to its logical conclusion, nothing more than a quasi-death cult.

    1. They have chosen the form of their devil, and it is humanity.

    2. In fairness, they don’t use logic or follow anything to its conclusion. These are people who think fossil fuels are destroying the planet and respond by driving the couple miles to work every day in a Prius.

      They should call it the global warm-fuzzy movement, because the actual goal is achieving feelings, not accomplishing anything real.

    3. Logical? You want econazis to be logical? Is this Hanna Arendt?
      They used to call themselves “The New Left,” until Ayn Rand published an expos? by that name. Then again, the Gospel used to be “Global Warming,” until Michael Crichton et alii recognized the same old Luddites of yesteryear (a half-century back). Now it’s Climate Change… the thing that happened for billions of years before cyanobacteria, much less homo habilis!

  7. This is about California; so secede already!
    It’s not about water, or fish, or plankton; it is about power. Trump needs to build “the wall” around California first, then around DC, and then across the Mexican border. Although, after the first two walls, we might not need the last one.

    1. Secession, followed by the US cutting off access to Rio Grande and Colorado River as water sources. The tech and entertainment industries, the source of the much vaunted ‘largest economy’ boast, will make fine eating for the icky proles fairly quickly.

      As (((Renegade))) says, not much love for the smug fucktards anywhere but in their own minds.

      1. will make fine eating for the icky proles fairly quickly.

        The Fuck You Heard Round the World.

        The Woodchipper Party is looking increasingly moderate.

      2. Tech industry would be fine without the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers.
        Only the south part of the state is dependent on those.

        You seem to have an entertainment industry level grasp of geography,
        and a Sean Penn level knowledge of water systems.

    2. Definitely not. Most of the misery in the Bandana Republics is the direct result of the exportation of ‘Murrican prohibitionism and asset-forfeiture laws. “If ya can’t beat ’em, bandana the poor bastards!”

  8. If my deep concern for my erstwhile home California’s problems were turned to gasoline, there wouldn’t be enough to run a pissant’s gokart around the inside of a Cheerio.

    As much as I dislike my current home (IL), it looks great by comparison, and this article is just one more log on the ecologically-correct and carbon-neutral fire.

    1. You had the wherewithal to move out of California and you moved in to Illinois!?

      1. I go where the work is. IL was not my first choice, but I have an ex-wife and two lawyers to support.

        1. “and two lawyers to support”

          *feral grin*

    2. “As much as I dislike my current home (IL)…”


      Wander down to Louisiana sometime and try the food. Your employer in IL would have to pay a hell of a lot to get you to go back. Also we have open carry and shall issue concealed carry. The fishing is great. The hunting is great.

        1. Uhhhh…oh yeah, that.

          The weather is normal to me so I never think about that when advising you wimpy snowbirds to move down here.

          1. As a native Louisianaian, I can tell you that it’s not the heat, it;s the humility.

          2. Snowbird used to mean something different before mystical Prohibition spent billions to change the usage of that one word…

      1. LA is a steambath. I will admit that despite my aversion to the climate and my unwillingness to duke it out with alligators, I enjoyed the time I spent visiting Ville Platte, and the idea of being able to see great zydeco bands regularly is delightful.

        Best place I ever lived: Montana. If there were work for me, I’d go back in a microsecond.

        1. Ville Platte? No kidding? I love Ville Platte. Well, you had a taste.

          1. So if I mentioned the late great Allen Ortego, you know who I’m talking about. We visited him and I took home like a case of his great red pepper sauce.

            My hosts in Ville Platte were, like everyone else there, named Vidrine.

          2. I question anyone talking about taste after zydeco is mentioned.

            That’s a genre specifically for fat, sweaty beardos with accordions and all-you-can-eat seafood.

    3. The issue with problems in California is it causes Californians to metastasize. There are new tumors in Texas, Colorado and other states. This country can’t survive stage 4 California.

  9. “The rains have started again, but Californians are still facing drought conditions. It’s best to plan now to avoid a future crisis.”

    The primary purpose of California’s storm drain system is to take rain water off of every paved surface and dump it into the ocean as quickly as possible.

    No for-profit company would spend that much money on all that infrastructure for the express purpose of taking a high demand resource and wasting it as quickly as possible.

    To cop a phrase, “You can’t be the guy that builds this. You can’t be the corporation that builds this. You have to be [a government] to build something like this.”


    1. I agree that it’s wasted, but I’m not sure the runoff could be used for much of anything unless it is filtered first. Maybe a simple filtration system would allow the water to be used for ag?

      1. All liquid fresh water everywhere on earth is runoff.

        1. Yes, but it’s ok to be polluted by Bambi pissing in it. It’s not ok to be polluted by traces of car.

          1. The pesticide and herbicide runoff during certain seasons through farming areas is much worse than anything they get off the streets from cars.

            The water treatment facilities do have problems with the first rains of the year in SoCal. Because the rains happen so infrequently, the concentrations of car chemicals (fuel, oil, etc.) the first rain of the year often makes the water in the gutters run black with oil. That just means it takes longer to process. The process is the same.

            Unless you’re collecting rainwater yourself or drinking it straight out of a mountain spring, you’re drinking treated water–and in those cases, you better treat it by boiling and using iodine tablets yourself.

            Even the bottled water you drink is municipally treated water that comes out of the tap. Aquafina and Dasani are both taken from municipal water sources. They do things to it to make it taste better and maybe they don’t use chlorine.

            1. “Even the bottled water you drink is [probably] municipally treated water that comes out of the tap.”

              I’m sure there are exceptions.

              1. “I’m sure there are exceptions.”

                Yeah, but does it matter?
                ‘I’ll have the upstream beer! Bear-Whizz Beer!’
                And ya know, fish poop in the water we drink.

                1. Or as W.C. Fields commented, “Water? I never touch the stuff; fish fuck in it.”

      2. Almost all the water that comes down the river is that way. Almost all of it gets treated before it’s used.

        Incidentally, that’s another one of the more ridiculous things we do with water infrastructure. We use a tremendous amount of energy to send water back to rivers–after its been treated. I know there’s an ick factor for most people about using that stuff, but the fact is that pumping it back into the river you got it from is enormously wasteful–and the people downstream are using it for drinking water anyway.

        I repeat: The people downstream are drinking your treated wastewater anyway.

        We spend a ridiculous amount of money to pump treated water back to where we got it–and that water is also effectively wasted if it makes it all the way to the ocean.

        1. I understand. I was just thinking of all the crap on the streets and from what i understand, those storm drain things in LA are basically used as a dump for a lot of people. All of the oil, crap, shopping carts, etc would need to be removed before the water would be safe for even agriculture, no?

          I guess it could be used for cooling reactors and the steam captured for drinking water.

          I dunno… I’m not an engineer or eco-nazi, so I’m just shootin’ the bull here.

          1. There are some storm drains that go directly to the ocean. You’ll see them marked on PCH that way.

            Meanwhile, California is paved from Santa Clarita to San Diego and from the Pacific Ocean east to and through San Bernardino and Riverside.

            When you’re developing any piece of property, you’re responsible for handling all the water that falls on your property. That effectively means that every piece of developed property in all of California is dumping water into the storm drains–except for a few along the coast.

            Some of it is treated, but that’s an afterthought. The primary concern of the government when they build that storm drain infrastructure was to control flooding–to get rid of the water as quickly as possible.

            And they can’t say that their concerns have changed as the state grew. The LA river was built to get water out of Los Angeles as quickly as possible–even as they were going after water in the Owens Valley.

            It’s buffoonery.

      3. P.S. The point is that if the system were designed by a for-profit company, they’d have built the storm drain infrastructure to route the water to treatment facilities–and then redistribute it after treatment.

        For goodness’ sake, they use sludge as fertilizer.


        . . . why not use the water?

        1. Reminds me to mention here again that when my county bought a piece of land to build a spray field for the treated sewage they paid some company like $86k to clear all the pine trees off the land. I live in the heart of pulpwood country and you could hear heads exploding all over the county when they found out the county commissioners had actually paid to have somebody harvest the timber off the land. The commissioners claimed the reason they had to pay somebody was because they needed it completely cleared and a lot of the trees were scrub pine not worth harvesting but I know a few jackleg pulpwooders who say any tree is worth taking even if it’s not worth paying for, at worst they could have gotten the land cleared for free. And I’m sure there weren’t any kickbacks or anything about that boondoggle.

      4. Well for a start it could be used for the garden, flush toilets or the thousands of acres of subsidized California agriculture. Rain water tanks are a thing.

  10. “The new rules?the only such regulations in the world?are forcing additional delays for the proposed plant, which has been seeking state permits since 2001.”

    They’ve been trying to get permits for fifteen years?! Eventually you have to just say, “Okay, if you insist on dying of thirst, we’ll build elsewhere.”

    1. And ship the product to you in conveniently sized plastic bottles.

  11. Nuclear powered desalination is the way to go. We have the technology. It is not the Republicans and conservatives opposing live-saving technology that could also save the environment. That is now being done mainly by Democrats. GMOs and nuclear power are our two biggest tools to fight global warming, drought, and agricultural waste.

  12. This whole hand-wringing over the smelt is so typically statist stupid. They say they have to balance the delta salinity to keep the endangered smelt from actually going extinct.

    OK, Mr Smarty P. Statist: how did that damned smelt survive for millions of years before we started building dams? Were there no droughts before dams were built — if so, why did we build dams? No, come up with something better, you weak-minded excuse for brains.

  13. You gotta remember California has special rules regarding anything that might possibly cause cancer, and these people know human beings are a cancer on the Earth. Yeah, they’re bound and determined to stop any sort of growth, that’s because they consider the growth to be malignant and humans need punished for their sins against Nature. It really and truly is a religion for these folks and simple appeals to logic or economics or social good or human welfare mean exactly dick to them, they’re on a mission from Gaia to smite the godless heathen unbeliever savages.

  14. Damn, this is a great libertarian argument. If stuff like this ever got covered on the news, we could make some real progress.

    I’m not much of a believer in the libertarian moment, but we might have a chance if more people knew about this kind of stuff.

  15. The less water is available, the fewer leftists can breed in that cesspool.

  16. Time and again, it is apparent that most “environmentalists” are simply people who hate humans.

    1. … or love death. You know what they say about sacrifice and altruism…

  17. The real problem, if anyone bothers to look, is not the intakes but the exhaust. When we pull water in new water will flow in to replace what was once there and there is no problem. On the other hand the effluent will have very high salt concentrations. Unfortunately this does not dilute as quickly as we’d like.

    There is a relatively easy, and profitable, solution though. If we use this brine to produce table salt we have a product, sea salt, that people will actually buy. Unfortunately big salt’s vested interest is to keep evaporating the Great Salt Lake. Curse you Morton’s.

    Disclaimer: I highly doubt that there is any big salt conspiracy. Instead it appears that it is much more likely no one has bothered to think about how to actually make use of a waste product.

    1. if you are thinking about using waste products you must be one of those evil korporations looking to earn disgusting profits by stealing from the poor. Wealth inequality or something.

  18. “Turning ocean saltwater into drinking water remains one of the most sensible long-term options to provide at least some of our water needs.”

    More sensible yet, don’t live in a desert if access to drinking water is a priority for you.

  19. Wait, so they can nuke the bikini islands but this is a step to far?

    1. Other than excess cesium-137 stored in staple foods like coconut and breadfruit growing on the islands there isn’t much of a problem now. Using potassium fertilizer combined with iodine pills could neutralize the risk assuming the government could be convinced to act. What we’ve learned is that 60 years will dissipate the problems from a nuclear explosion unless the soil is naturally potassium deficient.


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  21. The Progressive Left has always had strong NIMBY tendencies, and in areas where they control or seriously influence the State they tend towards policies of Not In Your Back Yard Either on anything of which they disapprove.

    Just one more in a long litany of reasons why they should be forced to admit that their passionate belief in Environmentalism, Feminism, Socialism, etc. amounts to a religion, and that it has no more and no less business informing public policy than any other religion.

    1. “The Progressive Left has always had strong NIMBY tendencies”

      Do you have something against private property? What is wrong with NIMBY?

      ” and that it has no more and no less business informing public policy than any other religion.”

      You haven’t put a lot of thought into this, have you?


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  24. i’m sure that the biologists have a very good reason for doing this which your plankton sized brains can’t comprehend.

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