California

Scientists Rebuke California Coastal Commission Over Desalination

Even bureaucrats must obey the laws of science.

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The California Coastal Commission's stated concern that a proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant's intake pipes pose a threat to small and microscopic plankton has been rebutted in a letter from three prominent California marine biologists.

Anthony Koslow, Eric Miller and John McGowan—marine biologists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla—were responding to comments made at a Dec. 1 panel about ocean desalination in Ventura County by Tom Luster, the agency's lead staffer on the desalination issue.

Luster actually had cited Koslow, Miller and McGowan's research in arguing against open intakes given a 75 percent reduction in plankton off Southern California since the early 1970s. Citing the Scripps research Luster said it would be "hard to maintain and enhance marine life like the Coastal Act requires in a situation like this and so open intakes have a hurdle to overcome."

In a sternly worded Dec. 29 rebuttal letter, Koslow, Miller and McGowan said Luster's comment reflected "an inaccurate understanding of our research," adding that their paper showed "many of the taxa are predominantly distributed offshore but share the same trend as more coastal taxa."

"It is therefore not reasonable to attribute this decline to the impact of coastal development or nearshore power-plant intakes," the scientists wrote. "We ask that you refrain from repeating your Ventura forum comments, or anything similar, as it presents an almost exactly opposite conclusion to that obtained by our research."

The Scripps researchers' conclusion was that large-scale ocean forcing, not local coastal processes, are behind changes off the Southern California coast since the 1970s. They added that they hoped their science could "inform regulatory decisions wherever applicable, but the science needs to be interpreted correctly."

In an emailed response, Luster said his point was that the decline in plankton populations had made it difficult for the new proposed project, which he said "would represent an additional adverse effect to meet the Coastal Act's requirement to maintain and enhance marine life productivity." But Miller—one of the Scripps researchers—reiterated that their study, which found that environmental forcing had reached tipping points in 1976 and 1989, "did not detect an influence of power plant cooling water intakes on nearshore fish populations."

"It's a mystery to me how my quote was misinterpreted," Luster said, in an interview.

The question at issue is no mere academic matter. The future of the Huntington Beach desalination plant isn't just about one proposed facility, but about the statewide future of a technology that turns saltwater into drinking water. That's a particularly important question as the state begins to emerge from a long-running drought. Decisions by the commission and other state agencies on the Huntington Beach plant will help decide whether developers pursue a number potential plants up and down California's coastline.

A desalination plant went online last year in the north San Diego County city of Carlsbad, but the makeup of the Coastal Commission and state regulations have changed since the approval process for that facility. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the state water board "directed desalination plants to install wells—offshore or on the beach—or another type of subsurface intake that the state says would naturally filter out marine organisms." However, the plant's supporters point out that state laws require subsurface intake technologies to be technically, economically, socially and environmentally feasible.

According to Poseidon Vice President Scott Maloni, the harm to plankton is minimal.

"There are estimated to be 115 billion larva in the source water of the desal plant," he said. "Our estimated entrainment is 0.02 percent. Put another way, for every 10,000 fish eggs the desal plant is anticipated to entrain two. That means that 9,998 fish eggs are not at risk. This entire debate is over the potential loss of two out of 10,000 fish eggs in the desal plant's source water, 99 percent of which die of natural mortality."

The latest fracas over the Huntington Beach desalination plant bolsters Coastal Commission critics who believe the commission's problems with the plan stem more from its hostility to growth than any real concerns about the fate of the food chain's lowliest members.

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  1. So the California Coastal Commission is like a monkey, and the scientists are like a deer.

    Where the analogy might break down is at “for the receptive female, there could be an added nutritional benefit from licking the monkey’s ejaculate.”

    1. That’s what I tell my wife!

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    2. Next monkey bukkake.

  2. I’d have much more respect for the enviro wackos if every option but live in a cave weren’t fought as if it was epically horrible.

    1. Or how they will fight tooth and nail against solutions that would actually be beneficial to the environment (nuclear power) because they think they are icky and scary.

      1. Because Chernobyl and Fukushima did totally no damage to the environment at all and the good citizens of every state are clamoring to bury nuclear wastes on their land.

        There are definitely wackos. Not all of them are environmentalists.

    2. Caves? You are forgetting about hornets and bats. We cant displace them.

      1. This is a rather one-sided article. But why not swallow it hook line and sinker and run with it?

  3. Let California dry up and blow away under the weight of their regulations. I feel for the folks who vote against these politicians, but you reap what you sow. The voters want cave-level tech, let them have it.

    1. Yes, but, the precedents! If the California fruits and nuts are allowed to get away with this, in the name of protecting the micro-biota, next thing you know, we will not be allowed to brush our teeth, for fear of killing our oral micro-biota!

      You do NOT want to smell my breath when I haven’t brushed my teeth, TRUST me on THAT one!

      1. No problem. I they do not proceed with secession, vote them off the continent. Trump can build a wall around California, both to keep them in, and to have something to stand people against.
        Full disclosure: I lived in California in the late seventies. Ran for my life when all this madness started to get too real.

        1. His point is that it’s too late. The infection may have already spread to the point that amputation isn’t effective.

          German executives are giving away free cars and still losing their job because of California ULEV emissions standards. Being clear, the cars killed no one and are perfectly legal pretty much everywhere in the world, they generate a tiny fraction of the pollution than the cars that originally motivated California to start monitoring vehicle emissions in the first place and had they been sold less than a handful of years earlier, wouldn’t even have raised any ire. The real problem is that they deceived regulators, and for that, no price is too high.

          1. I think they’re going after Chrysler now? Of course, we all predicted that every manufacturer is doing the same thing VW does and we were right.

        2. Same here. I love California. I was born in California. It’s a beautiful state with just about anything you want within its borders. The only thing I can’t tolerate about California is the government of California. Haven’t been back since about ’78.

          1. Its not just the government. Many of the people are actively pursuing agendas detrimental to their interests and other Californian’s interests all in the name of faux science, faux history and faux facts.

            A majority of Californians have taken the Nanny-State to unprecedented power levels.

            Let this sink in: Much of California does not have a water supply. Add in huge population levels that require American amounts of water and you get a water shortage disaster in the making. Some California community wants to head off this problem and desalinate seawater from the huge California coastline. There is an opposition group to this plan that will say or do whatever it takes to stop the plan.

            1. California does have a water supply. Most of it goes to agriculture which feeds the rest of the nation.

              Poseiden wants to lock-in water agencies to long term contracts imposing minimums and high rates. They want the profit without the risk. Reasonable – but it is just as reasonable for the people’s representatives in the government to use due diligence.

      2. If not for the micro biota in your guts, you’d starve to death.

    2. The problem is the refuges will want to escape to neighboring States and will bring their culture with them.

      1. BUILD THE WALL and make California pay for it.

      2. Not everyone in California is a Hollywood liberal, you know. The first to go are the blue collar whites who can’t get low-skill jobs any more or pay the rising rents. The second will be the people who think that civilization means walking around with a gun on your hip like some frontier gun fighter.

    3. The coastal commission in recent years has not been so radical as all that.

  4. For some reason this old Bloom County popped into my head.

    http://animalfeasance.files.wo…..iendly.jpg

    1. Excellent point! Our lungs are coated in anti-microbial slime, so we are murderers with every breath we take! Please do NOT tell the eco-freaks, or they will “capitally punish” all of us “murderers”!!!!

      1. We should all take imune system suppressants and then revel in the beautiful nature farms that our fleshy bags of Earth hating beings have become. If we save just one virus…

  5. “It’s a mystery to me how my quote was misinterpreted,” Luster said, in an interview.
    Hint: they are California bureaucrats. They lie for a living. (their living, not yours)

  6. Check out this 1973 book. Mano satirizes the extremist environmentalists.

    https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com
    /2013/
    10/07/book-review-the-bridge-d-keith-mano-1973/

  7. In fairness to Calicrats, these scientists have a conflict of interest, since they need water to survive.

    1. Shoulda just assumed they were in the pocket of big water. They probably make regular donations to and/or collect monies from the water industry.

  8. The problem all started when the pinko Californians thought they heard “de-Stalinization”.

    1. *golf clap*

      1. although “pinko” was redundant

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  10. A friend of ours owned a building for his business within the zone of needing the Coastal Commission’s approval for paving his gravel parking lot (I’ll pause to let you think about needing a state board approval to put a little asphalt at least half a mile from the actual water). They refused. So the lot stayed gravel. However, later, (movie producer) Jerry Bruckheimer’s daughter bought the building for her business, and do you think she got to pave her parking lot? of course she did.

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  12. “It’s a mystery to me how my quote was misinterpreted,”

    “Why could someone involved in politics misrepresent my scientific research?” he asked cluelessly.

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