The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed desalination plant in southern Orange County at Doheny State Beach, but some campers are opposed to the idea.
There are 122 campsites at Doheny State Beach, so popular campers tell NBC4 they need to make reservations six months in advance. This is also where the South Coast Water District wants to build four underground wells for a new desalination plant.
The Water District says Doheny State Beach is drought proof. The Pacific Ocean could provide up to five million gallons of drinking water per day.
Currently, the district imports about 85% of its water for some 35,000 customers.
The remaining 15% comes from this plant where unusable Storm Creek runoff is treated by reverse osmosis and sent to homes and businesses.
The $140 million desalination plant would be placed on land owned by the Water District, just north of the Pacific Coast Highway.
On the south side, coveted beachfront campsites cost around $65 a night. The water district says the entire campsite should be closed for at least 18 months while it drills an underground well that reaches the ocean.
Anthoni Holley, a camper, sees this as a compromise.
“I looked forward to coming here every year, but I’m all for it,” Holley said.
Opponents wonder if a project of this size is necessary.
In letters to the Coast Commission, groups like CAPO Cares and Clean Water Now call the plant risky, expensive and say they’re worried about toxic waste.
“You won’t impact any marine life. You’ll have a fully submerged sloping well 600 to 1,000 feet long at a 10 to 12 degree angle,” said Rick Shintaku of the South Coast Water District. “It never reaches the surface.”
If approved, the water district plans to sell some of its production to other water districts and consider this way of making the ocean drinkable as part of the solution to the drought. .
While campsites are closed, state park officials say they would look for other sites to reopen, but not in this park. As for the cost of this desalination plant, it is estimated to add $2.38 to the average monthly bill.