Redondo Beach Next to Consider Desal Plant

Apr. 19, 2016 — The battle over desalination in Southern California took another twist last week, when the West Basin Municipal Water District brought the debate over a proposed desal plant in the South Bay to its home court Friday.

The elected board called a Special Meeting in Carson with its newly created, two-month-old Desalination Committee to discuss the merits of a facility to be built near the Manhattan Beach-El Segundo border.

The confab follows on the heels of city council meetings in Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, where council members voted unanimously to oppose the $300 million plant that aims to convert 60 million gallons of seawater daily into drinking water. (You can read more about those meetings here and here.)

This time around, Municipal Water Board members seemed a bit more comfortable and in charge at the home offices. Not surprisingly, few members of the public attended the session given the starting time of the meeting – high noon on a Friday. Representatives from Heal the Bay and Surfrider Foundation quietly laid out their case for investing in more prudent and eco-friendly technology.

Craig Cadwallader, our longtime ally from Surfrider’s South Bay chapter, struck a complimentary tone in his public comment. He reminded board members that they have been pioneers in the world of water recycling and that they should invest in proven technology rather than entering into the expensive and controversial world of desalination.

The West Basin Board is looking to broaden its own coalition of support, in light of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach’s rejection of the proposed plant. The board’s desalination strategy has received support from the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce and the Gardena Valley Lions Club.

The district also plans to do desal roadshows at upcoming city council meetings in Hawthorne and Inglewood. West Basin Desalination is seeking civic support if it can prove that the plant protects the environment to the extent required by law, is carbon neutral upon opening, and is cost-competitive with the price of recycled water. Heal the Bay and other coalition partners express respectful skepticism about meeting those goals. (You can read our top 5 reasons to be wary of desalination here.)

The next venue for public discussion will be at a Redondo Beach City Council meeting, planned for May 17. We’ll keep you updated if the showdown heads further inland into the cities of Inglewood and Hawthorne.