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Arguments heard in Coastkeeper suit against water authority
San Diego Superior Court judge says he'll take the case under submission
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By Dana Littlefield, July 29, 2015

SAN DIEGO — A water conservation group argued in court Wednesday that the San Diego County Water Authority needs to do more to account for the potential environmental effects of its upcoming projects, particularly the water desalination plant scheduled to open in Carlsbad.

The group, San Diego Coastkeeper, is suing the water authority, claiming that its long-term water supply plan violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

“We’re not saying stop desalination,” said attorney Everett DeLano, who represented the advocacy group during a hearing in San Diego Superior Court. He said there needs to be “an honest accounting” of the energy the desalination process requires, and an analysis of the greenhouse gasses associated with that process.

DeLano also argued that such information should be made available for a possible desalination plant on Camp Pendleton — a project that was noted in the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, which sets precedent for water supply decisions through 2035.

But representatives from the water authority say the Carlsbad plant’s environmental effects have been accounted for by Poseidon Water, the project’s private developer, as have other proposed projects, and that a mitigation plan has been put in place.

Construction of the reverse-osmosis plant in Carlsbad, North America’s largest and most advanced desalination project, is expected to finish this fall. The plant is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of water a day, enough to serve about 112,000 families.

“There’s been extensive accounting for these greenhouse gasses in the (environmental impact reports) by those facilities,” said Mark Hattam, attorney for the water authority.

The attorney argued there are no specific plans for a desalination plant on Camp Pendleton, but that it remains an option as noted in the plan. He said the county’s demand for water has declined significantly since 2003 when the first version of the master plan was adopted and authorities determined there was a need for a desalination plant.

After hearing the attorney’s arguments, Judge Gregory Pollack said he would take the case under submission and issue a ruling later.

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