DeepWater Desal Taps State Lands Commission As Lead Agency on Desalination Plant
February 25, 2013
As part of the consent agenda at its Feb. 22 meeting, the commission voted 2-0 to send the preparation of DeepWater's environmental impact report out to bid. That means a third-party consultant would prepare the EIR, but the commission would hold public meetings, consider the EIR's certification and vote to approve, conditionally approve or reject the project itself.
If the State Lands Commission approves the DeepWater Desal proposal, it will then apply for the necessary permits from various other public agencies. DeepWater is proposing a 25,000-acre-foot seawater desalination facility in Moss Landing, producing potable water for Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties. DeepWater proposes to draw water from the deep ocean outside of Moss Landing.
Cy Oggins, the State Land Commission's division chief of environmental management and planning, says "it's been a while" since the commission was the lead agency for a California desalination project. It took the less prominent role of responsible agency (issuing permits but not leading the environmental review) for Poseidon Resources Corporation desalination projects in Carlsbad and Huntington Beach, he says.
Public scoping and draft EIR meetings on the DeepWater Desal application would probably be held in Moss Landing, Oggins says. The State Lands Commission and the Moss Landing Harbor District both have jurisdiction over the DeepWater proposal, but the two agencies agreed in a pre-application meeting that the commission would take the lead, he says.
Moss Landing Harbormaster Linda McIntyre confirms that information, adding: "Moss Landing is a logical place for a desal operation because of existing ocean pipelines and landside infrastructure."
DeepWater Desal Manager and CEO Brent Constantz (pictured above) says the Harbor District will “absolutely” be included in the CEQA process, as it's responsible for all submerged waters within 2,000 feet of shore. The commission, he says, is responsible for the waters farther out.
If DeepWater's formal application changes significantly from the pre-application, Oggins says, the harbor district and the commission will hold another meeting, most likely in Sacramento, about the lead-agency designation.
In what may be a miscommunication, Oggins says the commission has not yet received DeepWater Desal's application and accompanying fee; Constantz says the application and a "ticket to entry" in the ballpark of $25,000 has already been submitted. (He estimates DeepWater's total cost for the environmental review will be about $100,000.)
Constantz says DeepWater is tentatively looking to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary as the federal agency to lead the process for CEQA's federal counterpart, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). That application has not been formalized yet, he says, but a joint environmental review with the State Lands Commission is on the table.
The application is not just for the desal plant, Constantz says, but also for a data center “and other low-carbon uses.” The company proposes to draw in cold seawater, chill the data center with it and use the warmer water for desalination, thus lowering the carbon footprint for both operations.
DeepWater is also in talks with the city of Salinas to form a municipal power utility tied to the project.