In a stunning rebuke to her environmentally minded supporters, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva has signed a letter of support to the California Coastal Commission on behalf of Poseidon Water’s plans for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
The proposed plant has provoked fierce opposition from, among others, the Sierra Club, who endorsed Ms. Quirk-Silva’s successful campaign to unseat incumbant Chris Norby in the 65th Assembly District. Mr. Norby was also in support of the project.
Ms. Quirk-Silva joined other Orange County state lawmakers in signing a letter addressed to Coastal Commission Chairwoman Mary K. Shallenberger that begins:
“As Orange County’s bipartisan Sacramento legislative delegation, we are unanimously writing to urge the California Coastal Commission’s approval of the Huntington Beach Desalination Project. The Project’s permit application is anticipated to be on the Commission’s meeting calendar this fall and your approval will move this critical water infrastructure project one step closer to construction.”
The proposed plant would be built at the intersection of Newland and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, where a majority of Huntington Beach’s city council also opposes it.
The Sierra Club has vigorously fought the planned desalination project, going so far as to set up a web page allowing visitors to send letters directly to the Coastal Commission expressing their opposition to its approval. According to the Sierra Club’s page:
“The proposed Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Facility should not be awarded a Coastal Development Permit.
The project would kill fish and plankton by sucking them through an open ocean intake.
Operations at the plant would release hyper-saline brine and cleaning fluids that degrades water quality and harms marine life.
The facility would contribute to climate change and sea level rise.
Desalinated water is more expensive than existing water supplies.
This plant would harm the Marine Protected areas along our coast.”
During the hotly contested 2012 campaign, the Sierra Club not only endorsed Ms. Quirk-Silva, but also contributed funds to her campaign and participated in phone-banking and precinct walks. Ms. Quirk-Silva welcomed the Sierra Club’s endorsement:
“Orange County’s pristine beaches, open spaces and natural beauty are the very things that draw millions of tourists here each year…Protecting our environment is not only the right thing to do, it’s also a bottom-line economic issue for our district. When I go to Sacramento, I’ll fight to keep our beaches clean and to preserve our open spaces.”
Ms. Quirk-Silva’s support for Poseidon’s proposed desalination facility is hardly consistent with her claim to protect our environment. Sierra Club members and anyone else concerned about the natural environment–and their water rates–should be very disturbed that she has taken a position of support for a project that would not only harm marine life, but would be operated by an aging, polluting power plant located next to it.
Ratepayers in Fullerton would not directly benefit from the desalination plant, but that didn’t stop Poseidon from soliciting the city’s support. In 2010 Sharon Quirk-Silva herself opposed a resolution of support for Poseidon’s plans while a member of the Fullerton City Council.
In January of this year Fullerton’s water-systems engineer David Schickling explained to the OC Weekly that Fullerton had been a part of a desalination working group, but left it when it became clear that the city would only receive a subsidy from the Metropolitan Water District instead of desalinated water.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva should immediately rescind her support for this unsustainable, expensive, and exclusionary project that will not provide a long term solution to Fullerton’s water needs, or anyone else’s.