The Huntington Beach City Council took a defiant stance against a major water retailer Monday as Poseidon's controversial desalination project again took center stage.
Until now, the city had opted to pay to be informed about studies conducted in connection with the proposed project.
However, council members voted 5 to 2 to opt out of participating in those studies and to send a letter to the Municipal Water District of Orange County opposing its recent change to its budget structure regarding the desalination plant. Mayor Matthew Harper and Councilman Joe Carchio dissented.
The issue stems from the water retailer's recently amended policy regarding services it provides and how they are funded. Since 2011, MWDOC has allowed member agencies to opt in or out of participating in certain services it provides, including the economic and physical feasibility studies pertaining to the proposed Poseidon desalinated water plant.
Poseidon, a Connecticut-based desalinated water provider, and its desalination projects have been heavily criticized by opponents, who say the company has yet to build a plant that was successful.
Additionally, they argue that the city and county don't need the additional water and that the project would just increase water rates.
Last month, MWDOC decided to move an aspect of the Poseidon project to a mandatory cost structure. It determined that research on the use of delivery pipes owned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California was something all of its members should pay for.
MWDOC is a member of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and uses some of its pipes to deliver water to MWDOC's members in Orange County.
MWDOC says that what makes this a "core service" as opposed to a "choice" is the effect that Poseidon and other projects could have on the pipes.
Choice programs give members an option to pay to receive certain services from the district, like water use education and information from project studies, including the Poseidon research. Anything determined to be a "core service" means mandatory payment by member agencies
In reaction to the change, and in an effort to clarify their skepticism about the Poseidon project, some council members said they wanted to opt out of any choice program related to the desalination plant.
MWDOC General Manager Rob Hunter said those choice programs, which would have cost the city $3,000 this year, include the analysis of the joint report on subsurface intakes by the desalination group and a California Coastal Commission.
"My objection to Poseidon is that they have never successfully built a plant," said Councilman Dave Sullivan, who added that the city should not be giving the MWDOC money to study the project. "They have their tinker toy thing down in Carlsbad. I'll discuss changing my position on Poseidon building a desalination plant when they have built the Carlsbad plant and it has operated successfully for four years."
Councilwoman Jill Hardy echoed her colleague's remarks.
"I'll take advantage of any opportunity I have to say one more time [that] I do not support the Poseidon project," she said.
The city will still pay for the core program to study the use of delivery pipes, the cost of which has not yet been determined.