Monterey Bay desalination project is approved despite environmental injustice concerns
In an attempt to appease critics of the plan, the California Coastal Commission, which is reviewing the project, said Tuesday that the proposed water purification project had the approval of the state Coastal Act and is in compliance with environmental justice requirements.
In fact, the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) found that the project will not cause any irreversible and irretrievable changes, that it is in compliance with the law, and that the project will not violate the California Coastal Act.
“This project is in compliance with the California Coastal Act and does not violate the laws of the state,” the commission’s staff wrote in a letter to the developer. “The project is in compliance with various laws, including the California Coastal Act and the laws of the State of California.”
The letter refers to an October 2016 opinion by the California Coastal Commission that described the project as “consistent with the public trust doctrine under the California Coastal Act,” and that “there is no substantial controversy regarding the proposal’s compliance with the terms of the California Coastal Act.”
The project was approved by California Coastal Commission staff for review in 2014, and would require the purchase of an additional 6,500 acres of state-owned beachland to be transformed into a wetland, a new state facility to purify the water, a wastewater collection and treatment plant, a sewage treatment plant, sewage pumping stations, stormwater treatment facilities and stormwater management areas.
The project is part of the state’s larger plan to develop and expand public-trust water rights across the state and to clean up pollution in the San Joaquin estuary, which is surrounded by farmland that receives agricultural runoff from California’s two largest cities, Stockton and Modesto.
However, critics of the project have raised concerns that more wetland land — that is currently used for farming or recreation — will be removed as a result of the project, which would create a larger wetland area.
“This project, when completed, will create an even larger wetland area than it will require. This means that fewer farmers and the communities that rely on those farmers would be able to access water supplies from it,” said Kari Derr, executive director of the San Joaquin Citizens Coalition for Water, a group that advocates for water justice in the San Joaquin