High Tides Threaten Proposed Location for Huntington Beach Desalination Plant

Coastkeeper says expensive development will be under water before 50-year agreement is up

ORANGE COUNTY – December 22, 2015 – This Tuesday through Thursday, king tides - some of the highest annual tides - arrive on Orange County’s coast giving a glimpse of what shorelines will look like in 20 to 30 years due to sea level rise. According to Orange County Coastkeeper, the proposed location for the billion-dollar Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach is in a vulnerable area and not worth the money or the risk.

Currently, Poseidon is working with Orange County Water District on a term sheet to buy the water – which recently changed from a 30-year agreement to a 50-year water agreement. Meaning for 50 years  — despite the need for the water — Orange County residents will be flipping the bill for the most expensive water option.

The site for the desalination plant is in Huntington Beach next to the AES Power Plant, an area that is considered the second most vulnerable to sea level rise in California. Coastkeeper says that many studies show projected sea level rise around 15 inches or more in the next 50 years — meaning the location is projected to be under water before the agreement is up.

“If Huntington Beach moves forward with the Poseidon desalination plant in this location, the project will require structural protective barriers such as seawalls, groins, breakwaters and other coastal armoring structures,” says Garry Brown, Orange County Coastkeeper executive director. “This means additional costs and detrimental impacts to our beaches and coastline, which then impacts our local wildlife and tourism.”

During this year’s November king tides, Orange County coastal cities experienced sea level rise reaching thresholds, lapping at doorways and leaving some portions of the Pacific Coast Highway closed to traffic. In the near future, Orange County residents can expect this occurrence to be an everyday reality, says Brown.

Coastkeeper says that the December 22 – December 24, 2015, and the January 21 – January 22, 2016, king tides will have a similar impact to the coastal region, giving residents a visual of a flooded proposed desalination location. Coastkeeper says the vulnerability to flooding is one of the many reasons the desalination plant is not a good investment for Orange County.

The Huntington Beach desalination project site can be seen at 16910 Pacific Coast Highway — Magnolia and Pacific Coast Highway. The best times to view the flooding is during the high tides.


  • December 22, 6:17 a.m.
  • December 23, 7:00 a.m.
  • December 24, 7:41 a.m.


  • Jan 21, 2016, 6:52 a.m.
  • Jan 22, 2016, 7:35 a.m.

Coastkeeper believes environmentally sustainable long-term solutions — such as more conservation, more efficiency and more stormwater capture — should be exhausted before turning to desalination. For more information, read this story on the impacts of the Poseidon-Huntington Beach desalination plant.


ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of the International Waterkeeper Alliance, which has 236 different independent programs across 29 countries. Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit www.coastkeeper.org or call 714-850-1965.