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Gov. Newsom Replaces Orange County Water Board Member Over Desalination Plant

Newsom was under pressure to replace board member, approve controversial plant

By Evan Symon, October 22, 2020 4:04 pm

On  Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom removed a director of the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board after months of criticisms and questions over a proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

Former Water Board member William von Blasingame. (Photo: CA.gov)

Director William von Blasingame had repeatedly challenged the Governor over the proposed Poseidon Water-owned plant. He had  brought up environmental and taxpayer concerns at Board meetings several times, and even challenged Poseidon Water itself.

Concerns over water resources stemming from Los Angeles area water issues last decade led to many proposals in Southern California on how to stretch resources for the future. Several years ago, Poseidon Water proposed a desalination plant, where salt would be removed from seawater to make it drinkable, in Huntington Beach in Orange County. While there were many initial supporters because of benefits like a large increase in water, more jobs, and helping fight climate change, community support began to dwindle after more and more regional issues around the plant popped up.

An unusual mix of environmentalists, community activists, and tax advocates joined together in opposition to the plant in the late 2010’s. Environmentalists have raised concerns over environmental damage to the area and nearby ecosystems, with many groups saying that much marine life would be killed similar to what happened at other desalination plants around the world.

Local activists, led by working class Hispanic neighborhood leaders from near where the proposed plant is to be built, have noted that the plant threatens destruction to their neighborhoods.

The high cost of desalinated water threatens to drastically raise their monthly bills at a time when money is already being stretched thin.

Taxpayer groups have made the same claim, estimating that the rate hike would be between $3 and $6 dollars per month. While seemingly not very high for many, those living on a budget in the district would likely feel a pinch, with small businesses that use a lot of water daily looking at drastically raised costs.

“I thought COVID-19 was a doomsday scenario for me,” said Orange County car wash manager Jose Jimenez in an interview with the Globe. “Having water being raised that much because of a stupid plant could end me. For a lot of us, this is a bigger threat than COVID. At least with COVID it will eventually end.

“We’re not the only ones either. Water is so important for many small businesses. This is only going to hurt businesses here.”

Gov. Newsom has been under pressure to replace von Blasingame

Director von Blasingame had repeatedly brought up these points in meetings, delaying the project and costing Poseidon Water over $1 million in lobbying the state over desalination issues. After his election in 2018, Governor Newsom became an ardent supporter of the project and was soon also tiring of von Blasingame’s constant objections.

Under pressure from Poseidon Water, Newsom declined to renew von Blasingame’s appointment and chose Tustin City Councilwoman Leticia Clark for the position. Clark comes in without having ever expressed an opinion on the plant, but has shown to be sympathetic to water crises’ in the region before.

“On paper, this is someone whose term was up, and they were simply replaced,” said Orange County environmental lawyer Harvey Clark. “But that isn’t the case. Von Blasingame had been a thorn in Poseidon Water’s side for years because he was asking the questions and bringing up the points that they were really hoping wouldn’t come up. Especially about the environment and community impact. And he was the only one on the board really pushing that.

“But now, with him gone, the gigantic amount of people against the plant here won’t be heard. This is why it is such a big deal. The Governor literally just shut out the voice of concern. They want drinkable water, which is all fine, but they’re now deciding it without hearing of any of the negative impact. That’s dangerous.”

The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board is due to vote to approve the Poseidon Water desalination plant in Huntington Beach later this year. If approved, it is expected to face numerous legal challenges.

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12 thoughts on “Gov. Newsom Replaces Orange County Water Board Member Over Desalination Plant

  1. Northern California is now set to cut off the south. “Make your own water.” Since the deal to send excess water was made years ago, a severe drought happened but the north had to make good on an agreement and deliver the water. The electric power required to desalinate sea water is tremendous and will cripple local economies. That power is generated by a plant run by an international company so no jobs will be created. Sacramento control requires removing the dissidents. I live here.

  2. The Demonic Party showing itself to be dictatorial just we have always known. Nephew is just like his Aunt Nancy Pelosi.


    1. Agreed. Recall Newsom before he gets worse. He is a tyrant and must be removed from government. Gi make wine. Leave the governing to others.

  4. Carlsbad California has one. It seems to be working out fine. Researching the cost effectiveness not as a con for building one, but as a pro for our greater need of water, is most effectively financed through bond holdings etc.

  5. Another paid shill for Poseidon and Newsom. Newsom wants gasoline cars to be gone by 2035, but he allows three new AES polluting gas power plants right next to homes in Huntington Beach to power his Desal plant and electric cars. The Santa Ana River dumps billions of gallons of drinking water into the Pacific every winter. Why not capture that water in reservoirs and replenish the ground water? That would be require common sense and Newsom wouldn’t be paid off by AES and Poseidon.
    Recall Newsom!

  6. Newsom forcing out any opposition. Recall him and vote out pelosi and CA will have a fighting chance at recovering.

  7. Successful societies have abundant water, starting with Romans 2000 years ago. We should be prioritizing that. More storage in every way possible AND desalination!

  8. Be sure you are signing a valid form. You can’t do it electronically. I downloaded signed it and got some neighbors to sign. I.mailed it in. Passed forms some to other people to sign . Unfortunately last I looked the signatures are not even close enough to get before time runs out.

  9. Quote, from the article: “Taxpayer groups have made the same claim, estimating that the rate hike would be between $3 and $6 dollars per month,” and then “Taxpayer groups have made the same claim, estimating that the rate hike would be between $3 and $6 dollars per month. While seemingly not very high for many, those living on a budget in the district would likely feel a pinch.”

    Oh please. Name one person “living on a budget” who isn’t buying a cream latte for $6, every day, or a renting a pair of Red Box videos every week. Six dollars a MONTH. And that’s the high estimate. Give me a break. That’s nothing. Ask these same people how they will feel if and when their water is rationed and they’re paying twice as much for water, because no resiliency was built into the system. Six dollars a MONTH. If that’s the best “taxpayer groups” can come up with on this issue, they should get out of the way and start working on something that matters, like pensions or the bullet train. That’s real money.

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