Gov. Gavin Newsom supported the $1.4 billion project, which would have provided a partial solution for the state's ongoing water shortage and drought problems. It was originally proposed by Poseidon Water, which is controlled by the infrastructure arm of Canada's Brookfield Asset Management.
Had the plan gone through, it would have resulted in a large desalination plant being built in a low-lying coastal area of Huntington Beach, located about 30 miles south of Los Angeles.
"The plant was designed to convert Pacific Ocean water into 50 million gallons (189.3 million liters) of drinking water a day," Reuters reported.
"That is enough for 400,000 people, but the plant would use a process that staff experts at the commission said would devastate marine life and expose the plant to future risk of sea level rise while producing expensive water too costly for low-income consumers."
Environmentalists who have been fighting against the project for years burst into celebration following the vote, which was held in a Costa Mesa hotel conference room.
For more than 20 years, Poseidon has been investing in the project, which already set the company back by about $100 million. There is no word yet whether the company plans to try to revive the project.
In order for such a project to even be revived at all, a significant redesign would be needed. The odds of all this happening and the project ever getting completed are slim to none.
"It was a defining day for the for the Coastal Commission," said Susan Jordan, one such environmentalist who opposes the plant. Jordan also directs the California Coastal Protection Network.
"When you have a project like this that is so damaging over the next half century, you really can't allow that to move forward."
According to the commission, had the facility been built, it would have destroyed marine life in about 100 billion gallons of seawater per year. Mitigating that damage with wildlife habitat restoration is a huge feat, and opponents of the project say it would have fallen short of state requirements.
"California continues to face a punishing drought, with no end in sight," Poseidon said in a statement. "We firmly believe that this desalination project would have created a sustainable, drought-tolerant source of water."
Environmentalists have long opposed desalination, claiming the technology harms ocean life and costs a lot of money. Water recycling, they also say, would have rendered it obsolete anyway.
Other desalination projects done right, the commissioner says, could still get a favorable vote in the future. The Poseidon one, however, does not meet their standards.
"We have a dire need for more water, but we have to do it the right way," said Effie Turnbull-Sanders, one of four members on the commission who was appointed by Newsom.
Newsom, meanwhile, issued a statement to the Bay Area News Group saying: "We need more tools in the damn tool kit."
Newsom is up for reelection this year, and since he was unable to come up with any viable solutions for the state's drought crisis, he could face removal. He also oppressed the state to such an extreme degree throughout the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19) plandemic that he could be ousted for that reason alone.
The same commission that rejected the Poseidon plan has approved 11 other projects throughout the state, including a desalination plant that has been running off the coast of Carlsbad since 2015.
More news stories about the fight for clean water can be found at WaterWars.news.
Sources for this article include: