October 2022 Hearing Report
By Mandy Sackett | Published 2022-10-31
The Coastal Commission’s October meeting took place in San Diego on October 12-14. The meeting featured a very busy agenda including the permitting of South Coast Water District’s Doheny desalination plant, a permit extension for nuclear waste storage at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, short term rentals in Half Moon Bay, denial of the Santa Cruz County LCP update for coastal hazards and approval of the Newport Beach Confined Aquatic Disposal Facility (CAD). The Santa Cruz LCP update and the Newport Beach CAD both resulted in vote charts. The Doheny desalination facility and the SONGS spent fuel storage permit extension are described below. For the full meeting report and vote charts, click here.
The Commission unanimously approved South Coast Water District’s (SCWD) proposed five million gallons per day (MGD) desalination facility. The facility would provide drinking water for Dana Point and the surrounding area which currently relies on 90% imported water. The facility would minimize impacts to marine life by relying on subsurface intakes and co-mingling brine discharge with the existing wastewater treatment facility. Construction impacts are expected to close campgrounds at Doheny State Beach for 18-24 months. State Parks will be required to provide additional camping at nearby facilities including at San Mateo and San Onofre campground to offset the impact during construction. SCWD will also provide public access improvements at Doheny State Beach including coastal trail improvements and modifications to benefit under-served or lower-income communities such as low cost camping cabins, shuttle services and outreach measures. ActCoastal partners maintain that all desalination should be a method of last resort after measures have been taken to maximize water conservation, waste water recycling, water use efficiency, regional transfers and other more sustainable methods. While all of those criteria might not be met yet at Doheny, the South Coast Water District has clearly made a concerted effort at designing a plant with minimal environmental impacts, appropriately sized for the need of the community and with substantial mitigation measures. Several groups raised concern with environmental and environmental justice impacts given that the brine discharge will still kill marine life and the cost of the facility will raise water bills for residents and small businesses.
On Thursday, the Commission voted to approve Southern California Edison’s permit amendment request to extend authorization for the NUHOMS waste storage facility at SONGS by 13 years to November 15, 2035. The Coastal Commission jurisdiction covers risks associated with geologic and coastal hazards, including seismic, tsunami, flooding and sea level rise. Special conditions require a future coastal hazards analysis, third party review of Edison’s Aging Management Program, and biannual report on the status of offsite alternative waste storage facilities and efforts to secure an offsite facility to accept the nuclear waste canister from SONGS. It is unfortunate that this nuclear waste will remain so close to the rapidly eroding coastline, however, a federal consolidated storage facility needs to be provided before the waste can be relocated. Local groups, including the Surfrider Foundation asked for improvements to coastal hazard monitoring and reporting and an increase in canister inspections. Inspecting two canisters every five years is inadequate for the corrosive marine environment; a greater frequency and number of canisters inspected would help ensure the canisters remain safe and transportable. The Commission did not incorporate those requests into the staff recommendation and the permit amendment was unanimously approved in accordance with the staff recommendation.