Monterey Bay desalination project is approved despite environmental injustice concerns
A proposal to build a new desalination plant for the City of San Francisco has received approval from the California State Water Resources Control Board.
A controversial environmental justice issue in coastal California remains unresolved: whether a new desalination plant could be built at Point Reyes to serve the city’s residents living in the low-lying city.
The State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) decision approves plans that have the backing of an environmental group, but a group of Bay Area citizens opposed to the project filed a lawsuit challenging the agency’s decision.
The lawsuit, which remains ongoing, seeks to keep the project off the table and forces the city to go back to the board’s board for consideration.
The city’s decision to accept the project makes a big dent in a lawsuit filed against the city by local residents seeking to halt the project based on its use of land zoned for agriculture and other uses. The lawsuit filed by those residents, who have been dubbed the “Agricultural Rights Group,” named as defendants the City of San Francisco, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the members of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors.
The litigation was prompted in part by a lawsuit brought by the San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity in which activists successfully argued that the project would destroy the estuary, water quality, habitat, and wildlife at Point Reyes that the city had pledged to protect. The water district had set the amount of the project in an RFP that called for a desalination plant with an output of at least 1.5 million gallons a day for a five-year, initial contract worth $50 million.
The RFP was challenged in federal court. After the suit was filed, then-San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to an extension, which allowed the city to seek public comments on the project.
In the past, the city has faced criticism for the way it