VISTA, Calif. (CN) - Environmentalists are challenging the City of Carlsbad over a $300 million desalination plant planned for drought-stricken Southern California. Two groups say Carlsbad and Poseidon Resources' enormous project has undergone too many changes for a 2006 environmental impact report to still apply.
The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper want work on the plant halted. The project, which has been in the works for a decade, is supposed to come online in 2012.
The environmentalists say the project would harm marine life by sucking up and crushing ocean organisms. The desalination project is to get water from the Encina Power Plant, which pumps it out of the ocean to cool its generators.
Each day, up to 96,000 individual organisms - amounting to about 10.4 pounds - would be "entrained" or "impinged," the complaint states.
The environmentalists also say the project lacks a thorough analysis of greenhouse gas impacts.
Desalination is an energy-intensive process, and the Carlsbad plant would use 274,400 megawatt-hours of electricity every year, resulting in associated carbon dioxide emissions.
The coastal protection groups call the marine mitigation plan inadequate, and say the project was "improperly segmented and piecemealed."
According to the lawsuit, 304 million gallons of saltwater would produce 50 million gallons of potable water. The plant's backers claim it could supply 10 percent of the region's water.
Plaintiffs say subsurface water intake would reduce harm to marine organisms.
Poseidon Resources calls the project "the most technologically advanced, energy efficient and environmentally sensitive in the world." It includes wetlands mitigation, and Poseidon says that it will voluntarily offset the project's carbon footprint.
Desalination technology is also environmentally problematic because extracting the potable water increases the salt content of the wastewater, known as brine.
California has been in drought since about 2000.
The plaintiffs are represented by Marco Gonzalez with the Coast Law Group in Encinitas.