SCWD headquarters in South Laguna. Photo: Andrea Swayne
SCWD headquarters in South Laguna. Photo: Andrea Swayne

By Kristina Pritchett

The South Coast Water District unanimously approved a task order to complete an Environmental Impact Report for the Doheny Desalination Project during the July 28 meeting.

The task order will allow for the EIR, totaling $730,675, and approve task order amendments up to $73,067, a 10 percent contingency, if required.

Director Dennis Erdman told the directors the board should take a step back and really weigh all the options.

“This issue tonight is whether to spend $800,000 on an EIR for a project we’re not sure is the best option to solving our long-term water security issues,” Erdman said.

He added the board should look into regional solutions, that way the board can share costs, risks, benefits and expertise.

“We need to evaluate all of our options before we choose this one,” Erdman said.

General Manager Andrew Brunhart said the price tag of the EIR was not inexpensive, and from experience has seen some EIRS with total costs more than $1 million.

“So the chief engineer and I feel that the cost is reasonable,” Brunhart said.

He added that the completion of the EIR was the next step in the environmental permitting process, and once completed would allow the district to begin looking at potential partnerships.

“There’s a need for an environmental impact report in my personal perspective,” Brunhart said. “I don’t see any reason to delay this.”

Brunhart also told the board that the district has heard a lot of positive feedback from the community about the desalination plant.

The desalination plant was originally proposed in 2003 as a way to create a more secure and more locally controlled water supply. In June, the district held a special meeting to discuss a price range of $88 million to $185 million depending on size and capacity.

The next Doheny Desalination Workshop will be Aug. 30 at 1 p.m.

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comments (2)

  • Thanks to Director Dennis Erdman for his comments. Regional solutions are being developed by entities such as the San Juan Basin Authority, of which South Coast Water District is a member. In fact, there will be a special meeting of the SCWD Board of Directors on Thursday, August 18 at 2:00 p.m. at the District Administrative Office, 31592 West St., Laguna Beach to hear a presentation on the San Juan Basin Authority Optimization Plan.

  • I second Rick’s comments and encourage more stakeholder participation. I’ve been in dialogue with Mr. Erdman and find him to be refreshingly honest and straightforward, Very insightful and knowledgeable. Ratepayers especially need to analyze cost benefits, achievability and timeliness—–and THEN make a decision.
    PS: A 10% contingency is NOT an industry standard. I’m an advisor & consultant in the water world, I’ve never heard of less than 25%. Which will approach $1 million for this project. I believe professionally that is more realistic.

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