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Desalination: Little Oversight of California Water Boards

Indide Doheny Beach pilot desal plant. Retrieved from: DC Bureau

“Dana Point, California –When it comes to pushing for energy-intensive ocean desalination projects along the coast of California, the motivation of some water board members is being questioned.

“The wife of the pro-desalination chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a consultant to the Orange County water district, and she helped permit the Doheny Beach pilot desalination plant. She is also vocal in encouraging CalDesal, a nonprofit pro-desalination lobbying group supported by public water agencies.

“I think there’s a problem there,” says Debbie Cook, a former Huntington Beach City Council member who has been looking for conflicts of interest among the region’s often overlooked water boards.

“Kevin Hunt, district manager, says the fact Foley’s wife, Mary Jane, is paid by the district does not violate any law or regulation because Foley is not a board member, but rather an appointed representative to the regional water board.

“Reached during a tour of the Doheny Beach desalination pilot project, Foley denies that his wife’s involvement with desalination poses any conflict. “She believes in desal,” Foley, a retired Army colonel, says. “That’s the fundamental problem.”

“Asked about his own position on desalination, Foley says he is in complete support.

“But we have a difficult time with a lot of opposition that’s not really sustainable,” Foley says. “It will fade as we develop more need. Unfortunately, we have an abundance of water right now. In the long run we’re going to need desalination. We’ve probably pushed conservation as far as we can, quite frankly. Any more money poured into it is not going to return that much.”

Read more: DC Bureau