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Save Santa Barbara from Unnecessary Seawater Desalination!

We recently got wind of a plan to sneak through a contract for a $10 million grant that would require the Santa Barbara ocean desalination plant to operate at full capacity for 36 of the next 40 years regardless of demand thanks to Santa Barbara Channelkeeper:

Surfrider opposes this type of ocean desalination for a number of reasons:

Can you help spread the word about this bad contract and the city council meeting next Tuesday, June 16 when they plan to discuss it? Please submit a letter by Monday, June 15 to voice your concerns! Submit a letter here!

Here are the suggested comments you may use -

Dear Mayor Cathy Murillo and Councilmembers,

I am concerned regarding the proposed ordinance authorizing the City Administrator to execute a Grant Funding Agreement with the State Department of Water Resources for a $10 million grant for the Reactivation of Santa Barbara’s Desalination Facility, which is on your City Council meeting agenda for June 16, 2020.

I am alarmed by the provision in the Grant Funding Agreement which binds the City to operate the desalination plant at full capacity (3,125 acre-feet per year, or AFY) for 36 out of the next 40 years. The City lacks the legal authority to make this colossal of a commitment, and it directly contradicts commitments the City Council has made publicly to its rate payers numerous times over the past six years about the long-term role of desalination in the City’s water supply portfolio. 

It also conflicts with the City’s coastal development permit, for the plant which outlines 4 scenarios for operations. All scenarios permit the plant to operate ONLY under drought conditions except for one, which allow the plant to operate at full capacity if it is to also supply water to other districts as a regional plant. Thus far, the City has no commitments to do so. 

I strongly urge the City Council to delay acceptance of this grant and the major and unvetted obligations it places on the City and its rate payers and to undertake full environmental review prior to making any shift in policy related to the long-term role and operation of the desalination facility as required by CEQA. The City should also consult with the California Coastal Commission regarding consistency with permit requirements. 

We must think carefully about our water supply decisions and the associated decisions they have on on our coastal environment. Seawater desolation is extremely costly, impactful to marine life and produces toxic brine that discharges directly to our open ocean. We must not lock ourselves in to operating the plant at full capacity for the next 36 our to 40 years. Further, if the plant’s non-operation cost is estimated to be $2 million dollars during non-drought years, it does not make economic sense to lock ourselves into operating the plant for the next several decades for a $10 million grant. After just 5 years of non-operation, the City will already have made up that cost. It’s unlikely the next 36 out or 40 years will be drought conditions. Please reconsider locking our community into this strict contract. 

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration on this important matter.


Submit a letter here!