© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Bolsa Chica wetlands are shown in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., June 24, 2021. Picture taken June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
(Reuters) -The staff of the California Coastal Commission on Monday recommended denying approval for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach in what could be a fatal blow for a project that would produce 50 million gallons (189.3 million liters) of drinking water per day.
The commission, which could overturn the staff decision but rarely does so, is scheduled to vote on the project on May 12.
Environmentalists say desalination decimates ocean life, costs too much money and energy, and soon will be made obsolete by water recycling.
The desalination plant in Huntington Beach, just south of Los Angeles, is proposed by Poseidon Water, controlled by the infrastructure arm of Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management.
Poseidon has been trying for more than 20 years to get the project approved, spending $100 million to this stage, according to a company estimate.
With U.S. Western states facing a sustained drought, regulators had appeared ready to approve the Huntington Beach plant. The company had expressed enough confidence last year to talk of breaking ground on the $1.4 billion plant by the end of 2022.
Poseidon has operated a similar plant since 2015 down the coast in Carlsbad, but that was approved locally before the state adopted regulations for desalination plants.