CARLSBAD (CBS 8) - A $1 billion desalination plant in Carlsbad that could provide a significant boost to the region's supply of potable water was dedicated today in the name of the late longtime Mayor Claude "Bud" Lewis.
Lewis was mayor of the North County coastal city for 24 years, part of the four decades he spent on the Carlsbad City Council. During that time, Lewis, who died last year, was instrumental in making Carlsbad the host city for the plant, which was constructed over the past three years at the inlet to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
The plant, which has been under construction for nearly three years, is the largest of its kind in the country. It is located at Avenida Encinas in Carlsbad, stretching 10 miles from the Agua Hedionda Lagoon to San Marcos.
The project also included the installation of a 10 mile pipeline that will carry fresh water to a San Diego County Water Authority facilities in San Marcos.
Water deliveries will begin soon, but no date has been set, according to a spokeswoman. When the plant goes into full operation it will process 50 million gallons of salt water a day, turning the water into purified drinking water, roughly one third of the locally generated fresh water supply.
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Supporters said the plant will give the region a drought-proof source of drinking water that will lower dependence on water imported from the State Water Project and Colorado River. The plant will also provide about 2,500 jobs in desalination, engineering and construction, while creating $350 million for the local economy.
Approval was bitterly fought by environmental groups, contending it would harm marine life.
"If you look to the examples of where desalination has worked successfully around the world, you will see that those nations worked diligently to reduce demand before turning to desalination," Julia Chunn-Heer, policy manager for the Surfrider Foundation's San Diego County Chapter, said in a statement issued last week.
With state-mandated conservation efforts now in place, the financing arrangements will put taxpayers at risk, she said.
Monday's dedication ceremony was hosted by Poseidon Water who has a 30 year agreement with the San Diego Water Authority.
Poseidon Water, built and owns the plant. The Water Authority has the option to purchase the facility in 10 years. In three decades, the agency will have the right to buy the plant for $1, according to the SDCWA.
The Mayor of Carlsbad, speaker Toni Atkins and other political, county and corporate leaders also attended the ceremony Monday.