All of us in the business of building or repairing infrastructure in California are very familiar with the glacial pace that government, at all levels, moves when it comes to getting projects out to bid and in the ground.

There’s a word that describes the process, which we borrow from algebraic geometry, which describes a little shape called a “lemniscate”—any of several figure-eight shaped curves. Most of us would call these shapes infinity curves—shapes that go around and around with no end (like the process used to approve infrastructure work.) The word comes from the Latin “lēmniscātus” meaning “decorated with ribbons,” which could be the way the old Romans described red tape. Here is an example of a Lemniscate:

Cue the Huntington Beach Desal Project

A classic example of the fiddle-faddle approach to infrastructure project planning and delivery in California is the saga of the Huntington Beach desalination plant.

What? You didn’t know Surf City had a desal plant?

It might be because they don’t, yet, but on July 18th the Orange County Water District Board voted 6-2 to approve “nonbinding contract terms” with Poseidon Water is the leading seawater desalination developer in the U.S. Poseidon, has spent 20 years on this desal plant proposal for this fabled beach town. The plan for the $1 billion plant and water distribution infrastructure would provide many ECA members with additional work opportunities. Many of those same companies were part of the construction team that finally built a similar plant in Carlsbad.

Of course, the OCWD board won’t be giving final approval until Poseidon receives its other regulatory approvals. The company still needs permits from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is scheduled to consider the company’s application in December, and the California Coastal Commission, which is expected to take up the issue next year with the full panoply of environmental activists crowding the hearings.

Then there is the obligatory lawsuit—one is pending already, challenging the environmental report accepted by the State Lands Commission when that panel gave its approval to the project last October. ECA’s Government Affairs committee stands ready to support the Poseidon proposal for Orange County, both for the water it will supply and the work that it will generate for our members.

By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman
[email protected]