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In Your Backyard: Public Discussion on Where to Plunk Desalination Plant Wednesday

| March 8, 2011

A little extra salt with those sands? (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast’s proposed desalination plant is looking for real estate–and community input on that search.

The Coquina Coast Seawater Desalination Project, as it is called, is holding an open house followed by a presentation and public comment period on the project’s siting criteria beginning at 6 p.m. at the Whitney Laboratory in Marineland this Wednesday (March 9, at 9505 Ocean Shore Blvd.). Interested individuals can provide their input either in person by attending the public meeting or by completing an online survey.

The project has undergone significant revisions since first proposed several years ago, at the height of the housing boom, when population projections had Flagler County reaching 200,000 inhabitants early this century. (ITT, Palm Coast’s founder, had also projected that number for the year 2000 when it launched the development in the late 1960s.) Those projections have changed, and with them, the scale of the desalination project. Initially conceived as one of the largest plants in the world and costing $1.2 billion, it would have had a production capacity of 25 million gallons of freshwater by 2020 and 80 million gallons by 2050.

The project has been scaled back to a capacity of 10 million gallons by 2020 and 25 million by 2050. Those numbers may yet change. “Preliminary engineer’s [sic.] estimates put the capital cost of a 10-15 mgd plant between $180 million and $234 million,” according to the latest project fact sheet. Those costs do not include energy consumption, which is colossal (Tampa Bay’s desalination plan, which produces a mere 93,000 has a power plant co-located with the 2,000 megawatt Big Bend power station). Nor do they include pipeline-distribution costs, which are also considerable. Nor do they take into account environmental costs.

For now, only capital costs are being projected to some extent. No single local government can shoulder even those costs alone, though Palm Coast is close to doing so. Originally, the project was made up of more than a dozen “partner” governments–counties and cities across Northeast Florida, including Flagler County, Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Volusia and St. Johns counties. All of those have since dropped out, citing costs: to remain partners, they would have had to contribute money annually. Their strained budgets argued against it. Only three entities remain beside Palm Coast: Leesburg, DeLand, and St. Johns County, and in limited capacities. The St. Johns Water Management District is providing some funding.

Wednesday’s meeting at Whitney Labs will start with an open house at 6 p.m. Residents can view display boards and speak with project team members. A presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium, followed by an opportunity for questions and comments.

Those who cannot attend the meeting can still learn about the siting criteria and provide their feedback by clicking on the survey link at The online survey will be available from March 10-17, 2011.

All feedback from the public meeting and survey will be compiled and provided to the Coquina Coast Seawater Desalination project partners. Community input may help shape project decision-making. This phase of the desalination investigation includes identifying potential sites for the proposed facility, then assessing the suitability of those sites using evaluation criteria.

The project’s PR message, channeled through Michelle Robinson, states explicitly that “Alternative water supplies, such as seawater desalination, must be developed to reduce reliance on groundwater supplies and to meet the public’s future drinking water needs.” The statement makes assumptions that are not yet proven, namely, that alternative supplies are the only way–as opposed to slower growth, which is already in place, or stricter conservation, which is not, or costlier water rates on ground and surface water consumption, which is not being considered (though rates from desalination would be far higher than current rates).

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10 Responses for “In Your Backyard: Public Discussion on Where to Plunk Desalination Plant Wednesday”

  1. Michelle Robinson says:

    Thanks for pointing out the problem with the Coquina Coast website ( The web host is working on it now and it should be back up by early afternoon.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hoping they will also provide information about the potential for jobs, potential for expansion/profit and the planned energy source/s.

  3. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Hoping they’ll drop it in the circular file where it belongs.

  4. Rob says:

    Lawabidingcitizen, there is about as much chance of this project being scuttled as there is that the town council will vote no for a new city hall.

    There is a very good reason that Flagler County, Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Volusia and St. Johns counties are no longer in the game. Imagine what the cost of water will be to fund this operation once it is completed.

  5. Justice for All says:

    Okay, Flagler County has the highest unemployment, has a large retirement community (fixed incomes), in a State that AVERAGES 52 inches per year, and we’ve got less people than Miami, Jacksonville and Orlando. Yet our utility bills continue to be higher than those areas. The water management district is pushing this because we have a WATER MANAGEMENT PROBLEM (THEM) not a water availability problem. Do you really think people are going to stick around and pay for this? Who can afford it? Oh, I guess we’ll just jam more people in to share the cost. What are our elected officials thinking? Are they thinking?

  6. Charles Ericksen Jr says:

    The main reason that Palm Coast still hands on , is that they want to be in the water business and sell the product at a 25% premium, to those who did not participate. Bottomline, should Cities be in a business with taxpayer money?

  7. palmcoaster says:

    During construction the Tampa Bay one utilized 447 total “local counties workers”. Now in Flagler we have a history of not doing that with developers. The Palm Coast plant as will be smaller, will take less of those temporary construction jobs. Profit will be none for a loooong time, as the bonds to pay for the starting 234 million, someone guess who? will pay also the incredible electricity consumption wether FPL or whoever, will be a hefty bill sucking up the profit. Some environmental contamination will have to be dealt with and also you and me, will pay for that…the real environmental shock you really need to ask the concerned Jacksonville Chapter of the Audubon Society and other agencies likewise were present at the first Marineland meeting. The byproduct from the plant to start with is 100 times higher in salt content than the ocean water, besides any chemicals added to complete the process.. Having to be disposed back into the ocean, the impact to be created is unknown yet. Do you go to the beach, swim in the ocean or like to fish? Our coastal and ocean wildlife does, then could be a lot saltier and polluted. Do you have a home on the Intracoastal? Because they plan to locate it in that water way….I’ve heard somewhere off Roberts Rd…? Sure the value of your home may have some impact then. If they plan to put our Palm Coast utility owned free and clear, I think by now, as collateral for a loan, because the bond market is kind of dead with this economy…imagine the interest to be paid for. We bought our Palm Coast utility for 89 million originally and I believe they added 40 or 50 million more to those bonds for improvement and expansion…you can figure then how much our utility is worth today. Probably you can imagine how much the increase per gallon of water we will have to pay, when this project will be jammed on us to pay the loan/bonds, whatever.. This is a project for bright economic times not for now, when we are all broke.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Regarding permanent jobs operating the plant; the Tampa Bay one has 19 workers and was slated for 25 million gallons. As ours was reduced to 10 millions a day size, from the origianal 25, will require less than 19 workers…Not really much job creation for 234 millions invested to start with. Keep in mind that the Tampa Bay one went over 40 million over budget.

  9. Justice for All says:

    Charles – No, Cities should not be in a business with tax payers money. The Desal project is also taxation without representation. This location is being decided by STAFF and CONSULTANTS. Once again, the Water Management District and elected officials are ducking their responsibilities to stop this project. We can’t afford it.

  10. russ brown says:

    I don’t know what all the discussion is about! If we do not have a desal plant in operation in the next ten years, we will be out of water! Thanks to the unlimited development allowed by our town officials, we have over-developed to the point of disaster!

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