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Santa Barbara desalination plant to open next fall as 'last resort' option becomes reality

City of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara's Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant is approved to reopen after nearly 20 years of sitting idle. The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to spend $55 million in order to get the plant back into working order. 

The decision to reopen the plant comes after more than a year of studying its feasibility, and two years drought monitoring. 

Mayor Helene Schneider says since the plant is being brought back online, she wants it to operate well into the future.

"We're finding that we're getting to that very last resort, and according to our water supply management plan, desalination is our last resort and we're very fortunate to have it as an option," said Mayor Schneider.

The plant uses an open ocean intake with screens to reduce the damage to marine life. The mayor says they're upgrading the facility to improve that system.

Mark Morey is Chair of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. He says they recognize the dire situation, but know desalination has its flaws.

"That open ocean intake could take up sea critters and little eggs and all those things that we rely on, and the eco system relies on. So there are some drawbacks, but we're in a real bind," said Morey.

He says they'd like to use this as an opportunity to discuss other conservation methods.

The plant is expected to be up and running by the fall of 2016.

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