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Local News

Santa Barbara Applying for State Loan to Restart Water Desalination Plant

City officials estimate the cost of reactivating the facility at more than $32 million

The City of Santa Barbara is applying for a state loan to cover capital costs for reactivating the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant.

The plant was placed in standby mode shortly after it was built in the early 1990s, so the reverse-osmosis membranes and other equipment must be replaced to make the facility functional again.

The plant pumps seawater through filters to catch the solid matter first, after which pure saltwater is pumped through the membranes at high pressure to separate out the fresh water.

City Council members hired Carollo Engineers to do preliminary design services, and the city will soon request bids for a contract to design, build and operate the plant.

Around April, the council will consider awarding a contract or delaying the process.  

This week, the council approved applying for a Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan to pay for the capital costs of reactivating the plant.

“We are hoping for the loan to cover all desalination capital costs, including what has been spent to date,” interim water resources manager Joshua Haggmark said.

The city submitted a pre-application in July and was told to submit a full application for funding, he said.

While the reactivation capital costs were initially estimated at $20 million, city staff now believe the cost will around $32.4 million.

At the full permitted capacity of 7,500 acre-feet of water per year, the facility would produce about half of the city’s water needs.

When it was built, the Goleta Water District and Montecito Water District had an agreement with Santa Barbara to help fund the construction and share in the water production.

Those agreements have ended, and the plant would only be used for Santa Barbara city water customers.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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