Boston-based Poseidon Resources will have to put its plans to build the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere on hold, following the decision taken by the California Coastal Commission to delay its final decision on the application.

The $900-million ocean water desalination plant in Huntington Beach was planned to be operational by 2018 but the delay is likely to result in failure to meet this deadline. This is not the first time the approval of the project has been delayed, as the plan has been the subject of lawsuits and challenges for more than 10 years. The ruling from the California Coastal Commission is the last obstacle before construction works can start.

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Approval was already granted several years ago by a former city council. But there has been strong opposition from environmental groups, residents and council members. Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman, who is also against the project, stated that it would be better if the focus was shifted towards replenishing groundwater aquifers — an efficient technology that is significantly cheaper than desalination. Orange County municipalities are no longer interested in desalination as an option, former mayor Debbie Cook told the Associated Press.

Following the hearing, Poseidon Resources Vice President Scott Maloni stated that the company will conduct studies of the ocean floor that the commission required and will then resubmit its application.