Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.
Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is named after a former Carlsbad mayor. Photo via

The San Diego County Water Authority‘s board has unanimously approved $275 million in upgrades to the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant to protect marine life.

New seawater intake and discharge facilities have been in the plans since construction of the plant began a decade ago. Originally the plant shared intake with the nearby Encino generating station, but that has since been dismantled.

The project will take approximately two years and could require the plant to shut down for up to six weeks. The wholesale cost of water produced by the plant will rise by 30% over a four-year period to pay for the upgrades.

“This action by the board moves the Carlsbad Desalination Plant one step closer meeting state marine life mandates,” said Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz after Thursday’s vote. “Staff has worked diligently to ensure that the costs are as low as possible while continuing to provide our region with a drought-proof source of water.”

“We are thankful to have this resource when so much of the West is suffering from extreme drought, and we expect it will be increasingly valuable as climate change further disrupts California’s hydrology,” Katz added.

The desalination plant produces an average of more than 50 million gallons of water daily, meeting the needs of 400,000 people in San Diego County.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.