The San Diego County Water Authority is asking the federal government for $175 million to subsidize the Carlsbad desalination plant, planned by Poseidon Resources, a private Connecticut-based company.

The authority included the project in its wish list to President-elect Barack Obama that my colleague Kelly Bennett wrote about recently.

If the feds decide to shell out the money, it would be a major subsidy for a private company. The water authority has no involvement in the Poseidon project, which is estimated to cost $300 million. The authority would pass the money along to Poseidon in exchange for guarantees that Poseidon would reduce rates to the local agencies that agreed to buy its desalted seawater.

“The cheaper we can make, the more viable it makes it,” said Frank Belock, the authority’s deputy general manager. “Anything we can do to make treated water cheaper for the end user, we’ll certainly look into and help out a little bit.”

If the feds refuse the request, the water authority will not give Poseidon any money.

The money is set to be used to build a pumping station and 7.5 miles of piping infrastructure to tap into the region’s distribution system. That amounts to about $23 million per mile of pipe. Belock did not have an estimate for how much would be spent on piping compared to the pumping station. (Many folks at the authority are out of the office today.) Nor was an estimate immediately available for how much other piping projects have cost.


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