- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - A state board has approved a permit to allow the city of Santa Barbara to restart its desalination plant and tap the ocean to turn salty seawater to fresh water amid an historic drought.

The Central Coast Regional Water Board said Monday that its action modifies a 1991 permit to clarify that the facility meets state requirements for operating an open-ocean intake.

The city agreed to update the plant’s screen technology and pay $500,000 toward a coastal restoration project.

It’s not immediately clear when the facility would be restarted.

The city estimated last May that it will need $20 million in technological upgrades, a cost likely to be borne by ratepayers.

Any restart would require city council approval.

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