The determination is not an approval of the project, rather an acknowledgment that the company has provided all the information needed to submit a fully fleshed out application. The entire project can go before the full commission as early as November.

Before Cal Am gets anywhere near project approval, it will have to contend with a host of challenges and likely litigation from several entities. On Wednesday, Rem Scherzinger, the general manager of the Marina Coast Water District, said his agency is facing significant potential impacts from the proposed desal plant.

He said three wells the district draws water from will be impacted by slant wells Cal Am would build to extract brackish source water for the plant. Then there is a question about water rights for the water Cal Am does pull out of the ground, something that potentially would be resolved through litigation. He also questioned how appropriate a desal plant of the proposed size and location is.