Friday, 24 May 2024

Thursday meeting to bring together neighbors, power plant operators

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.


COBB – Operators of the Bottle Rock Power Plant are due to sit down with area residents on Thursday evening and discuss concerns about the plant and its impact on the community.


The meeting will take place beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Little Red Schoolhouse on Cobb, 15780 Bottle Rock Road.


Supervisor Rob Brown said he organized a meeting to bring together the community and the power plant's representatives to discuss the plant and make an attempt to work out concerns and differences. Brown has received numerous complaints about the plant, prompting the meeting.


The plant, owned by US Renewables Group of Santa Monica and Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund I, reopened at the end of March 2007, as Lake County News has reported.


The plant originally had been built by the state Department of Water Resources to provide power for its operations.


The 55-megawatt plant, which can power as many as 55,000 homes, was closed in September of 1990 due to lack of steam. When it was reopened in 2007, plant officials said they had successfully reopened seven of the plant's original 10 steam-producing wells, and drilled two new ones.


Since the plant's reopening, neighbors in the area say they've experienced a number of impacts from the plant – including noise levels and handling of what they believe are hazardous materials – that is harming their quality of life and causing environmental concerns.


Larry Bandt, vice president of engineering for Oski Energy, which manages Bottle Rock Power's plant operations, said company representatives will be at the Thursday meeting to hear what the neighbors have to say and offer their own comments.


Bandt said the company has been talking about neighbors regarding their complaints, and have made and effort to work with them since the plant reopened last year.


One of the neighbors complaining about the plant is David Coleman. Coleman, whose great-grandfather settled the area and homesteaded the land where plant is located on Bottle Rock Road, splits his time between Cobb and the Bay Area.


He and other neighbors are particularly concerned about the plant's drill sumps – which collect water and chemicals – and how they're cleaned. Coleman said the operators have been taking the materials from the sumps and letting them dry in a nearby meadow. When he and a neighbor went to look at the situation they were told they were trespassing and informed they needed to make an appointment.


Coleman's concerns are echoed by another neighbor, Hamilton Hess, who owns property about a quarter-mile from the plant. “The most serious problem is the drilling pad and especially the sumps.”


He said the sumps are potentially a “huge cesspool of materials, many of which are toxic.”


While the plant's operators have claimed the sump materials have been tested and are benign, Hess said the neighbors remain skeptical, and have asked the county to require testing by authorized labs and make the information public.


They're also requesting the plant move to sumpless drilling, which uses tanks instead of ponds. “To move to sumpless drilling is state of the art,” Hess said.


Coleman also alleges the plant is responsible for stream alterations and violations of their use permit, and suggested the plant was approved under an outdated environmental document.


Hess added that there has been a great deal of grading and equipment work, which he said has been unpermitted.


However, he added, “We're not faulting them in terms of motivation,” saying that a new operations team has come on board since last November.


Coleman has taken his and fellow neighbors' concerns to the California Energy Commission, Department of Fish and Game, the Office of Emergency Services and the county's Community Development Department, along with approaching the Sierra Club Lake Group.


“It's just a huge, huge mess,” he said.


Coleman claims the plant has used dredged materials for top soil, and garbage and pallets are stacked everywhere.


Recently, however, he said the county and Fish and Game have the plant working on erosion control, and the plant is moving equipment and junk out of the area.


He said the biggest complaint he and his neighbors have concern the compromised sumps, and what is being done with the mud and materials pulled from them.


Coleman questions what might be in those materials. “I think everybody is nervous about that.”


Sound also is an issue. Coleman said at first the plant's operators encouraged the neighbors to call if they had problems. They did call, he said, but they only were only temporarily appeased and nothing was actually done.


“We found out a lot of things were slipping through the cracks,” he said.


He said at least 10 families in the area have expressed problems with the plant, while many more have just resigned themselves to accepting the problems.


Coleman said he's irritated by the difficulties he's had getting state and local agencies to talk to each other regarding the plant, or even to get plant personnel and Fish and Game communicating. “Why am I doing someone else's job without pay?”


He said he's like to see the power plant stop using the sumps. “I've seen the sumps overflowing on numerous occasions.”


Coleman said he is hopeful since the parent company recently sent out an executive to take a look at operations more closely.


“I'm just very dubious about who's going to fix it and how it's going to get done,” he said.


Hess said he believes things are getting better, and he is looking forward to the meeting, which he sees as an opportunity for the neighbors to get their issues resolved.


When asked about the issues the neighbors have with the plant, Brandt said he would wait until the Thursday meeting to respond to them.


For a full account of the plant's reopening, see Lake County News' February 2007 story,

http://lakeconews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=319&Itemid=764&mosmsg=Item+successfully+saved.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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