Advocates for the protection and restoration of California wetlands
News: VOW goes to court to challenge the duke permit. Read the petition by EarthJustice

See July 28, 2001 Sacramento Bee story

Judge Orders New Hearing May 15 in Watsonville

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Notice: We Won!
The Monterey Superior Court ruled Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2002, that our complaint against Duke and the Regional Water Quality Control Board was right. Now the RWQCB must re-open the permit process and analyze all technologies that can cool the plant’s gas turbines be studied. The final decision will appear her soon. Meanwhile, here is a news story.
The Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) failed to require Duke to employ the Best Technology Available for its expanded plant. They said the economics overrode the environmental concerns.

We petitioned the State Water Resources Control Board to conduct a rehearing of the permit. The General Counsel’s office agreed with our petition, and asked the RWQCB and Duke to supply reasons for not doing that.
Moss Landing power plant is the second largest steam plant in the world. Expanded, it will take more than a billion gallons of cold water every day to cool off its massive turbine engines.

The plant burns fossil fuels –oil and gas– the cold water cools the engines. Then the hot water is discharged through pipes into the ocean just 600 feet off shore.

• The Regional Water Quality Control Board, Sept. 15, 2000, voted 3-2 to delay approval of the expansion permit. It was continued for better study of the environmental impact, and to conduct a study of the alternative technology for cooling the plant, and for discharging the heated water from the plant into the Marine Sanctuary.

• At the Oct. 27, 2000 hearing in San Luis Obispo the staff did not present an analysis of the alternatives to cooling the plant giant turbine engines with Slough water.

At hearings before the California Energy Commission and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, we presented testimony in opposition to the permits, and many letters were presented in opposition. In all, the testimony in opposition was 8 to 1 greater than the testimony given for the expansion.

After a long hard fight to restore Elkhorn Slough to a semblance of its natural state as one of America’s greatest wildlife treasures, this plant expansion would turn that around over night. Why?

Our petition and comments pointed out several inconsistencies in the Regiional deicision to grant Duke its permit. Now, it is being realized that the consequences are greater than we feared. Read Carolyn Nielson’s report to see how dramatic an intake of more than one billion gallons of water a day out of the heart of the opening of the slough can be.

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Letter in the Sierra Club Ventana Newspaper by VOW member:

Killing unnecessary

In Elkhorn Slough, the nursery of the Monterey Bay, we are about to allow a power company to kill 50% of all the fish larvae every day.

The reason we are about to do this is to provide a fast track for more energy. We are going to allow Duke to suck up more than a billion gallons of water every day and pipe it hot into the Bay just offshore. That more than a billion gallons will be full of sterilized, killed clam larvae that would have gone to feed a seal; killed crab larvae that would have fed a sea otter.

The agencies involved in the permit have said it is too bad that there has to be such a tremendous kill of biomass with this plant, but it will happen in the harbor. The Estuary and the National Marine Sanctuary have no jurisdiction over that water.

Well, don’t tell that to the fish eggs and the worms who feed the birds. They don’t come up to the political jurisdictional line of the harbor and say, “Oh-Oh, can’t go in there, we might be fried.” There is no way for marine microorganisms in the Slough to avoid the intake.

The enormity of movement of water is incomprehensible. It is the equivalent of hundreds of football fields every day. It is equivalent of all the locks of the Panama Canal, every day. The water from the ocean will rush unchecked into the slough and scour out 7-10 acres of land/year. This is an insanity.

For $13 million, Duke could build a cooling tower and not kill 50% of all the biomass every day in the most critical marine nursery of our state.

And it would cost only $1.7 million over the lifespan of the plant to run the cooling system.

Jack Ellwanger

Cormorants, parent to hatchling, can be observed in the Slough. In the Slough’s Rookery Pond, in a great stand of Monterey Pines, three giant birds nest next to each other: Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Cormorants.

The world record for viewing the most species of birds belongs to Elkhorn Slough – more than a hundred different kinds of birds seen in one day.

Forty years ago the California Brown Pelican was believed to headed for extinction. It’s greatest enemy was DDT. After Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, exposed the dangers of spraying with that insecticide, it was banned in the U.S. The pelican was found nesting on Anacapa Island off the Santa Barbara coast, and saved by wildlife specialists. And, with DDT no longer dooming them to extinction, Pelicans began repopulating our habitats. Now, there are hundreds in and near the Elkhorn Slough. It is a favorite haunt for them because of the great abundance of fish near the mount of the Slough where the power plant expansion will double its current intake and double its hot water output. This will a seriously negative effect on the Pelican.

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