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[whitespace] Moss Landing Sloughing the Dragon: Voices of the Wetlands wants Duke Energy's Moss Landing Power Plant.to use best technology.


Nüz

Slough Sue

'People should not have to choose between electricity and clams," said Patricia Matejcek when asked why the recently formed environmental group Voices of the Wetlands is suing the State Water Resources Control Board and the San Luis Obispo-based Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Filed July 26 in Monterey County by Deborah Sivas of the law firm Earth Justice, VOW's suit seeks to overturn a permit allowing Duke Energy to dramatically expand its Moss Landing plant.

Claiming the permit violates existing federal law by not requiring Duke to use the best technology available to minimize the impacts on the surrounding environment, VOW says the project would kill critical organisms at the bottom of the food chain, thereby damaging Elkhorn Slough.

Three weeks later comes the news that a three-month delay is anticipated in the California Energy Commission's decision on Duke Energy's proposed expansion at its Morro Bay Power Plant, a development that has Nüz wondering if the stall is a result of the Moss Landing suit.

Maryann Costamagna of the California Energy Commission told Nüz she didn't want to speculate for fear of being accused of "ex parte communication," but Jack McCurdy, vice president of the Coastal Alliance on Plant Expansion, was more forthcoming. "I think the CEC is scrutinizing Morro Bay much closer now that VOW has filed suit, afraid that they'll end up in court if they don't do a thorough job," says McCurdy, adding that Duke officials have said they will drop the project if a dry-cooling system is required.

"They're probably bluffing," McCurdy says, "but either way, they've opened up a can of worms. By buying up both the Morro Bay and Moss Landing plants from PG&E with a view to modernizing these 50-year-old

operations, Duke has drawn a lot of attention to the abuse inflicted on both estuaries over the past half-century. I'm skeptical that they'll be able to do business as usual after this."

Duke says putting in new turbines at Moss Landing will reduce air emissions and generate more power. And the $525-million retrofit will increase production to 2,560 megawatts, which energy-literate friends assure Nüz is more than any other plant in the state. All of which is good.

What sucks is the cooling mechanism--literally. During peak capacity, the Moss Landing project, as it is currently envisioned, would suck 28 percent of slough and harbor water into intake valves--resulting in a 40-percent loss of the slough's larvae and eggs. Meanwhile, warm-water releases from the cooling process 600 feet offshore could harm fish and other temperature-sensitive ocean species.

Last fall, Duke complained that a dry-cooling system, estimated at $50 million, would be way too expensive. But in January, the company was prepared to shell out $20 million for mitigation measures.

Though Matejcek hopes for a win-win situation ("more efficient turbines without destroying our biotic resources"), Nüz can't help wondering whether Duke will throw both babies out with the cooling water, now that the "energy crisis" has burned off faster than the summer fog.

Truck Stop

Against a backdrop of escalating tension over logging at Lompico came news that timber harvester Roger Burch and his San Jose-based operation Redwood Empire can no longer use their trucks on Summit Road. On Aug. 15, the Superior Court handed down its decision--a belated success given the damage already done to Gamecock Canyon and Ramsey Gulch.

But the ruling will prevent Burch from re-entering both areas to do additional harvesting. For former Gamecock Canyon resident Kathy Dean, who sued Burch and expects a settlement or court award, this was the culmination of "five years of hell. We lost our health and our sanity. Our lives were threatened."

With the ruling, Dean and husband Nick Gombos, who have meanwhile moved to a ranch in the Little Applegate area in southern Oregon, say, "We're in heaven. "

Meanwhile, Lompico residents have another chance to protest Burch's Timber Harvest Plan. The California Department of Forestry has extended the deadline for comments to Aug. 28.

Of Mark and Mike

Councilmember Mark Primack called Nüz recently to talk about Camp Paradise--and to sort of quash rumors that he is running for county supervisor. The only rumor Nüz had heard was that Primack had received a death threat, a rumor the very much alive and kicking Primack categorically denied.

"But I was targeted, along with Mayor Tim Fitzmaurice, supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt and her assistant Andy Shiffrin, by an email inciting people to call us from pay phones in the middle of the night and wake us up until the homeless sleep," Primack said, adding that while he doesn't think Camp Paradise can stay by the river indefinitely, he does think it has potential along the lines of a civilian conservation corps.

"I'm all for it" said Primack of efforts by the nonprofit Community Housing Land Trust to negotiate a lease with the city for the camp. "We can't tackle the entire homeless problem, which is bigger than Santa Cruz, but we should be experimenting with worthwhile solutions of which Camp Paradise is one."

So what about the supe scoop? "I have wondered if the City Council is going to put me out of business, which is the draw of running for supervisor because the pay is better," Primack said. "And a lot of what is wrong with the city is also wrong at a county level. But I'm here for the duration of this term.. Today, I'd rather stay on City Council and get some good things done."

Meanwhile, former CEO of the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Michael Schmidt is serious about becoming supe for District 3. "There's no turning back now, I'm in this race to win," wrote Schmidt in a press release as he officially launched his "I Like Mike" campaign last week.

"It's something I never dreamed I would do, but given the incumbent it must be done," wrote Schmidt, who, it is rumored, scandalized some downtown business leaders owing to his open support of the homeless.

North South

Nüz wants to thank the reader who called regarding the penguins and polar bears who shared a glacier a few weeks ago ( Nüz, July 25). According to this tipster, and we quote, "Polar bears are in the north, and penguins are in the south, so they don't get together too often."

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From the August 22-29, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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