Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2004 • Nevada power plant threatens Honey Lake Valley water

The latest threat to Honey Lake Valley water comes in the form of a proposed coal-fired power plant in Gerlach, Nevada.

The 1,450-megawatt Granite Fox power plant, to be built just over the state line from Sierra Army Depot, about six miles northwest of Gerlach would use about 16,000 acre feet of water a year.

That amount of water “is slightly more than Franklin Jeans was proposing to ship to Reno,” according to Supervisor Jim Chapman.

One acre foot is enough to supply a family of four for a year, according to westernresources.org. Chapman said 16,000 acre feet is a lot of water.

Jeans was the developer whose proposal to ship water from Fish Springs Ranch to Reno was shot down in 1993 when then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit suspended environmental impact work on the project due to concerns it would draw down Pyramid Lake and Lassen County’s water table.

At the Jan. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting, Chapman said he learned about the coal plant proposed by industry giant Sempra Energy, based in San Diego, while sitting in on a recent meeting of the Bureau of Land Management’s Cedarville Resource Advisory Council.

He said it would be the largest coal-fired plant in the Western United States. Coal-fired plants typically spend about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour to produce energy. That compares to 5 cents per kwh for natural-gas-fired plants.

According to Chapman, experts say water resources in the area north of Fish Springs can supply no more than 10,000-acre feet a year for use by existing and future users. The $1 billion plant would supply electricity for 750 to 1,000 homes a year.

The Western Resources Web site said local residents and conservation groups opposed to the plant include the Sierra Club and the Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

“Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Sierra Club, Nevada Outdoor Recreation Association and many citizens argue that a coal-fired plant would pollute the air and draw down water in the National Conservation Area and wilderness areas of the Black Rock Desert,” according to the Web site nevadawilderness.org.

The plant would be built in the next five years near the Granite and Fox mountain ranges and Sempra reportedly plans to begin holding meetings in Gerlach in the coming weeks once preliminary environmental and weather tests are complete.

Sempra plans to build the plant on 2,000 acres of private land 10 miles north of Gerlach. A water line, rail spur and roads will cross federal lands, 25 percent of which are managed by the BLM’s Eagle Lake Field Office in Susanville. The other 75 percent are managed by the BLM’s Winnemucca Field Office.

BLM will hold public meetings throughout the environmental process, including issue-scoping meetings to hear what issues concern local residents in various communities, including Susanville, Winnemucca and Gerlach. The meetings will start development of an Environmental Impact Statement.

BLM will hire an environmental consultant to complete the EIS. Once the draft EIS is complete BLM will hold meetings in the same communities to allow comment on the draft, according to BLM spokesman Jeff Fontana, who said no notice of intent to begin development of an EIS has yet been published in the Federal Register.

Chapman said only about 500 people live in that area of Nevada. Sempra plans to bring in 1,800 laborers to work 24 hours a day for a year in a man camp with no families allowed. Once constructed, the plant will employ up to 180 people.

According to sempra.com, the Fortune 500 company produced 2003 revenues of $7.9 billion. It serves 10 million customers in the United States, Europe, Canada, Mexico, South America and Asia.

Sempra also employs nearly 13,000 people worldwide developing energy infrastructure, operating utilities and providing related products and services. It owns San Diego Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Gas Company.

On May 18, 2004, Granite Fox Power, LLC filed an application with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to construct a substation, a converter and a 1.5-mile, 500 kilovolt transmission line that will connect the planned plant with the existing 500 kilovolt Pacific DC Intertie transmission line, which brings power from northern Oregon to Los Angeles.

The transmission line from the plant will be located on both private lands and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM must conduct an environmental analysis pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Once the environmental report is complete, Sempra must file a more detailed application with the Nevada PUC.