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Cogentrix VP tours area to dispel myths

Frank Erwin reveals during a Nov. 9 meeting that his company now intends to draw water from the Opal Springs Aquifer, not the Pelton Aquifer as he had once said
By Troy Foster
   News Editor
   An official with the power company Cogentrix toured Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes counties last week meeting with local groups to dispel what he called misinformation about the proposed 980-megawatt power plant it intends to build near Grizzly Mountain.
   Frank Erwin, the vice president of development for the North Carolina-based company, carried with him a draft of the 1,500-page application that will go to the Energy Facility Siting Council sometime within the next 10 days. He hosted a number of education sessions during his three-day trip and sat down with members of the media Friday to give a controlled presentstion covering a long list of topics.
   Water and emissions
   The most pressing issues asked of Erwin during his short stay were environmental questions. Specifically, how much water the natural-gas fired, steam-generating plant will consume topped the list.
   Erwin said that numbers floating around based on the company's Notice of Intent were never set in stone and others claimed by opposition groups have also been false.
   "Much of what has been conveyed to you so far is incorrect," Erwin said. "Some of it is purposefully misinformation."
   He said the plant would use approximately 5,030 acre feet per year, but noted the company has committed to put back more than 25 percent of the state's required one-to-one mitigation policy through various means.
   One major point revealed during his trip was that Cogentrix has now determined it will need to take water from the Opal Springs Aquifer, although Erwin told a Culver audience in August that water would be drawn from the Pelton Aquifer, which is 900 feet below the Crooked River.
   The amount taken represents less than two-tenths of one percent of the 2,751,000 acre feet that flows under Central Oregon to the Columbia River each year, he noted.
   The reactions of two test wells and 16 monitoring wells have already been analyzed, he said, and show that only a five-foot draw occurred from water that was in a pool 200 feet below the ground pumped at 2,200 gallons per hour during a 72-hour period.
   "That's not a significant draw down," he said.
   The wells Cogentrix will use for its power plant will be located 13 to 14 miles away from the facility.
   Another major concern he addressed was emissions. Citing Department of Environmental Quality estimates, Erwin said the emissions released by the electricity-generating facility would represent only 2.5 percent of Jefferson County's total emissions.
   Economic Impact
   Erwin reiterated Cogentrix's belief that Jefferson County will greatly benefit from the power company's arrival.
   Although Cogentrix will get a five-year tax break if it's facility is built, Erwin said it will pay nearly $100 million in state and local taxes over a 30-year period, greatly increasing the tax base.
   "The market is there and Jefferson County needs it," he said, adding that the company will help with bond measures.
   Construction of the facility will inject economic activity into Jefferson County and provide 400 jobs during a two-year period, he said.
   He said the company welcomes competitive union contractors and workers and will employ 35 people when the facility is finished. He added that Cogentrix would prefer to hire locals as its permanent employees.
   That will create an estimated $1.8-$2 million payroll to residents who will likely inject it into Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes counties.
   Meeting Criteria
   The fate of Cogentrix's proposed 33-acre site on a 333-acre parcel near the Jefferson and Crook County lines hinges on the Energy Facility Citing Council's review. In order to get approved, Cogentrix's facility must meet all of the council's criteria and meet the requirements of the following permits:
   -- Potential for Significant Deterioration Permit
   -- Water rights permit
   -- Federal operating permit (Title V)
   -- Title IV permit -- sulfur dioxide
   -- Construction stormwater permit NPDES 1200-C
   -- Archaeological artifacts excavation permit
   -- Jefferson County conditional use permit
   -- NEPA Environmental Impact Statement
   Timetable
   If built, the Jefferson County power plant will be Cogentrix's biggest. It already wholly or partially owns 30 power plants in 14 states. The facility off of Ramms Road could generate enough electricity to provide for the needs of 500,000 people. And, Erwin said, it will not plug into the DC line.
   By the third quarter of 2004, the company hopes to have its facility online. Officials hope to have all their permits in hand by the third quarter of 2002.
   A press conference will be held shortly after Cogentrix submits its application to the Energy Facility Siting Council.
   Erwin said that projects of this size always gain attention and draw misguided criticisms.
   "We've been sensitive to addressing the issues," he said.
   "People need to know its nothing to be afraid of."