Opal Springs water not in danger

A Deschutes Valley Water official says there is no such thing as the Opal Springs aquifer that some have said Cogentrix will tap into

   The director of the Deschutes Valley Water District isn't worried about Cogentrix's potential water use.
   The DVWD and the high-quality domestic water it distributes is becoming a centerpiece of the Cogentrix issue. Those against the power company say the water needs of the natural gas-fired steam plant it intends to build near Grizzly Mountain will endanger the Opal Springs water supply, an unwarranted fear that has prompted many locals to voice opposition to the plant.
   According to Bob MacRostie, DVWD director, Cogentrix's proposed 980-megawatt power plant poses no threat to the Opal Springs water supply.
   MacRostie said both sides of the Cogentrix issue have spread misinformation, intentionally or otherwise. Last week, Frank Irwin, the vice president of development of the North Carolina-based company, came to the area to dispel rumors. However, he added to the confusion when he said the plant would utilize the Opal Springs aquifer for its 5,030 acre feet of water it will need each year.
   "There's no such thing as the Opal Springs aquifer," said MacRostie. He added that Cogentrix is likely on the Deschutes Aquifer, and that they've only hit an edge of it.
   MacRostie said that Opal Springs, which flows into the Crooked River, comes from at least two aquifers, and likely three, with a capacity of "trillions of gallons" of water. With the pressure apparent when the district drills deeper, MacRostie believes the aquifers are still filling.
   MacRostie noted that the DVWD has drilled 760 feet below the canyon floor near Opal Springs, 1,600 feet below the canyon rim. He said the district has hit two aquifers, and still hasn't hit the aquifer system that feeds Opal Springs.
   In its drilling, Cogentrix has gone down just 860 feet from the canyon rim to find the water it plans to utilize.
   The water district has very sensitive monitoring equipment at Opal Springs and Cogentrix's draw from the test holes it drilled made no impact on the spring's water source. MacRostie said any impact would have been detected by the monitoring equipment, and he wasn't concerned about a delayed impact.
   MacRostie also noted that it is illegal to injure a senior water right. If Cogentrix posed any serious threat to one, it would likely have to alter its plans or face rejection.
   In general, MacRostie is not worried whatsoever about the water Cogentrix would use if its plan is approved by the state Energy Facilities Siting Council.
   MacRostie indicated the district has indeed been concerned about the water issue to protect the their own interests.
   "There's absolutely no way we would allow anyone to mess with Opal Springs," said MacRostie. "Opal Springs is so deep, so far out of reach, that it's virtually untouchable."