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Grizzly Generation Plant back on the hot seat

At the request of a local economic committee, the spokesman for Cogentrix once again explained the projected impacts to the local area once the Grizzly power plant is operational
Once again, this time at the invitation of County Commissioner Jerry Crafton's economic committee, the local contact person for the company hoping to build a 980 megawatt generation plant next door came to talk about the project.
   Responding to a letter filled with questions, Frank Erwin, Vice President for Development with Cogentrix met with the committee Wednesday afternoon. Most of the answers Erwin offered had already been discussed, but there were a few new numbers and ideas mentioned this time.
   The electrical power generation plant proposed for a site in Jefferson County, close to the Crook County line, has raised concerns from a number of people living on both sides of the county line. The common theme among the issues focus mostly with potential environmental impacts generated by the plant.
   Cogentrix Grizzly Power, the company behind the proposal is part of a North Carolina company. The company currently has 28 power generation plants in operation around the United States and another five are in the planning and development phase. The southeast Jefferson County project is one of the five.
   The proposed development site is about two miles east of the highway, east of the Bonneville Power Administration's Grizzly substation. The site is also in the vicinity of the Pacific Gas pipeline facility. The power plant, when in operation, would be fueled totally by gas and would have an easy tie-in to the Northwest power grid at the Grizzly substation. The power would be generated by steam, the heat source coming from the gas-powered portion of the plant.
   Questions about the amount of water that would be used, where that water would come from, possible air and noise pollution led the list of questions presented by the committee. For the most part, these are the same concerns voiced in the past by opponents to the proposed plant.
   Erwin, in his quiet self-assured manner, started at the top and went through the list.
   Water: There have been two test wells drilled, Erwin explained, and 16 monitoring wells. During a 72-hour period of pumping, there was almost insignificant draw-down noted. The most was a five-foot draw down from a pool more than 200 foot deep, he stated, pumping more than 2,200 gallons per hour.
   According to the Oregon Water Resource Department, the aquifer that will be used is recharged by more than 2.75 million acre feet of water per year. The generation plant will use about 5,030 acre feet per year.
   "The state required a one-to-one replacement for every gallon we take," Erwin said. "We are committed to 25 percent more. We will get that water from leasing water in storage, leasing or transfers of water rights and irrigation districts."
   There is more, he explained, water in the area's reservoirs than is needed for irrigation. Cogentrix will pay the irrigation districts to release more into the river. In response to a question about low water levels in the two local reservoirs, Erwin said the projections were made over a five-year continuum. In a dry season such as the past couple years, no water would be taken.
   Even then, only the water from Ochoco Reservoir would be purchased from the Ochoco Irrigation District. Nothing would come from Prineville Reservoir.
   Air and noise: Both air and noise levels are controlled by federal and state agencies. Grizzly plant will use the latest technology with maximum efficiency and minimum emissions. Those emissions will be monitored and watched closely by the EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Erwin said assuredly. "They can look at the monitoring and tell hourly what is going on."
   Air, in the form of steam, coming from the 175-foot cooling towers will not have any odor or pollutants. The water is cooled and recycled over and over, he explained, until it becomes heavy with concentrated minerals. The same minerals that are already in the water. That water is then fed into evaporation ponds and the residue, called 'cake,' is taken to the landfill, "about a third of a Dumpster a week," he claimed.
   There will be no odor from the process, either. "You won't see it or smell it. Natural gas has no odor after it is burned."
   Noise reducing baffles and acoustical silencers will be used throughout the plant, Erwin explained. DEQ's requirements call for no more than one to eight decibels above the ambient level at a mile and a quarter from the source. The noise level will not reach anywhere near that level, he said, once the plant is operating.
   "During the construction period, there will be construction noise. No pile-driving, but normal construction noise. And that will be between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m."
   Erwin said the project is more or less on schedule. The Permitting process is expected to be completed by the middle of next year and the construction period will take another two years. If everything continues on schedule, the plant would be online during the third quarter of 2004.
   One of the points made by Erwin was the value to the local tri-county area. Being located in Jefferson County, the people there will benefit most financially, but Deschutes and Crook counties will also see a valuable consequence of the generation plant.
   "Crook County will see about a half million in revenues annually from the plant," Erwin told the committee. The biggest share will go to OID for water, with another $125,000 being spent at the county landfill to dispose of the 'cake' residue.
   "I'm told they want to use the cake as cover for the garbage," Erwin said.
   Another benefit to the three counties are the jobs that will be generated by the project. During the long construction period, 407 jobs are expected to be filled. These, Erwin said, are typical construction occupations and will be union jobs. "We are working right now on an employment contract. The unions are telling everyone we are non-union and a bad deal. But, once those contracts are signed, they'll be saying this is the best thing that could happen. I've seen it happen like that before."
   When the plant is operational, about 35 jobs will be filled, and these will also be from local area. "These are not really highly technical jobs," Erwin said. "In the 28 other plants, what we do, for six months we train the people to do those jobs."
   Job descriptions will be made available for the operation level positions for high school and COCC's career day events.
   Crook County would take the power plant if offered, said one person
   At one point, during the economic committee's meeting with Frank Erwin, upon hearing that Cogentrix is projecting their plant will pump between $90 and $100 millon into Jefferson County, one committee member suggested moving the county line a few miles north.
   Another, recalling how Madras became the county seat many years ago by simply stealing the county records from Culver, suggested making a raid on the Jefferson County courthouse.
   Chet Petersen agreed, saying he would like to have the power plant closer to home. "You can tell everyone that as far as the chairman of the county planning commission is concerned, if Jefferson County doesn't want it, we'll take it."