Coso Power Plant Pump Plan Heads to Inyo Water Commission

As the plan to pump groundwater to boost production at the Coso Geothermal plant moves forward, Inyo County Officials have scheduled a public hearing in front of the Inyo Water Commission on January 12th.

The proposal is to pump 3,000 gallons a minute 9 miles uphill from the Hay Ranch, just off 395, to the geothermal plant on China Lake Naval Air Station property.

Groundwater pumping is not a new controversy in the Eastern Sierra. The plan to pump water from the Hay Ranch area up to the geothermal plant has members of the Little Lake Duck Club concerned with water exports and the loss of wetland wildlife habitat.

With the final draft of the Environmental Impact Report not yet released, lawyers for the Little Lake Duck club say that previous drafts stated that the pump plan might lead to a 10% reduction of water to Little Lake. The draft EIR calls the 10% loss insignificant, something the Little Lake lawyers oppose.

Officials with Terra-Gen, the parent company of Coso Geothermal, have said that if the groundwater levels drop, the pumping will either be reduced or it will stop. The plan is to drill seven monitoring wells to watch what happens to the ground water level if the pumping is allowed to start, according to the company officials.

The Coso plants use hot water from wells as deep as 13,000 feet to turn the turbines that generate power. Currently the Coso Power Plant has 9 turbines at three sites which produce about 205 megawatts. The amount of power that the plant can produce is down in recent years from a high of 270 megawatts. More water is needed to boost power production.

With the loss of water greater than the natural groundwater recharge under the plant, the idea is to bring more water to the site to supplement the groundwater.

For this project to move forward, the Inyo Water Commission has to sign off on the plan. The next step would be to take the plan to the Inyo Planning Commission for approval. If either side does not like the outcome of the Planning Commission decision, the pump plan goes to the Inyo Supervisors.

The Inyo Water Commission public hearing on the Coso Operating Company request to pump groundwater at the Hay Ranch is scheduled for Monday, January 12th at 6:00 pm in the Board of Supervisors Room, inside the County Administrative Center in Independence.

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