AIR DISTRICT APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL GEOTHERMAL PROJECT DESPITE PRIOR COMMITMENT TO REQUIRE PLAN PROTECTING LOCAL WATER SUPPLIES
Water District Concerned Project will Move Forward without Adequate Monitoring and Mitigation Plan, Threatening Local Water Supplies Amidst Record Drought
Mammoth Lakes, CA – The Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s (Great Basin) Air Pollution Control Officer, Theodore Schade, certified the Final Joint Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (FEIS/EIR) for the controversial Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Expansion Project (Casa Diablo IV) on July 17th. Great Basin’s Board of Directors and Mr. Schade had previously stated that they would wait to certify the EIR until an adequate mitigation and monitoring plan acceptable to the Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD) was in place to ensure the safety of the region’s water supply, which could be threatened by Casa Diablo IV. Great Basin’s recent action runs counter to these statements.
During the September 16, 2013 Great Basin Board meeting, Mr. Schade, who is responsible for approving Casa Diablo IV on behalf of Great Basin, stated that he would wait to certify the EIR until a mitigation and monitoring plan was agreed to between the project proponent, Ormat Technologies, Inc., and the MCWD.
During that same meeting, Great Basin Board members expressed their commitment to protecting Mammoth’s water supply, stating that protecting the water supply in the Town of Mammoth Lakes (Mammoth) “is the highest priority,” and that they felt it was “essential for Ormat and the MCWD to agree on a mitigation and monitoring plan with triggers.” The Board previously discussed its commitment to the development of such a plan and the need to protect the local water supply during theJuly 15, 2013 meeting.
Mr. Schade’s decision to certify the FEIS/EIR for Casa Diablo IV in advance of the development and implementation of a monitoring and mitigation plan to protect the region’s water supply goes against his previous assurances and the direction provided by Great Basin Board members. The decision also ignores mounting questions and concerns raised by the community and nearly all of the region’s elected officials regarding the project’s impacts.
“Great Basin’s Board gave explicit direction calling for the development of a monitoring and mitigation plan prior to the certification of the Casa Diablo IV FEIS/EIR; this most recent action goes against that charge,” said Patrick Hayes, MCWD’s general manager. “We urge Ormat and all other parties involved to come to the table now and work with us to develop a plan that will ensure the continued viability of Mammoth’s water supply.”
Despite MCWD’s efforts to move the development of a monitoring and mitigation plan along, Ormat, has consistently delayed the process. Numerous elected officials, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, local Congressmembers Paul Cook and John Garamendi, and Mammoth’s Mayor Rick Wood, have raised questions about the project and underscored the need for an adequate monitoring and mitigation plan. MCWD hopes that the recent certification of the FEIS/EIR will not shift the focus away from working on a much needed plan to aide in protecting MCWD’s groundwater, which helps to supply 70 percent of Mammoth’s daily water needs.
The project, owned by Ormat Technologies Inc., would pump 29,000 acre-feet of hot water annually from below the cold groundwater zone – when combining both existing operations and the planned expansion. To put that into perspective, one acre-foot is 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two average single-family households of four people for a year. MCWD depends on this cold water aquifer to fulfill the water supply needs of the Mammoth Lakes community, and this project directly threatens that precious water supply at a time when California is experiencing a serious statewide drought.
Existing geothermal production operations have already had a negative impact on the region, including increases in soil temperatures, tree kills, and carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide emissions near and around the Shady Rest Park area, as well as increases in the water temperatures of MCWD’s wells that are closest to Ormat’s geothermal wells.
MCWD is committed to carefully managing and maintaining local water resources for thousands of residents and visitors. Unfortunately, the severe statewide drought has increased MCWD’s reliance on critical groundwater supplies, which the Casa Diablo IV project may put in jeopardy. MCWD will continue working with local groups, stakeholders and Ormat to address the very real threats that the proposed Casa Diablo IV project poses to the region and ensure the safety of its critical water supplies.