View Full Version : Do Mirant's Pumps harm the Delta?

10-01-2007, 08:12 AM
I recall this being an issue some time ago - it will be interesting to see what comes of it. I understand that the pumps are not screened and the use of water increases water temps. Interesting issue. What I do not understand, however, is when the Enviro groups sued over the export pumps, in the name of the smelt, they left Mirant alone.

Water users to sue power plants over troubled delta fish
Associated Press – 9/27/07
By Don Thompson, Associated Press – 9/27/07

SACRAMENTO—A coalition of water users filed a notice Thursday stating its intent to file a lawsuit alleging that power plants are harming fish in the troubled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The four water districts allege that Mirant Corp.'s natural gas-fired power plants in Antioch and Pittsburg are harming species including the delta smelt.

The smelt's decline triggered a recent federal court decision that was expected to limit the amount of water available from the delta for people and farmers, including those served by the Belridge, Berrenda Mesa, Lost Hills, and Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa water districts.

The plaintiffs say that Mirant's power plants pump more than a billion gallons of water a day from the delta to cool steam turbines. The process not only kills tens of thousands of fish that get sucked into the pumps, but harms their habitat by returning warmer water to the delta, says the 11-page notice sent by Irvine attorney Paul Weiland.

Filing the notice is the first required step to actually bringing suit against the government.

The coalition cites reports by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Public Policy Institute of California, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization, that the pumps potentially kill so many fish that they are contributing to declining smelt populations.

Mirant corporate spokeswoman Felicia Joy Browder said in an e-mail that she could not immediately comment.

The coalition said it also intends to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for authorizing Mirant's killing of rare species. A spokesman for the Corps said he couldn't comment.

Experts previously estimated that keeping fish out of the pumps could be expensive. One fish screening device costs $7 million to purchase and $600,000 annually to maintain.

The coalition acknowledged that the power plants are just some of the potential causes of the smelt's decline. Invasive species, pollution, and other unscreened water pumps have also been identified as problems.

None of those problems will be resolved by merely limiting water pumping from the delta for the federal and state water projects that feed farms and communities, Michael Boccadoro, spokesman for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, said in a news release announcing the legal notice.