August 20, 2009
By Sarah Brown
The Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) decided Aug. 13 that its approval of a proposed power plant adjacent to French Valley Airport in Riverside County, Calif., was no longer valid.
AOPA, the California Pilots Association, the California Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, and area residents and pilots had expressed concerns about the plan. AOPA told the county on Aug. 10 that the proposed plant could create turbulence in the traffic pattern and introduce a hazard to aircraft, and requested that the report address the issue of turbulence and exhaust plumes as they would affect aircraft in the pattern.
The commission had issued a finding in 2008 that the 360-megawatt project the developer was then proposing was consistent with the airport land-use compatibility plan; under California law, a project of that size would then be examined by the California Energy Commission. When the developer changed its plans to a 49-megawatt plant, the project dropped below the 50-megawatt threshold that would trigger a California Energy Commission review. As a result, the county has become the lead agency responsible for considering the environmental impact of the proposed plant.
At the Aug. 13 meeting, the ALUC decided that because its letter of consistent use had been for the 360-megawatt plant, the ruling was moot—the 49-megawatt plant currently being proposed has not been considered by the commission. The ALUC will consider the proposal after the county planning department issues a draft environmental impact report.
“While this is not a guarantee that the plant will not be constructed adjacent to the airport, it does provide an opportunity to take a closer look at the effect of exhaust plumes on aircraft overflights and expand the data available to land-use planners as they choose the sites for energy facilities,” said AOPA Manager of Airport Policy John Collins.
While the FAA determined that the height of the associated exhaust stack does not create a hazard to navigable airspace, the agency is not required to evaluate the effects of exhaust plumes on navigable airspace. The proposed plant would be 1,685 feet east of Runway 18/38 and would create light turbulence on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for Runway 18, according to the energy company hoping to develop it.
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