HAYWARD -- With only a few obstacles still to settle, a 619-megawatt power plant near the Hayward shoreline that was bitterly opposed by many residents is scheduled to go online in June.
Still unresolved is an agreement between Calpine and the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, which has shoreline trails and an interpretive center less than 1½ miles from the plant. The power plant is in an industrial area that lies just east of wetlands and marshes teeming with migratory waterfowl.
As part of the Russell City Energy Center's license, Calpine was required to pay the park district for trailside improvements.
The park district's board has twice tabled a vote on an agreement in which Calpine would pay $77,500 for benches, markers, view scopes, staff time and displays, said John Gouveia, district general manager.
"The board said they weren't comfortable entering into an agreement until they saw the effects of lighting from the plant on wildlife," he said. The shoreline is home to threatened and endangered species, including the nocturnal salt marsh harvest mouse.
Calpine is asking the California Energy Commission, which regulates power plants, to allow Calpine to end talks with the park district, said Joe Ronan, Calpine senior vice president.
"We negotiated for about three years," Ronan said. "We finally said they're never going to agree. We've offered them what they requested."
Calpine maintains that its
"The park district's letter of protest talks about other issues, which were decided by other agencies, but HARD continues to raise other concerns," Ronan said.
Audrey LePell, past president of Citizens Against Pollution, which fought the power plant, said her organization is grateful to the park district for its position. "There are a lot of citizens in Hayward who have been against the power plant and still don't support it," she said.
At meetings during the plant's permit process, many residents spoke out against what they called an eyesore and polluter. Calpine says Russell City will be cleaner than coal plants and gas plants that use older technology.
Gouveia said the park district board also wants to learn about possible effects of pending Federal Aviation Administration regulations regarding power plant thermal plumes.
An FAA-commissioned study concluded in November that the plumes can cause turbulence hazards for airplanes. The FAA is meeting with aviation representatives Tuesday before issuing any regulations.
Gouveia said planes may be required to change their approaches into the Hayward and Oakland airports, taking them close to shoreline trails. "There are unanswered questions, and the board wasn't comfortable with that," he said.
Ronan said questions about the plant's plumes and airplanes were thoroughly reviewed, and the issue was settled five years ago as part of the plant's licensing.
"This was resolved. Planes aren't flying over the plant, and we've been there two years," he said. "Flight patterns were taken care of in the license."
He said any FAA regulations on plumes would not affect the power plant's license. The power plant is not in the direct flight path of the Hayward airport.
California Pilots Association president Andrew Wilson III disagrees, saying that under certain circumstances, such as missed approaches or extra traffic, air traffic patterns are changed and could include Russell City.
"The FAA ruling could affect both air traffic flying under visual flight rules and instrument flight rules," he said.
The plant, which will generate electricity to power 600,000 homes, sits on a 19-acre site at 3862 Depot Road. It will use reclaimed water from Hayward's wastewater treatment plant to cool two gas-powered turbines and convert the water into steam to power a third turbine.
Calpine has asked to extend testing of the turbines from three months to four before it would be subject to air quality guidelines. Ronan said the request was for technical reasons only.
"The turbines have to meet air quality standards. We'd violate our air permits otherwise," he said.
The plant, which created 650 construction jobs, was supported by trade unions.
The City Council also did not oppose the plant. San Jose had just lost a similar fight over the Metcalf Energy Center, said Jesus Armas, who was city manager in 2002 when the project was first being considered.
"It was made clear to us whether or not we opposed it, the decision on the power plant rested solely with the California Energy Commission," he said.
The city negotiated with Calpine, which agreed to donate $15 million to help build a new library. After Calpine filed for bankruptcy in 2005, that was reduced to $10 million.
LePell said the city's decision to not actively oppose the plant in exchange for the library funds was one of the most divisive ones the council has ever made.
"For many people, that was not a fair trade," she said.