Approval Revoked for French Valley Power Plant

The Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) voted unanimously Aug. 13 to revoke its approval of a proposed power plant adjacent to French Valley Airport in Riverside County, Calif., pending a forthcoming environmental impact report.

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’s staff report had initially recommended in 2008 that the ALUC request that the environmental impact report address the issues of turbulence and wind shear, but it issued a finding later that the project was consistent with the airport land-use compatibility plan. At the Aug. 13 meeting, the commission voted to vacate its case number for the French Valley Energy Center and to revoke its previously issued letter of consistent use. The ALUC will reconsider the proposal after the issuance of 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 49-megawatt 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.

August 20, 2009

Editor’s Note: CALPILOTS has been working to force Power Plant Companies to identify threats to airports since two were proposed in the traffic pattern at Hayward, CA. in 2007. There is also some concern over the legal wording used in this decision which CALPILOTS is looking into.

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