The future of the expansive lands around the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant has been at the top of minds for a lot of State agencies, after the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom decided the power plant needed to remain open until at least 2030 to ensure the reliability of the State’s power grid.
But that hasn’t stopped plant owner Pacific Gas & Electric, State agencies, private non-profit NGOs from chiming in on what the future should look like for one of the few remaining largely-unspoiled stretches of Southern California Coastline.
The California Natural Resources Agency in May released a study called for by Senate Bill 846 entitled, “Diablo Canyon Power Plant Land Conservation and Economic Development Plan.” SB 846 passed in 2021 and called for Diablo Canyon to remain open for the foreseeable future, set up studies to be done, and also a billion dollar loan to PG&E to keep the plant operating past its 2025 scheduled closure.
That Resources Agency study, “supports environmental enhancements and access of Diablo Canyon power plant lands and local economic development in a manner that is consistent with existing decommissioning efforts,” according to the study’s executive summary.
The “Diablo Canyon lands” covers about 12,000 acres and spans 14 miles of coastline. It is made up of numerous parcels with the actual power plant taking up a relatively small area. The rest is a mix of coastal bluffs, oak woodlands and other pristine habitats.
Among the parcels is Wild Cherry Canyon, a 2,400-acre coastal parcel south of the power plant. It is owned by Eureka Energy, a subsidiary of PG&E and leased by HomeFed Corporation, a real estate development company that’s held a lease since 1968 but never moved forward with a development project. Eureka Energy has challenged the validity of that lease in SLO Superior Court with a ruling expected some time in July.
Another parcel, the 4,800-acre North Ranch borders Montaña de Oro State Park to the north and has a public bluff top walking trail accessible from the park.
That parcel and another to the south of the power plant are being sought by local Native Americans.
The report seeks to find a balance between conservation and public access, and the desires of tribal stakeholders to control at least some of the property. The gist of the study is summed up with a single sentence: “Land conservation and economic development on the Diablo Canyon Lands, if planned effectively, are not mutually exclusive and can occur in parallel.”
Under the heading “Values” the study lists priorities it deduced from all the interviews and public comments that were taken:
• No. 1 — Foster the robust conservation of environmental and cultural resources while enabling appropriate public access.
• No. 2 — Support transfer of ownership of North Ranch and South Ranch to California Native American tribal ownership. (South Ranch is a 5,000-acre parcel south of the power plant.)
• No. 3 — Explore expanding existing managed public access of Diablo Canyon Lands.
• No. 4 — Enable reuse of Parcel P (the plant site) for research and economic activity, including a clean tech incubator, while protecting cultural, environmental, and marine resources on the site.
• No. 5 — Explore transfer of ownership of Wild Cherry Canyon to State Parks.
Also involved in this is the push to establish the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary as Diablo Canyon sits near the center of its 156-mile long, and covering some 7,670-square miles of ocean.
And, with regards to the plant site, numerous entities and individuals told the Resources Agency that Cal Poly should be in charge. “In an open letter, federal, state, and local electeds, other community leaders, and stakeholders outlined their vision for the future reuse of the DCPP lead by Cal Poly: a research and development campus, a harbor for blue economy activity, and community center for Chumash heritage.”
There was a strong desire to conserve these pristine lands. “Input from local groups, leaders, and residents,” the study said, “consistently raised the importance of conserving environmental and cultural resources on the Diablo Canyon Lands, while protecting existing public access to these lands.
“Many also discussed a strong desire to expand public access and enable sustainable economic use in ways that avoid or minimize impacts to significant environmental and cultural resources.
“To achieve these objectives, any future land-use decisions should consider a durable conservation easement or another appropriate legal instrument to conserve and protect these resources and values in perpetuity. This easement or similar mechanism should also enshrine appropriate public access that is provided in a way that doesn’t harm these resources.”
But in the end, it comes down to time and money.
“It will require time, effort, and funding to carry out any action that supports land conservation and economic development activities in the region,” the study concludes. “The pace of implementation will depend upon the feasibility and availability of resources and competing priorities.”
Estero Bay News will post a pdf copy of the study to its website, see: www.esterobaynews.com if readers would like to download and read it.
Click link below to see report.