Power Plant Master Plan Release Feb. 20

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

February 16, 2024

This photo shows a side view of the Morro Bay Power Plant taken from the northern edge of the property, and looking over the top of the site where plant owner, Vistra, hopes to build a battery energy storage facility. The City plans to unveil its Power Plant Master Plan at the Planning Commission’s Feb. 20 meeting and the draft EIR for the battery project is expected to be released sometime in the next few weeks. Photo by Neil Farrell

Work on writing a master plan for the old Morro Bay Power Plant property will be front and center when the Morro Bay Planning Commission meets on Tuesday, Feb. 20. 

City Community Development Director, Scot Graham, said the City’s consultant, Rincon, will unveil a draft of the power plant master plan (PPMP) and take public comments before moving to a final master plan which could be expected to be released in a few months for final approvals.

The final plan will first go to the Planning Commission as well as other advisory boards with an interest in the matter, for their official input and comments, which will then be included in a final, final document that the City Council will vote, after making whatever changes they reach agreement on, for a final local vote.

We say “local” vote because the plan will also have to be approved by the Coastal Commission, as it will ultimately be included in the City’s various planning documents — general plan, zoning ordinance, waterfront master plan, etc.

Graham said the final staff report for the Feb. 20 meeting would be released to the public with the commission’s normal agenda, likely on Thursday, Feb. 15, which is after Estero Bay News’ deadline.

The draft master plan has been a couple of years in the making and will include most of the over 100-acre site, with the exception of plant owner Vistra’s proposed Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project, which is being sited on a 22-acre plot at the plant property that used to be the site of a fuel oil tank farm.

And the BESS project is also nearing a milestone, as Graham said the Environmental Impact Report on the 600-megawatt BESS project is expected to be released for comments “in the next few weeks.”

That project is headed for a showdown at the ballot box in November, when voters will get a chance to throw up a roadblock of sorts, in the form of Measure A-24, a citizen’s initiative that would lock in the existing zoning on the                                            power plant property, which in the current General Plan is zoned commercial-visitor serving.

Vistra’s BESS Project would also have to seek a zoning change as part of the permitting for its project. However, Vistra may have a work-around the City and its voters through the State Legislature and the June 2023 passage of Assembly Bill 205.

AB 205 expanded the California Energy Commission authority to assume permitting under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) of green energy projects like the BESS and other storage facilities in the state.

The CEC could take over if the applicant can’t get passed the local authority (city or county). Some have called AB 205 “Life After Death,” in that a project totally rejected by a local permitting agency, can apply to the CEC to take it over, and presumably have a second chance at approval.

You May Also Like…

New City Engineer Hired

New City Engineer Hired

Cindy Cecil has been hired as Morro Bay’s new City Engineer. Submitted photo Morro Bay has a new City Engineer,...