Seven members of Orange County’s legislative delegation — both Republicans and Democrats — have come out against the Orange County Water District leasing a 20-acre site known as the Ball Road Basin for the construction of a 400 megawatt power plant:

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Assemblyman (and former Anaheim Mayor) Tom Daly spearheaded the letterwhich is also signed by Senators Lou Correa and Bob Huff and Assemblymembers Don Wagner, Sharon Quirk-Silva, Diane Harkey and Travis Allen. The letter succinctly states the case against the OCWD’s leasing the site for a power plant:

The property, known as the Ball Road Basin, represents one of the last remaining vacant parcels in the heart of Orange County. With many residential neighborhoods nearby, the public‘s interests must be paramount in any future development of this property. In addition, the proposed 300-600 megawatt power plant would negatively impact nearby entertainment and commercial businesses. Ultimately, the power plant provides no direct benefits to the residents of Anaheim, whose city owns its own electric utility and recently built a power plant in an industrial area a few miles away.

We agree there is a need to develop new sources of power to support our state’s population growth. However, a power plant located at the Ball Road Basin is the wrong solution.

Our constituents have made their opposition to the power plant loud and clear. Supporting this proposal will simply result in an unnecessary and drawn-out public battle over the project.

The Orange County Water District should reject the power plant and continue discussions with the City of Anaheim on a mutually beneficial use of the surplus property. By denying this proposal, the Orange County Water District can better attend to its primary mission of providing reliable, high quality groundwater to customers in northern and central Orange County.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand why the Orange County Water District Board of Directors would want to proceed with leasing the Ball Road Basin in the face of intense community opposition spanning the spectrum of residents, businesses and city government and now state legislators. There are literally no local supporters of this project.

Furthermore, there is a serious legal question about whether the OCWD can even approve a lease absent a CEQA study.

Factor in the low probability of the California Energy Commission approving a power plant in the face of such opposition, it really comes down to whether the OCWD Board of Directors believes obtaining short-term land lease revenues is worth the huge cost in community and political goodwill.

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in a nearby Anaheim neighborhood. He’s a small businessman who is conservative in his politics. He took time out of his day last month to attend one of the daytime OCWD Board meetings on this topic, and relayed to me how one of the OCWD Directors said that this power plant deal was purely about “price and terms, just price and terms.” My friend was deeply offended by that statement.

“I live near where that plant would be and it would affect me and my family. If that guy is going to reduce it down to just money, he has no business representing voters on that board.”

Monday evening, December 9, is D-Day for the power plant proposal. The sensible thing for the OCWD Board to do would be to pull back from the brink, nix the power plant proposal and focus on some use of the property, whether commercial or recreational, that is appropriate for that site.