San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, fresh off his “strong mayor” ballot victory, may have come up with a unique way to use the expensive reclaimed water that the City is capable of churning out at its North City Water Reclamation Plant near Westfield UTC shopping center. Opened in 1997, during the Susan Golding era, the controversial treatment plant, north of Miramar Road and along the east side of I-805, can produce 24 million gallons a day, but due to “limited demand for reclaimed water,” according to a City document, just 6 to 12 million gallons a day are actually treated to the purity level required for golf courses and industrial uses, a process that requires heavy city subsidies.
The rest is dumped into the Pacific via the City’s Point Loma treatment plant, the document says. The city council is currently spending $11.8 million to study the practicality of “toilet to tap,” a contentious plan touted by some environmentalists and sewage-treatment contractors to convert the treated sewage into drinking water at a new facility to be built near the current reclamation plant.
The mayor opposes that idea and apparently favors a possible alternative. But as is typical with the closed-mouth Sanders and his business backers — who like to work behind closed doors until they can engineer as close to a fait accompli as possible — the revelation comes not via news conference or neighborhood meeting. Instead it is to be found in a “request for proposal” quietly issued by the City on May 21 that “hereby invites power generation companies to submit proposals to develop and operate a natural gas–fired power plant” at an 80-acre site on Nobel Drive south of the water treatment plant. Under the mayor’s plan, the City would award a 50-year lease to build and operate a plant with “no less than 200 megawatts” of “electrical generating capacity.” Further details, including development costs, the City’s cut, and some thorny environmental issues, are left to would-be proposers.
“Electric power plants are often the largest users of reclaimed water, typically using well in excess of one million gallons per day of reclaimed water,” the document says, adding that “Power plants which use the newest and most efficient gas turbines along with cooling systems which rely on reclaimed water are considered by many to be the industry standard for environmental stewardship.” Whether neighbors will agree remains to be seen; so far at least, Sanders doesn’t appear ready to ask them about it. The request notes that the La Jolla Crossroads apartment complex is “approximately 1/3 to 3/8 of a mile distant, directly to the west.” The nearest school, it says, is University City High, “about 3⁄4 of a mile to the southwest in Rose Canyon.”
Interested parties are invited to send their responses to Russ Gibbon, business development manager of the mayor’s Office of Economic Growth Services, by July 17. An early hint of interest may have come June 7, just a day before the election in which the mayor’s continued status as strong mayor was at stake, when Competitive Power Ventures of Silver Spring, Maryland, contributed $5000 to the Sanders-led campaign. According to its website, “The company currently has nearly 5,000 megawatts (MWs) of natural gas projects in various stages of development with plans for approximately 1,400 MWs to move into construction during the next 12 months.”