Plans to rebuild Kirkwood power plant snowball |

Plans to rebuild Kirkwood power plant snowball

Adam Jensen

KIRKWOOD, Calif. – Following a New Year’s Day fire that destroyed Kirkwood Valley’s only source of power, efforts to construct a new power plant are moving ahead at a whirlwind’s pace.

Managers at Kirkwood Mountain Resort and the Kirkwood Meadows Public Utility District hope to have a new power plant constructed in the Kirkwood Valley by Oct. 1, ahead of the 2010-2011 ski season, said Tom Henie, the utility district’s general manager, during a meeting on Thursday night.

The goal leaves little time for delay.

Construction on a new power plant would need to break ground by June 1 for the plant to be operational by the start of October, Henie said. Several large, portable generators have powered the resort and surrounding community. since shortly after the fire.

In the two weeks since the blaze, designs for a new power plant building have been drawn and two possible locations for the plant have already been scouted.

Both of the locations are close enough to the burned power plant in the Red Cliffs parking area that the new project can be considered a rebuild, Henie said. The rebuild designation will limit the number of new permits needed for the project and would allow the project to be constructed under an existing environmental review, Henie said.

The remnants of the old powerhouse will be demolished down to the foundation within the next two or three weeks, with a complete demolition occurring in the summer, said David Likens, the CEO of Mountain Springs Kirkwood. Mountain Springs Kirkwood owns both Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Mountain Utilities, the owner of the burned power plant.

Funding will also be crucial to getting the new powerhouse up and running by next winter.

Although the utility district is still waiting an estimate on construction of a a new power plant, initial calculations have put the cost between $4 and $5 million, Henie said.

The general manager said he is pursuing a bond to cover both the cost of the new power plant and a $30 million power line project that could connect the valley to the power grid as soon as Fall 2012. The power line project is under environmental review.

One lender has expressed interest in funding both projects and Henie said he will travel to the Bay Area this next week to talk with additional lenders. He said he is “very confident” that funding can be obtained for both efforts.

An additional step critical to getting the power plant project running before next winter, the purchase of Mountain Utilities by the public utility district, is also moving forward, Henie said.

A purchase agreement must be signed within 30 to 45 days, otherwise the new power plant project won’t be built by the fall, Henie said Thursday night.

The public utility district has been in negotiations with Mountains Springs Kirkwood to purchase Mountain Utilities since July 2008. The negotiations became “frustrated” on both sides until the fire expedited the sale, Henie said.

Representatives from Kirkwood Mountain Resort and the utility district have both said publicly that it would be better for the utility district to provide energy in the Kirkwood Valley rather than the same company that owns the resort.

During a special meeting on Jan. 5, the public utility district’s five member board approved a revised offer to purchase Mountain Utilities.

Mountain Springs has “basically” accepted the offer, Henie said.

“It’s just a matter of us putting the document together and getting some signatures on that document,” Henie said.

A special meeting of the public utility district board is likely to be called to approve the purchase prior to the next regularly scheduled board meeting of the public utility district’s board in February.

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