“Bellingham exploring new energy projects” is the name of the post by John Stark over at the Herald Blog. He’s calling our attention to the City of Bellingham’s look into a couple of alternative energy programs that they are just starting to look into. The first is using water main that had service Georgia-Pacific to drive a micro-hydroelectric plant and the second is to use gas fired plant at the GP site to supply heat and electric power to Bellingham.
A small hydroelectric generating plant to harness water that could be funneled through turbines via a 48-inch industrial water main that once served the G-P pulp mill.
I’m certainly all for exploring new ways of providing energy, looking for alternative energy sources, and repurposing industrial infrastructure, but I’m a little concerned in this case. Mr. Stark says he is working on a “more lengthy report on this for print and online editions in the next few days” and I’m hoping to find that there are others concerned with the damage to the Lake from again opening the flood gates on the GP drain. I believe and have stated here last year that the use of this mid-lake drain is the biggest obstacle for the health of Lake Whatcom. I firmly believe that even the draconian restrictions which are being thrust on nearby residents won’t allow the Lake to recover until the drain is closed off and normal flow returned to the Lake. In that same post I did suggest that we glean some hydro from the outflow of the Lake, but I was clear that we should do so from the normal outflow, not the drain pipe. In another post, Energy, I also explained that I am a firm believer that the closer a process is to the natural process, the better it is for our environment, so until someone shows me a lake with a naturally occurring 48” diameter pipe suddenly appeared, I’m going to say that using the pipe less rather than more is better for the Lake.
Of course losing jobs and industry in Bellingham was not appealing, but with respect to restoring normal water flow and health, the Lake is fortunate that G-P closed up shop. I’m afraid that if power generation is put in place using the mid-lake drain we will never be able to wean ourselves from it and Lake Whatcom will be doomed.
Bottom-line: I’m strongly opposed to the micro-hydro plan I see suggested at this point and would hope that the City of Bellingham would drop it from their process both to save Lake Whatcom and save the taxpayers from further funding down this gloomy path.