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Pasadena’s Hydroelectric Plant in Azusa Ordered to Study Birds and Bats

Published on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 | 2:54 pm

The City of Pasadena’s hydroelectric power plant in Azusa needs study the birds and bats if it wants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider renewing the plant’s current 30-year license, which expires in December 2018.

Many Pasadenans are unaware the the City owns and operates the plant. It is located in in San Gabriel Canyon.

This Monday, the Pasadena City Council approved a proposal to authorize the Interim City Manager to enter into a contract with Applied EarthWorks, Inc. for conducting an Avian, Bat, Vegetation, Cultural, and Special Status Herpetological Surveys for the Azusa Hydroelectric Plant Surveys as required by FERC.

The surveys will be conducted in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to PWP, and are designed to collect data and gather necessary information to determine the presence of these species at the plant in support of the FERC license renewal process.

Applied Earthworks was chosen among nine proponents who responded to a Request for Proposal in January.

PWP says the contract amount will not exceed $89,500, which includes the base contract amount of $77,782.5 and a contingency of $11,717.48 to provide for any necessary change orders.

The plant’s powerhouse and conduit were built in the late 1890s by the San Gabriel Electric Company – the successor to the San Gabriel Power Company, Pacific Power and Light and eventually Southern California Edison Company in 1917 – to provide hydroelectric energy as a possible power source for an ice-making plant in Azusa. The initial capacity of the plant was 2,000 kilowatts and by June 30, 1898, power was being transmitted to Los Angeles, where much of it was used to power electric railway lines in and around Los Angeles.

The original power plant was the second two-phase plant in the United States, the first being at Niagara Falls.

In the late 1940’s a 3-MW new power plant was constructed south of the old facility to replace the first plant. This was necessitated because Edison was converting from 50 cycle power to 60 cycle power.

In 1912, the City of Pasadena formed its Water Department when it sold bonds to buy some small independent water companies. Pasadena realized that it needed more water as the city continued to develop and grow. It was determined that the San Gabriel Canyon would be a viable source, but a dam and a pipe line to Pasadena would need to be built.

To be able to build a dam, Pasadena purchased various properties and water rights in the canyon. However, the reservoir formed by the dam could potentially encroach on the Azusa Conduit, which was owned by Southern California Edison Company. Edison then told Pasadena that if they wanted to build the dam, they would have to purchase the conduit and powerhouse from them.

On January 18, 1930, the City signed an option with Edison the purchase these properties. On June 18, 1929, the voters of Pasadena approved the sale of bonds in the amount of $10,000,000 for what was then referred to as the “San Gabriel Project,” which actually was construction of the Pine Canyon Dam from where Pasadena would source its water.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Pine Canyon Dam was held on April 26, 1932 with a target completion date by January 1934. Pasadena sold Pine Canyon Dam and Reservoir to the Los Angeles MWD on November 23, 1932, and the City officially purchased the Azusa Hydroelectric Project and Conduit from Southern California Edison on June 20, 1933.

On May 26, 1934, Pine Canyon Dam and Reservoir’s name was changed to Morris Dam and Reservoir.

Azusa documents show that in 2012, the Azusa Utility Board, which governs Azusa Light and Water, had discussed a plan to purchase the Pasadena-owned Azusa Hydroelectric Power Plant and the associated 5.5 mile long conduit from the San Gabriel Dam. The current status of the board’s intention is not known at the moment.


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