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How to Take Down a Power Plant

Public officials gathered Friday morning to celebrate the end of an era, what it took to get rid of the power plant and walk through how the power plant implosion may happen Saturday morning at 7 a.m.

Business leaders, environmentalists and local, county and state public officials gathered in Chula Vista Bayfront Park Friday to recognize years of work to get rid of the South Bay Power Plant and talk about how the three-story structure that weighs near 25,000 tons will come crumbling down.

If weather permits and wind speed remains below 15 mph, the power plant implosion will go forward Saturday at 7 a.m.

Click here to read about places to watch the implosion in Chula Vista or Imperial Beach.

The South Bay Power Plant was built in the late 1950s, began operations in 1960 and was decommissioned in 2011, but working out how to remove the "eyesore" from the waterfront was a collaborative effort passed between South Bay politicians and community leaders since the land was purchased from SDG&E in 1998, said Port Commission Chair Ann Moore. At its peak, the plant provided power to hundreds of thousands of homes, she said.

"This power plant has served its purpose, but now it's time for it to go, making way for a new future for Chula Vista," she said.

As part of the 550-acre Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan that received approval from the state last year, land where the power plant now stands will be used for an RV park, public park and other purposes.

Contractors started to place dynamite in the power plant's steel columns on Tuesday, said Kristine Zortman with the Port of San Diego.

"About 15 minutes prior to the implosion you will start to notice a fine mist cloud at the base of the structure. And this is actually to control fugitive dust and to minimize the dust cloud at the end," she said.

The first noises people will hear are about 200 pounds of detonated charges igniting 300 pounds of dynamite over the course of about 40 seconds. The entire process is expected to take less than two minutes.

"Once the explosions have been detonated, the sounds you will hear are similar to rolling thunder across the bay," Zortman said.

After detonations, the steel will begin to cree and the 165-foot tall structure will collapse on itself.

"The first three stacks and those boiler units will fall down towards the north, the last boiler will collapse upon itself falling towards the east. All of this slated to occur in about a 1.5 minute window," she said.

The implosion is being arranged by the plant's former operator, Dynegy South Bay LLC.

Crews have worked since 2011 to remove asbestos, disconnected electrical lines and take fuel out of the power plant.

The power plant is a historic symbol that marks the transformation of South Bay's waterfront, said Cindy Gompers-Graves with the South County Economic Development Council. The retail, convention center and hotel space the master plan envisions could create thousands of jobs and more than a billion dollars for the region's economy.

"Here are the times that you see folks that support economic development and environmentalists standing together holding hands on a project and thats what you have tomorrow. We are extremely grateful," she said.

Laura Hunter with the Environmental Health Coalition also called the power plant's destruction a symbol, but for markedly different reasons. The end of the South Bay Power Plant means the end of environmental injustice, damage to the local ecosystem and a rejection of fossil fuel.

"And now we have a bay that people are actually going to be able to see and for the first time in 60 years it can slowly heal and slowly cover and slowly recover," she said. "We hope that the whole region will take this momentous occasion to say as a demonstration of our commitment to moving toward a fossil-free future. it's time for us to evolve. We can do it. We should do it."

Among politicians, environmentalists and business leaders who attended the meeting include Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, former state assemblywoman and State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny of Imperial Beach, Supervisor Greg Cox, Port Commission Robert "Dukie" Valderama and current and former City Councilmembers from Coronado, Chula Vista and National City.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Andy Arciga February 03, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Watched it live. It was great and my 1st implosion.

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