Snowy mountains (copy)

Snow-covered mountains were crystal clear from Alamitos Bay after a storm in December.

Concerns about future water quality in Alamitos Bay has prompted Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price to call an online community meeting next Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Pumps currently pulling ocean water through the bay to cool the AES Alamitos and Haynes power plants are responsible for much of the current water circulation. Although tides do move some water, experts say that when the power plants stop pumping, water will become stagnant enough to allow bacteria to multiply.

When AES stops pumping its 326 million gallons of water a day, stagnant areas will develop, a study by marine engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol says. If all pumping stopped, the time it takes to completely exchange the water in front of Mother's Beach would go from 3.4 days to 9.5 days — not enough to stop bacteria and algae growth.

"Anything we do is going to be expensive," said Price, whose district includes Alamitos Bay. "But we have to do something. Water quality is at stake."

State regulators have decreed that water-cooled power plants have to be phased out to protect water quality and fish. Currently, AES pulls water from the bay, runs it through its generators as a coolant, then pumps it back to the San Gabriel River. The Haynes Plant on Westminster Avenue, own by Los Angeles Water and Power, does much the same.

AES has until the end of 2023 before it stops pumping water. Los Angeles officials say Haynes will be doing at least some water cooling to 2029, but because it is further away, it doesn't have as much impact on Alamitos Bay.

A study from Moffatt and Nichol recommends adding more fish-friendly pumps and screens at the AES plant to continue pumping water. That water would bypass the AES power plants, going directly to the river.

Talks continue between city and AES officials, and Price said AES has been helpful. However, it is unlikely the electricity provider would pay the $2 million or so a year it likely will cost to keep the pumps running once they no longer have use for the water.

Early estimates for a stand-alone pumping system range from $30 million to $35 million. Price said it was too soon to say what the city should do, but added she wants to "get something in motion" and before the City Council by the end of the year.

Next Tuesday's Zoom meeting will begin at 6 p.m. To participate, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81757432293. The meeting ID is 817 5743 2293.

For more information, call 562-570-6300 or email district3@longbeach.gov.

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Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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