The 165-foot landmark South Bay Power Plant had long been an eye sore and hindrance to potential bayfront development. Not anymore.
Today at approximately 7 a.m., community members, stakeholders, elected officials, police officers and the media watched with anticipation from Chula Vista Marina View Park as the steel monstrosity collapsed on itself.
Approximately 70 small, controlled dynamite charges were detonated within the steel and concrete power block to produce a controlled demolition.
Port area real estate manager Kristine Zortman described what to look for prior to the actual implosion, which took less than two minutes.
“Fifteen minutes prior to the implosion, you’ll start to notice a cloud coming from the structure,” Zortman said.
Once that was over, the booms began and 200 pounds of detonated charges ignited 300 pounds of dynamite, leveling the majority of the structure.
“We accomplished the impossible,” former Chula Vista mayor and state assembly member Shirley Horton said. “We are power plant free.”
The power plant had been a fixture on the Chula Vista bayfront since 1957. Although many said they couldn’t discount its once valuable service to numerous residents, it simply no longer served a purpose.
Between 1998 and 1999, the San Diego Unified Port acquired the plant from SDG&E with the goal of eventually demolishing it, and shortly after leased the plant to Duke Energy.
Former Port chairman and Chula Vista city councilman David Malcolm played a key role in figuring out the complicated details of a financial plan and political strategy, which led to the sale of 200 acres owned by SDG&E and the power plant to the Port for $110 million. It also gave Duke Energy the buying rights to operate the plant for 11 years at a price of $115 million.
“They completed a very complicated transaction and this is a historic moment,” Horton said. “No other city could have accomplished this.”
In 2006 Duke Energy transferred ownership to LS Power, which transferred operations to Dynegy, responsible for the plant’s decommission.
The plant’s main structure sits on approximately 13 acres of a 115-acre leasehold held by Dynegy South Bay LLC.
The steel pile of rubble is expected to generate upwards of 24,000 tons of various metals, which will be recycled and salvaged.
Now that goliath has fallen, the site will be cleared of debris so that environmental remediation and below-ground demolition work can begin, setting the groundwork for the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan.
In store for Chula Vista's prime property is the city’s bayfront master plan, which will transform the area into a world-class resort and conference destination with a mix of residential, retail and more than 240 acres of parks and nature preserve.
Twenty-one hours prior to the event, local delegates gathered at the site where they’d later watch the power plant go down in history.
“The implosion itself will be spectacular, but so will the view that comes with it,” South County Economic Development Council CEO Cindy Gompper-Graves said.
Chula Vista port commissioner Ann Moore said she was excited for the long-awaited event.
“There will finally be significant and visible evidence … the power plant has served its purpose and now it has to go,” Moore said.
Moore heralded the efforts of those involved in the decades-long process to put an end to the South Bay power plant.
Moore’s thanks extended to former state senator Steve Peace, Horton, Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox and all current and former council members, as well as former Chula Vista mayor and port commissioner Steve Padilla.
“Here’s to a dynamic implosion,” Moore said before a crowd of news reporters, local elected officials, city and port staff.
Cox also gave thanks to colleagues.
“I’m grateful to those who dedicated their efforts … the plan was successful because our plan works with nature resources and not against them,” Cox said.
In addition to clearing the way for bayfront development and future economic prosperity, the crumbling of the plant also helps restore a wildlife sanctuary.
On Friday morning, Malcolm gave the credit to Environmental Health Coalition’s Laura Hunter through Horton.
“If it wasn’t for Laura Hunter and the support of the Environmental Health Coalition, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said in notes Horton read.
Hunter said the power plant has been both an energy source and workhorse.
“It’s the poster child for our fossil fuel past,” she said. “This is an environmental justice travesty and it’s finally coming to an end. For the first time in 60 years it (the bayfront) can finally recover.”
To view a related video click here.
An earlier version of this story stated that 200 pounds of detonated charges ignited 700 pounds of dynamite. In fact, 200 pounds of detonated charges ignited 300 pounds of dynamite. The Star-News regrets the error.