KINGMAN - Kingman Mayor John Salem was the first elected official to be questioned and voice his approval of the Hualapai Valley Solar project during the reopening of the Arizona Corporation Commission's evidentiary hearing Wednesday morning.
Hualapai Solar wants to build a 350-megawatt concentrated solar plant about 27 miles north of Kingman in the Red Lake area. The city is in the process of negotiating the sale of at least 1 million gallons of treated wastewater to the plant. The ACC conditionally approved a certificate of environmental compatibility for the plant in April. It also ordered that the evidentiary hearing in the case be reopened after two Mohave County women, Susan Bayer and Denise Bensusan, were denied the right to intervene in the case. New hearings in the case started Tuesday morning.
Salem asked to correct the amount of treated wastewater the city's Hilltop Wastewater plant would put out that was recorded during the original January ACC hearing. At that time, he said that the wastewater plant put out around 1.7 million gallons. A recent six-month study of the plant shows it puts out about 44.4 million gallons a month.
The expansion of the Hilltop plant is expected to be completed by October 2011, Salem said.
Tom Campbell, representing Hualapai Solar, asked who would pay for the expansion of the city's plant if no one bought the effluent.
The city taxpayers would be required to pay off the loan to expand the plant, Salem said.
Tim Hogan, representing Bensusan, asked if the city was anxious to sign a contract to sell the treated wastewater to Hualapai Solar.
The city recently approved a policy and a price of 46 cents per thousand gallons to sell the water, Salem said. If the plant was finished and the infrastructure was in place, he would be all for selling the water to Hualapai Solar right now, he said.
Would the contract require Hualapai Solar to purchase all of the effluent produced by the plant? Hogan asked.
He couldn't divulge the exact details of the contract that the city was negotiating with Hualapai Solar, Salem said, but according to the city's new policy, Hualapai Solar would have to purchase at least 1 million gallons of effluent from the city's plant. They could purchase more if they wished, but the exact amount would depend on a number of factors, including how much water the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality required the city to hold back to keep a wetland area near the treatment plant.
Hogan asked if the city would be opposed to the ACC requiring Hualapai Solar to purchase all of the effluent available from city's plant.
"As long as it falls within the negotiated contract and the city's policy, I have no problem with that," Salem said.
Bayer asked Salem if he thought the aquifer, which would serve both Hualapai Solar and currently serves part of Kingman was in depletion.
In his personal opinion, Salem said he did not believe the aquifer was in depletion.
Bayer asked if Salem knew how much water from the city's plant evaporated and how much was recharged back into the ground.
Depending on the time of year, weather and wind, approximately 33 to 45 percent of the water treated at the plant evaporated, Salem said. He was unsure how much was recharged back into the ground.
Would the city have enough effluent to serve Hualapai Solar? Bayer asked.
According to information provided to the ACC by Bayer, it looked as if the city would have enough water to serve all of Hualapai Solar's needs by 2016, Salem said.
ACC attorney Charles Hains asked Salem what the capacity limit was for the city's plant.
The plant could produce approximately 5.1 million gallons of B-plus or 1 million gallons of A-plus treated wastewater a day once it was complete, Salem said. Hualapai Solar needs A-plus treated wastewater. The city plant's capacity to produce treated wastewater could be expanded by installing more filters if necessary.
What prompted the city to expand the wastewater plant to include treating effluent? Hains asked.
The ability to treat wastewater was included in the original expansion plans for the plant, Salem said. The city wasn't going to install the measures unless a qualified buyer for the water was found. The measures were included in the expansion when Hualapai Solar expressed an interest in the water, he said.
The city is not in the business of making a profit off of the sale of the treated water, Salem said. The cost of the filtration measurers is included in the cost of the treated water, he said.
ACC Administrative Law Judge Sarah Harpring asked Salem what benefits he thought the plant would bring to the Kingman area.
It would provide a use for the effluent from the city's wastewater plant, he said. It would also provide construction and permanent jobs for the area, as well as sales tax revenue from the sale of products and services to Hualapai Solar workers, Salem said.
Harpring asked Salem's opinion of the state of the local economy.
"We're struggling, especially small business," he said. Large industries along Interstate 40 and at the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park, along with the truck traffic, do provide an anchor for the economy, Salem said, but small businesses in town were struggling.
"Do you think there is a down side to this (Hualapai Solar) plant?" Harpring asked.
"I can't think of any," Salem said. "I really think it's a good idea for the area."
The hearing continued into the afternoon Wednesday.