Officials from the City of Santa Rosa and Calpine Corporation gathered at the Calpine Geothermal Visitors Center in Middletown on Friday, Nov. 3, to celebrate 20 years of operating the Santa Rosa Geysers Recharge Project. The event was attended by past and present members of the Santa Rosa City Council and Board of Public Utilities, Calpine Corporation officials, Santa Rosa Water staff, and Sonoma and Lake County officials and contractors involved in the project.
The $220 million project was completed in 2003 following seven years of planning and design and three years of construction. For the last two decades, this project has benefited the region by delivering recycled water from Santa Rosa Water’s Laguna Treatment Plant through the 41-mile-long pipeline to recharge Calpine’s geothermal steamfields at The Geysers, helping increase the clean energy produced. This partnership produces enough renewable electricity to power about 100,000 homes in the North Bay. The project also protects the Russian River by allowing Santa Rosa Water to beneficially reuse nearly 100% of its recycled water annually.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the City of Santa Rosa struggled to keep pace with increased flows into the Laguna Treatment Plant and comply with increased restrictions on its discharges into the Russian River. The Geysers Recharge Project was an unlikely solution to the recycled water problems the City faced, but it turned out to be an efficient and environmentally friendly solution.
“The road that we traveled to get to this point was not always a smooth one, or a flat one, to travel,” said Jennifer Burke, Director of Santa Rosa Water. “The effort to build the Geysers Project resulted from many years of public debate, City Council and Board of Public Utilities deliberations, an extensive environmental review process, and complicated and challenging design, planning, and construction efforts. The leadership in the past should be recognized for the long–term benefits of the Santa Rosa Geysers Recharge Project – it was worth the effort. Your vision and hard work made this a reality.”
Dan Galvin, the current chair of the Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities, said, “The completion and successful operation of the Geysers Recharge Project is a testament to the value of collaboration, community involvement, and a willingness to consider every option.”
“It is easy today to be cynical about governance,” said former Santa Rosa Mayor Mike Martini, “but we are here today to celebrate a success of governance.” He lauded Calpine’s and staff’s role in the public-private partnership and called the process and the project “a blueprint for how government can work to provide solutions and not stalemate.”
Rob Parker, Vice President of Geothermal Operations with Calpine Corporation, said the partnership with the City of Santa Rosa is sustaining the power production of The Geysers as a valued renewable resource for California. “It is the lowest cost, weather-independent, water reuse option for Santa Rosa and its Regional Partners. Through this long-term mutually beneficial partnership, geothermal production at The Geysers continues to power the region with around-the-clock clean, renewable, and reliable electricity.”
Dick Dowd, former Chair of the Board of Public Utilities, noted that the Geysers Recharge Project came about after many years of studies, hearings, and decisions. “That process resulted in the decision to pursue what was the largest capital project in Santa Rosa history, a $220 million investment by Santa Rosa and its regional partners, that solved a decades-long environmental problem, protects the Russian River habitat and produces clean energy,” he said. “Twenty years after its completion, the Santa Rosa Geysers Recharge Project remains a unique solution to what was a vexing problem.”
The project entailed extensive public engagement, handled by Mark Millan, founder of Data Instincts, a public outreach and communications firm in Windsor. Millan and his team interacted with the public throughout the project, addressing concerns related to easements, right-of-way issues, and traffic control. He gave credit to former Santa Rosa City Manager Ed Brauner, who was in attendance. Millan said Brauner provided the type of leadership that helped the project to succeed: “Ed Brauner set the tone for us all; he provided the guiding mission.”
Speakers at the event included Jennifer Burke, Director of Santa Rosa Water; Rob Parker, Vice President Calpine Corporation; Santa Rosa City Councilmember Mark Stapp; Current Board of Public Utilities Chair Dan Galvin; Mike Prinz, Deputy Director Water Reuse Operations at Santa Rosa Water; Chris Schofield, Senior Director of Asset Management at Calpine Corporation; Dick Dowd, retired Chair of the Board of Public Utilities; Ross Liscum, Century 21 real estate and former Board of Public Utilities member; Mike Martini, GM Taft Street Winery and former City of Santa Rosa Councilmember and Mayor, Mark Millan, the founder and principal of Data Instincts, and Tim Conant, Director of Engineering for Calpine Corporation. Guests at the event also toured Calpine’s Geothermal Operations at The Geysers.