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PG&E's seismic studies shake up fishermen 

Pacific Gas & Electric is gearing up to begin its long-anticipated in-depth studies of the seismic landscape surrounding the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, but some people who have been calling for the studies are now crying foul over the method the utility proposes to use to conduct them.

The belated studies have held up the relicensing of the 2,240-megawatt facility’s two reactors. PG&E applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 20-year licenses for each reactor in late 2009.

On July 21, PG&E held a public scoping meeting at the San Luis Obispo County Library to present to the public what it called its offshore Central Coastal California seismic imaging project. The project entails towing a series of sound-generating air guns over a range of approximately 500 square miles along the Central Coast in order to map the seismic faults in the region. The studies are expected to begin in 2012.

However, local fishermen and environmentalists allege the sounds generated will impact the populations of marine species off the Central Coast. Though PG&E seeks to minimize such impacts—the surveys won’t be conducted during spawning season—local commercial and recreational fishermen are worried fish will be scared away during the fishing industry’s peak season.

“How will they react to these booming sounds? My guess is that they would leave,” Jim Webb, a Cambria resident and recreational fisherman, said at the meeting. “What could possibly mitigate that?”

PG&E believes the air gun method is the least intrusive.

PG&E Spokesman Kory Raftery told New Times the company is planning for a long public outreach campaign.

“We certainly are committed to working with stakeholders throughout this process, but we need to do this work which is absolutely vital for the future of Diablo Canyon,” Raftery said.

A draft Environmental Impact Report for the project is expected to be released in December 2011.

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