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FirstEnergy's Bayshore Plant: A Real Live Bass-o-Matic!

Josh Mogerman

Posted April 21, 2010

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The curious case of the Bayshore coal plant near Toledo, Ohio made me wonder if Dan Aykroyd has any involvement with the facility's owner, FirstEnergy (he doesn't). After all, the aging coal plant on Lake Erie is eerily similar to his brilliant and classic Bass-o-Matic sketch from Saturday Night Live. As if the toxic air pollution and climate changing CO2 emissions from this 55-year old coal plant are not enough, NRDC, The Western Lake Erie WATERKEEPER Association, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, and Ohio Environmental Council have called upon the plant owners to address the ongoing aquatic armageddon resulting from this facility's woefully inadequate water intake system. Before you discount this as the whining of tree huggers and fishermen, take a look at these mind-blowing estimates from the Ohio EPA about Bayshore's fish-killing tally:

  • Kills more than 46 million fish per year when fish are slammed and caught (called impingement) against its cooling water system screens
  • Kills more than 14 million juvenile fish and more than 2 billion fish in their larval form when they pass through the water intake screens and through equipment inside the power plant (called entrainment)
  • On average, kills 126,000 fish a day caught on the screens and 6 million fish a day that pass through the screens.

And here’s the thing, Lake Erie is one of the world’s most productive fisheries, so there is a real economic cost to this. My colleague Shannon Fisk had it totally right when he was quoted in an AP report on this issue:

They haven't factored in the economic impact this fish-killing machine has on Lake Erie

First Energy’s coal plant sits on one of the most important parts of the lake, near a massive spawning area for walleye. These are good eatin’ fish (aside from the massive amounts of mercury that they have metabolized due to plants like Bayshore) with significant value to both recreational and professional fishermen.

This is all preventable. Modern cooling towers would eliminate 95% of the fish kill and greatly reduce the plant's illegal dumping of super-heated water back into the lake. FirstEnergy and Ohio EPA, however, are monkeying around with a cheaper reverse louver solution, even though a U.S. EPA consultant has already evaluated that approach and determined that the slats won’t work… Perhaps Ohio should follow the leads of New York and California where steps are being taken to outlaw this sort of ludicrous damage.  Because, while the Aykroyd sketch always makes me smile, a real life Bass-o-Matic is no laughing matter.

If you agree, the Ohio EPA is accepting written comments until May 29, 2010 on a proposed permit renewal that would not adequately stop First Energy’s Bass-o-Matic from continuing to grind up fish.


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