The new unit will use approximately 12,000 acre feet (AF) of water annually from the Ogallala Aquifer. Some water rights were procured by Sunflower and some were secured by Wheatland Electric Cooperative, Inc., which purchased or contracted for the purchase of approximately 33,000 acres of sand hills land, including nearly 53,000 AF of agricultural water rights. Land purchases were made from willing sellers, many of whom offered to sell their water rights to Wheatland once they knew a market existed. Wheatland Electric’s water division also provides water for commercial and municipal uses in the area.
Because this water is currently used for agricultural purposes, these rights must be converted from agricultural to municipal and industrial rights. By existing regulation, commonly known as the “corn rule,” these rights will be reduced by 40 percent to ensure that the consumptive use of water for the industrial purposes will not exceed the net consumption when the rights were used for agricultural purposes. Following conversion from agriculture rights to municipal rights, about 32,000 AF of water rights are expected to be available for power plant and other industrial uses.
The reduction results from the theory that agricultural use results in the return of a certain amount of the water pumped to the aquifer, which is not the case for industrial uses. By reducing the authority to withdraw when used for industrial purposes, the aquifer is not depleted at a rate greater than would occur with agricultural production. The net impact on the Ogallala aquifer for water used by the new plant would be equal to the amount of water pumped by agricultural producers for roughly 18.4 sections of land.
The farmed acres will be seeded with native grasses and will require a substantial investment by Wheatland. Once established, nearly all the acres will be grazed, continuing the agricultural heritage of the area. Re-establishing the sandsage prairie will have a substantial positive impact on wildlife native to the area.
No industrial wastewater will be discharged from the Project site. To minimize the total use of water, wastewater will be recycled and used in the ash and pollution control systems. Most of the water consumed by the Project will be through the natural evaporation for cooling in the cooling towers and for making slurry for the Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) system.
Surface Water, Floodplains, and Wetlands
The Project will not affect any surface waters, floodplains or wetlands.
The development of the Project at an existing site minimizes potential ecological impacts. The majority of the Project will be located on previously disturbed land adjacent to the existing unit 1, thus effectively minimizing potential ecological impacts associated with the development of greenfield sites.