Sunday, August 14, 2022

Three Stacks and a Rock

Three stacks in the fog

The volcanic plug called Morro Rock

I first visited Morro Bay in 1958 with my mother and returned as recently as 2016. Then as now the features that tourists come to see are the enormous volcanic plug,
Morro Rock, and the 485 foot smokestacks of the powerplant that closed in 2014. Some may see the stacks as industrial blight. Not me. As you well know I’m addicted to man’s footprint in the landscape, especially if it has been abandoned and left to the elements. That’s case with the shuttered plant which is now an asbestos and guano ridden shell of its former self. To residents the stacks are a proud symbol of the Morro Bay’s working-class roots. They will be demolished by 2024 and many in the town are not amused.

Morro Bay Power Plant

Three stacks

Morro Rock

In their glory days fishermen used the stacks like lighthouse beacons to guide them home from the sea. Local surfers paddled out knowing that the plant’s outflow would warm the waves. Shop owners still sell T-shirts, coffee mugs and paintings bearing their image. A brewery is named Three Stacks and A Rock. A bistro is dubbed STAX. The town’s nickname after all is Three Stacks and a Rock. The smokestacks are a major part of the town’s identity. 

But times change. The planet warms at an alarming pace and soon the stacks will disappear from Morro Bay’s skyline. The plant became a relic when California started moving to renewable energy. And many in the town, especially merchants, are heartbroken. In a recent LA Times article commercial fisherman Bud Hurless laments, “Everyone comes to Morro Bay to see Three Stacks and a Rock.” It won't be the same without them.

The fate of the Morro Bay power plant represents the evolution of energy in the Golden State. Built by Pacific Gas and Electric in the 1950s, the plant first operated on oil. Then it transitioned to natural gas before shutting down six years ago. Now, Vistra Corp., a Texas energy company that owns the site, is proposing to build one of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage facilities on the plant’s 22 acres. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I just know it won’t have smokestacks.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Since you have well over half a century of history viewing Morro Bay and its rock, as well as its power plant, it is wonderful that you chose to share some of the history and photographs with your blog followers. Both images of the Three Stacks are wonderful, as well as those of Morro Rock. Glad you have those, since it is scheduled for demolition in 2024. Perhaps one more photographic sojourn by you is in order. It makes me wonder how many people have visited and lingered in Morro Bay, wondering if they could live there. We certainly have, several times, and some five years ago, met a friend of one of Fred's cousins who decided to move there. Needless to say, she loves it. Mesmerizing is a word that comes to mind. Thanks for the great post, Esteban!