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Morro Bay discusses future of smokestacks; residents voice ideas for keeping them as attraction

Vistra Corporation
Vistra Corporation plans to tear down the stacks and the turbine building by December 27th, 2027, unless they are told otherwise.

The company that owns the iconic smokestacks that tower over Morro Bay wants to demolish them. But with the community split over that idea, Vistra Corporation and the City of Morro Bay held a town meeting Wednesday night to get input from residents on what should happen to the stacks.

For some people, it’s a no-brainer. They want the smokestacks gone, seeing the industrial site as a blight on the Morro Bay skyline.

But for others, the smokestacks represent a part of history — a history they are fighting to keep. 

“We have never intended to keep them," Vistra Corporation representative Claudia Morrow said. "Just because there is not any operational purpose for them.” 

The company plans to tear down the stacks and the turbine building by December 27, 2027, unless they are told otherwise. 

“If the city decides and notifies us that they would like the stacks to remain, then we’ll work with that city in that regard,” Morrow said.

City Manager Scott Collins said the city has received several interesting ideas on what to do with the stacks if they aren’t torn down; from thrill-seeking ideas like bungee jumping and rock climbing, to building a park and tourist attraction around the smokestacks.

“Lot of really brilliant ideas and really unique ideas have been coming forward," Collins said. "I think the first consideration obviously would be a council discussion about whether or not we want to maintain them.”

Some residents expressed concerns about possible negative repercussions to the land if the stacks are demolished.

Tim Fuhs with the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution District said there would be several studies conducted to ensure the smokestacks are torn down safely. 

“If the stacks are demolished, of course, there will be district oversight with the inspections, engineering controls pursuant to the federal regulations to ensure that compliance is achieved," Fuhs said.

No final decision was made at the meeting. Based on the agreement with Vistra Corporation, the City of Morro Bay has until December 2022 to decide the smokestacks’ fate.

The city said a recording of the full meeting will be posted on the city website.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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