When you look at this photo, and then the next one, you can see what Bodega Bay is in 2017 (color photo), compared to what it was about to become in 1963 (B/W photo)–a nuclear power plant.
If it hadn’t been for a determined group of ruffled citizens, outraged residents, and concerned scientists, this sparkling northern California bay would be filled today with backwater from a nuclear reactor site…or worse.
It was the perfect location for a nuclear reactor plant, slated to be the biggest nuclear generator in history. Requiring abundant water to moderate the internal heat of fission, the nuclear plant was positioned to tower over the Pacific Ocean where it could use the ocean waters as a convenient coolant.
California’s powerful utility company, PG and E, had already applied for the permit, dug the pit, installed rebar, and set up for construction. Having begun the project in 1958, the power company was gaining momentum by the early 1960s.
Then came the heroes. There were many of them–they changed the course of history in Bodega Bay. Harold Gilliam, Karl and Bill Kortum, Joel Hedgpeth, David Pesonen, Doris Sloan, Hazel Mitchell, and Rose Gaffney — to name a few.
There was also a geophysicist, Pierre Saint-Amand, who did seismology tests and concluded that building a nuclear plant atop the active San Andreas Fault was a terrible idea.
These people didn’t know it then, but they were early environmentalists.
They spread the word. Hearings, protests, surveys, investigations, and lobbying ensued.
In 1964 the power company withdrew its application and left the site. Read the full story here.
Originally it was called Campbell Cove, at Bodega Head; then it was touted as Atomic Park. When the utility company dug the 70-foot hole, the new name became Hole in the Head. And it’s still called that today.
Soon the hole filled up with rainwater, and native shrubs and plants began to grow. Today, over half a century later, it is a tranquil little pond.
One day I stood there and counted five different species of raptors overhead at one time. The raptors like the updraft from the hillside.
Bodega Bay and the Pacific Ocean host a vast wealth of marine mammals year-round, including harbor seal pups and migrating gray whales. Clean and cool waters are lively with invertebrates, crustaceans, salmon and steelhead; Dungeness crab are the holiday draw.
Over 200 bird species come to Bodega Bay, including migrating shorebirds like the marbled godwit; they spend the winter months here on the Pacific Flyway.
Before there even was an Earth Day, or anything called environmentalists, here lived a courageous community who fought to keep the earth intact. Fortunately for us, they won.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted.
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