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$15M Price Tag on Former Central Texas Power Plant

The future of the former Lake Creek Power Plant in eastern McLennan County may be ranching or recreation, not power.

WACO, Texas (AP) — The future of the former Lake Creek Power Plant in eastern McLennan County may be ranching or recreation, not power.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports Luminant, the Texas generation giant, has listed the 1,833-acre site with Dallas-based Hortenstine Ranch Co., which is promoting the site as a "blank canvas" with possible uses including hunting, boating and fishing. The secluded property, which includes a 550-acre lake, is listed for $15 million.

Luminant retired the 1950s-era gas generation plant in 2010 along with the nearby Tradinghouse Creek plant, but it won state air permits to build new generating units at both sites.

But since then, low energy prices have made new power plants difficult to justify, and Luminant's parent company has reorganized under a massive Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Luminant spokeswoman Meranda Cohn said the listing is an attempt to determine if there's a market for the Lake Creek plant outside the power industry. She said the sale is not related to the bankruptcy process, which ended in October.

"While we've positioned ourselves by acquiring an air permit to possibly add generation at Lake Creek if wholesale power prices improve, we also recognize the site has attractive commercial real estate possibilities," she said.

A promotional video (https://bit.ly/2gkm4BZ ) shows wildlife, wooded landscapes and recreational resources.

County Judge Scott Felton, who lives in eastern McLennan County near Tradinghouse Lake, said he was surprised by the listing, and he will be interested to see who has the vision and money to buy the entire property.

"Back when I was a banker, I wouldn't have loaned them $15 million on it," he said. "But it's probably a unique property, and it may have appeal to someone."

He said his biggest question would be the condition and maintenance cost of the concrete dam that created Lake Creek. The real estate company's website says the dam is listed as "hydraulically adequate."

Waco commercial real estate broker Bland Cromwell said that if the dam is sound and the site is environmentally clean, the property could be valuable as a recreational resort.

"It's probably not a bad idea, if the power plant deal isn't going to work," he said. "There's a tremendous amount of capital chasing deals right now."

Luminant's ancestor company, Texas Power & Light, built the lake for the power plant in the early 1950s. The boilers grew obsolete in the 21st century, and Luminant imploded them, looking to eventually replace them with modern gas turbines for a total of 460 megawatts.

Luminant won air permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for those turbines and similar ones at Tradinghouse.

In 2015, Luminant applied to amend the Tradinghouse permit to allow up to 820 megawatts using more efficient "combined cycle" technology.

Some local environmental activists have organized to protest the amendment, and city of Waco officials have hired attorneys to address concerns that the new plants could affect Waco's air quality.

Bruce Huff, a member of two environmental groups that oppose the Tradinghouse permit, said he was thrilled to hear of a possible alternative use for Lake Creek.

"That's fantastic," he said.

Rick Wegwerth, a businessman who lives on Tradinghouse Lake, said he hopes that if Lake Creek sells, Luminant will focus its energies on putting a new plant in at Tradinghouse.

"More power to them, if they can put a $15 million development out there," he said.

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