The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has blocked a controversial $2 billion hydropower plant near the Lake Elsinore shoreline after the developer failed to provide a requested environmental study and a construction plan, among other things.
Vista-based Nevada Hydro Co. has proposed building a 200-foot-high dam above the lake and a 500-megawatt, underground power plant with turbines on 845 acres of the U.S. Forest Service. Water will be pumped from the lake into a man-made reservoir when the demand for electricity is low, and water will flow back into the lake when the demand is high. The project has been named the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage Project or LEAPS.
The City of Lake Elsinore, Riverside County, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, environmentalists and local residents oppose the project.
In a letter dated December 9, FERC’s Director of Hydropower Licensing, Vince Eirick, informed Nevada Hydro’s chairman that the commission was rejecting its project application because Nevada Hydro was involved in recreational, groundwater, seismic and geotechnical studies with forests. Failed to provide service, as well as a construction plan.
“While the Forest Service says it has had several meetings with Nevada Hydro to work out solutions and necessary studies, Nevada Hydro has informed the Forest Service that it does not intend to conduct the study and provide the remaining information before the Commission. Does the issue of any licenses for the project,” Eyrick said in the letter.
On December 13, the commission rejected Nevada Hydro’s December 10 request for a preliminary permit, which would give the company up to four years to conduct a project feasibility study. FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said Nevada Hydro could, however, request a re-hearing of the case within 30 days.
It was unclear what Nevada Hydro’s plans were going forward. Company representatives, including President Rexford Waite, declined to comment.
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Nevada Hydro also proposed installing 32 miles of transmission lines and 170 high-voltage steel towers that would carry electricity from Lake Elsinore to the unincorporated communities of La Cresta, Tenaza, Lakeland Village and Temescal Valley, and then owned by Southern connected to power lines. California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.
Nevada Hydro, founded in 1997, said the project would give the region a reliable energy source and support 600 construction jobs and 20 to 30 permanent jobs. According to its website, LEAPS was designed to respond to the growing need for reliable renewable electricity and help meet California’s ambitious emissions reduction programs.
The latest actions of the federal government were welcome news for LEAPS opponents.
“As this project is no longer formally in our program of work that seeks to identify and prioritize current forest projects, we will be able to focus our attention and focus on improving our recreational facilities and reducing risks to communities. Will put more energy into reducing dangerous fuels to reduce catastrophic wildfires,” said Freddie Duncan, acting Trabuco District Ranger of the Cleveland National Forest.
The Pechanga band of Luiseno Indians spoke out against the project last year, claiming Lake Elsinore as sacred tribal lands that were part of the Luiseno Creation Account, and that events linked to the tribe’s religion and cosmology. Happened there.
“We are pleased with this (project application) dismissal,” Pechanga President Mark Macaro said in a statement on Friday, December 17. “There’s a reason Nevada Hydro has consistently failed to provide the information needed for a thorough review: this is a dangerous, inconsistent and impractical project to misplace. It’s time they move on.”
Nevada Hydro has been trying to get its LEAPS project off the ground for 17 years. It submitted its first application to the Commission in February 2004. The history of the LEAPS project, and the rocky relationship between Nevada Hydro and FERC, dates back to 2004, and has been going back and forth with the commission ever since.
In 2011, FERC, in another rejection letter to Nevada Hydro, cited a conflict between the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and Nevada Hydro to deny its application. The commission also noted that Nevada Hydro and the commission had different goals, had been unable to work together in the past and would likely be unable to cooperate if issued a license.
Lake Elsinore Responds
On April 9, 2019, Lake Elsinore City Council voted unanimously to take a formal stance opposing the LEAPS project, subject to conditions, Deputy City Manager Nicole Daly said in an email.
Among the community’s myriad concerns with the project are its potential adverse effects on lake water quality, lake levels, fisheries and shorelines. Other concerns, Daly said, include the potential for disasters, including the potential for a proposed dam break, fire hazards from a proposed 32-mile section of high-powered transmission lines, the impact on wildlife, the overall impact on the community and aesthetics of the lake, and property. Possibility of loss and acquisition.
“The City Council urges project proponent Nevada Hydro to consider these concerns seriously and provide additional project details, including actual and measurable public benefits,” Daly said. “Unfortunately, despite the passage of more than two years, community concerns have not been addressed and the benefits of the project to the public remain elusive, while the impact of the project may be substantial.”
She said the commission took appropriate action in rejecting Nevada Hydro’s application.
“The US Forest Service requires Nevada Hydro to conduct additional studies in the Cleveland National Forest,” Daly said in an email. “Nevada Hydro declined to conduct the study and, it appears to be dismissive, gave the Commission no choice but to reject the application based on their policy.”