The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466
Gene Frick, Sierra Club-Santa Ana Mountains Task Force, (951) 977-9257
Rachael Hamilton, Inland Empire WATERKEEPER, (951) 530-8823

Groups Call on Government to Finally Kill Proposed Dam

Letter From Federal Regulators Raises Major Doubts About Viability of "LEAPS" Project in Cleveland National Forest


Conservation groups today called on federal regulators to finally stop a proposal to build a new hydroelectric dam in the Cleveland National Forest. In a letter sent late last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission referred to ongoing problems that raise doubts about the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage (LEAPS) project. The letter was the most recent setback for the project, which has been roundly condemned by conservation groups and the local community for its wide-ranging impacts on wildlife, water quality, rural character and wildfire.

"The LEAPS dam and powerlines would deliver far more harm than good, hurting wildlife, increasing wildfires and dirtying our waters," said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's time to pull the plug on this environmental disaster."

The hydroelectric project calls for pumping water from Lake Elsinore to a new dam on the crest of the Cleveland National Forest at night, then releasing that water during the day to power turbines to generate electricity.

"FERC is right. It's time to stop wasting stakeholder resources, including taxpayer money, civic energy and even much-needed faith in government," said Gene Frick of the Sierra Club-Santa Ana Mountains Task Force. "That a company has been able to feed for so long at the expense of the public requires that they now put up or shut up."

The LEAPS project has been plagued with problems since its inception. Recently, a proposed electric substation on the Margarita Peak Preserve, necessary for the project, was rejected by a land conservancy that owns the substation site. The LEAPS project was also the subject of a grand jury investigation in 2009, which uncovered that the project "is not economically viable" and was a result of loose contracting procedures by the local water district.

"The water quality of Lake Elsinore and the affected waterways within Cleveland National Forest would be subjected to irrevocable impacts for a project that will cost more to operate than the benefits it claims to generate," said Rachael Hamilton of the Inland Empire Waterkeeper. "The local residents have spoken, the conservation groups have spoken -- it's about time someone starts listening and makes the environmentally and economically sound decision to abandon this project once and for all."

The letter from the federal regulators last week focuses on the recent denial of a water-quality permit for the project. Disputes between the project applicants, Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and Nevada Hydro Company have also caused federal regulators to question the viability of the LEAPS project because of the applicants' "divergent views." The LEAPS permit process has cost Elsinore valley ratepayers more than $4 million to date.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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