Federal commission seeks more information on LEAPS project

Hannah Whitley

[email protected]

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has indicated that it has more questions about a proposed hydroelectric project for the Lake Elsinore area and has deemed an application for the project as incomplete, according to documentation from the agency.

The Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Storage Project, or LEAPS, would create a 240-foot dam in Decker Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest using water from Lake Elsinore that would be pumped up and then back down in order to generate electricity. It would also add approximately 30 miles of transmission lines that would cross the Cleveland National Forest.

The Project is designed to generate approximately 500 megawatts of electricity that could last up to about 12 hours. That’s about a quarter of what the now defunct San Onofre Nuclear plant could produce. The proposed project is part of a larger effort to help California in its goal to make 50 percent of its energy produced into renewable energy.

A 10-page letter sent on Jan. 3 to the Nevada Hydro Company, the entity behind the project, says the application for LEAPS was missing important and up-to-date information, including where the project would get additional water to maintain certain lake levels, how water quality impacts could be mitigated and what the project’s impacts to cultural resources might be.

Nevada Hydro will have 90 days from the time the letter was written to pen a response.

This is not the first time the project has been considered at the federal level. In 2004, Nevada Hydro and Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District filed the first application for the LEAPS.

FERC decided to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the project with consideration to the National Environmental Policy Act following the application.

The final Environmental Impact Statement arrived in 2007, and FERC proposed adjustments to the initial application.

The first request suggested relocating the upper reservoir from Morrell Canyon to Decker Canyon, so as not to disrupt recreational hang gliding as well as for environmental concerns. It was also suggested that the site for an underground powerhouse also be moved.

In July of 2011, the Nevada Hydro Company and Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District ended their alliance on LEAPS due to a disagreement in water quality licensing.

Nevada Hydro readmitted its application to FERC in May of 2017 and filed its final application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on October 2, 2017.

Since then, Nevada Hydro has received over 200 letters from the City of Lake Elsinore opposing the project for concerns over geotechnical, aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, water quality, city recreation, effects of daily lake fluctuations, heritage resource protection, road use and transportation, construction noises and vibrations and prospected property values.

Hydropower refers to the relationship between water and Earth’s gravity to create power. Early forms of water power, like water mills and the Hoover Dam built in the 1930’s, spurred the interest in renewable energy that crafted the development of hydroelectricity.

A form of hydroelectricity today is pump-storage, which uses a dam to create a large reservoir of water with a second, lower reservoir.

Water can then be pumped from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir with a process that stores the electricity for a later time. Although a significant amount of greenhouse gases are released during the time of constructing a pump-storage system, the power plant itself releases no greenhouse gases following the initial build.

Energy storage is important in emergencies, such as power outages occurring during times of peak energy use such as the summer and winter months.

This peak demand of utilities often results in an increase in consumer energy spending, because of the low supply of energy during these times.

 

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