Nevada Hydro responds to STOP LEAPS

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Opinion section
Valley News - Opinion

Thank you for reporting, Jan. 23, on the recent FLACC meeting. Associate Editor Will Fritz is new to this story, and consequently he reported what was said at the meeting at face value. We urge the Valley News to contact key authorities directly for comment and not rely on third-party hearsay as frequently presented by a small group of vocal opponents as “facts.”

The EVMWD is the authority on water supply and should be allowed to speak for themselves regarding water sources. Similarly, the Lake Elsinore San Jacinto Watersheds Authority, the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority and numerous related committees and task forces – on which the city of Lake Elsinore and Riverside County are ably represented – are mandated to address Lake Elsinore water quality, algae blooms, fish kills, etc. As a shallow, natural water body, Lake Elsinore is not just subject to droughts and rainy years, but also to industrial and agricultural run-off that ultimately end up there after rainfall. The city and EVMWD have endeavored for years to maintain lake levels above 1,240 feet, which is deemed crucial to water quality management. On the whole, except in wet years like 2019, this level has been difficult to sustain. The importation of water over and above the approximately 6,000 acre-feet to fuel the LEAPS project will raise lake levels by 3 feet, and the project will make up annual evaporative losses. We are committed – and will be held to that by our license, if granted – to working with local agencies and governments to help sustain the lake at 1,240 feet or higher. The fact that LEAPS could technically operate at lower levels is immaterial.

The 500 kilovolt transmission lines we propose have not been associated with wildfires due to modern communications that provide virtually instantaneous de-energization when there is any interruption. This equipment is modern technology on new transmission facilities, unlike the old, lower-voltage distribution lines blamed for California wildfires, many of which appear to have been undermaintained. As well, the north-south connections allow for full de-energization of either one during a wildfire event. Our modern lifestyle means that there are thousands of miles of electricity transmission lines throughout California, and there are firefighting suppression protocols that keep ground and aerial firefighters safe.

There was much made in the article that LEAPS is not a new idea. Pumped hydro storage is an established, dependable technology to meet grid reliability and emergency needs. As we have said before, continued population growth and the legislated commitment to 100% renewable electricity sources by 2045 mean there will be a pressing and increasing need for electricity storage. Some people said we don’t need it, but with the retirement of nuclear generation, the move off gas-fired peakers over the next decade and our demand for electricity when renewables can’t supply it suggests this position is short sighted. It will take four to five years to build LEAPS after it is licensed; by then, the need will be very clear.

And finally, the Environmental Impact Statement is prepared by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal regulator, not by the project proponent. LEAPS has been and will be required to fund and present environmental studies in response to FERC directives. This step will not be completed until after FERC holds its public scoping meetings in Lake Elsinore and declares the project “Ready for Environmental Analysis,” likely this year. Valley News may want to ask FERC what the schedule is going forward. The LEAPS project team has no control over that, and it is early days, despite the final license application being submitted more than two years ago.

Nevada Hydro Company