Stop LEAPS explains their objections

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Opinion section
Valley News - Opinion

Dear Editor,

Thank you for reporting, Jan. 23, on the Stop LEAPS meeting hosted by Forest, Lake and Communities Coalition. The Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage Project will affect the property, safety and quality of life of residents throughout our region. Your article, however, didn’t explain our primary objections to LEAPS, so let us do so.

First, any transmission line has the potential to ignite fires; however, our larger concern is fire control in a hazardous region that is already prone to wildfire. A 32-mile transmission corridor through the Cleveland National Forest, with towers that are 160-feet high or more, and wires spanning ridge to ridge, will block access by fire-fighting aircraft, which need to fly low to drop PhosChek. Unfettered air space is essential to protecting our communities. Recall the Tenaja Fire in 2019, the Holy Fire in 2018, the Wildomar Fire in 2017, the other Wildomar fires in 2010 and 2007, Lakeland Village in 2006, La Cresta in 2010 and the other plateau fire in 2010. The list goes on.

LEAPS is unsound financially. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that LEAPS will operate at a loss of $124 million per year in 2005. Adjusting for 2019, that loss is $160 million per year. LEAPS is not a buy-power-low, sell-high private enterprise. Rather, Nevada Hydro, the LEAPS proponent, is trying to persuade FERC that LEAPS should become a part of California’s electricity grid, and therefore, its costs and their profit should be guaranteed by the California Utility Rate Payer. In documents submitted to the California Independent System Operators, LEAPS is asking $177 million per year. This means, the Transmission Access Charge on everyone’s electricity bill will have to increase in order to pay $177 million a year for LEAPS. Over the 50-year life span of the plant, the rate payer will shell out $8.85 billion.

LEAPS is not needed for California’s electricity supply. CAISO has evaluated how California will meet its long-term goals and determined LEAPS is too expensive, especially compared to other solutions in progress. Nevada Hydro complained to FERC, saying CAISO botched the analysis. FERC reviewed the complaint and concluded that CAISO’s analysis was done correctly.

LEAPS will irreparably damage a pristine portion of the Cleveland National Forest. The upper portion of Decker Canyon will be excavated to make a pit for the upper reservoir. There will be no way to bring back the loss of habitat and cultural artifacts.

LEAPS constituted an experiment on the water quality of Lake Elsinore. LEAPS offered to import water, which can help with Lake Elsinore’s water quality problems. Maintaining a minimum lake surface level of 1,240 feet above sea level would be beneficial. However, the standard for what to expect from a project is the specifications in its Environmental Impact Statement. The LEAPS 2019 Project Description, submitted by Nevada Hydro to FERC as proposed content for the EIS, said the minimum operational lake level will be 1,235 feet above sea level. In regulatory terms, if LEAPS is approved as submitted by Nevada Hydro, then 1,235 feet is all they are committed to. This minimum operational level was cited by the Lake Elsinore City Council in its decision to oppose LEAPS.

In addition to the unsuitable minimum operational water level, no specifics about the daily operational schedule can be known at this time. We don’t know if LEAPS will operate for a few hours at a time, so that the daily change in water level is negligible, or whether LEAPS will disrupt shore lines by pumping 8-12 hours a day, as is typical with other pumped storage projects in California.

All our statements are supported by public documents from credible organizations. Please visit our website for specific evidence and more information at www.stopleaps.info.

Forest, Lake and Communities Coalition

Board of Directors

John Garrett, Wildomar

Loy Stephens, Lake Elsinore

Jo Folmar, Lakeland Village

Hannah Dickerson, Lakeland Village

Michael Leach, Decker Canyon