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For Immediate Release, July 12, 2011

Contacts:   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

Federal Regulators Dismiss Controversial Southern California Dam Project

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif.— The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today dismissed a proposed dam and hydroelectric project in Southern California’s Cleveland National Forest that would have severely damaged the environment, wildlife habitat and the area’s rural character. The Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage Project, or LEAPS, has been beset with problems since its inception: Opposition has been continuous, while financial and regulatory difficulties have also plagued the project.

“This dam project was an ecological and economic catastrophe waiting to happen,” said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hopefully today’s decision dismissing the application will be the final nail in its coffin.”

The LEAPS project, proposed by the Nevada Hydro Company and the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, 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. It also proposes power lines that would cut across roadless wildlands and rural communities in the Santa Ana Mountains.

"We can't relax yet, but after 15 years of fighting we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, signaling relief from the threat of this monstrosity," said Gene Frick of the Sierra Club’s Santa Ana Mountains Task Force.

The project 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 State Water Resources Control Board denied the project’s water-quality certificate, which has now embroiled the project in a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court (Case No. 37-2011-88797).

The LEAPS project was also the subject of a grand jury investigation in 2009, which concluded that the project was “not economically viable” and was the result of loose contracting procedures by the local water district. Unfortunately, the failed LEAPS permit process has cost Elsinore Valley’s water district and its ratepayers more than $4 million.

“On behalf of water quality issues, Inland Empire Waterkeeper is thrilled to hear that the environmentally and economically sound decision has been made to abandon this poorly-planned project” said Rachael Hamilton, Inland Empire Waterkeeper.

Applicants have 30 days to request a rehearing of today’s FERC decision. An application before the California Public Utilities Commission to approve the power-line portion of the LEAPS Project (the Talega-Escondido/Valley-Serrano 500 kV Interconnect Project) still faces strong opposition by environmental groups, local residents and state utilities.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Sierra Club is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the nation’s natural resources.

Inland Empire Waterkeeper is a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing and protecting the water quality of the upper Santa Ana River watershed and other waterways of the Inland Empire. 

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