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Lake Elsinore-Wlidomar Patch, May 15, 2011

Feds Question Viability Of LEAPS Project
By Toni McAllister

The Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Project, otherwise known as the LEAPS Project, has hit a federal roadblock, and conservation groups and the local community are hoping the obstacle is impassable.

In a May 6 letter, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) referred to ongoing problems that raise doubts about the proposed project.

“Recent actions by The Nevada Hydro Company and Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District call into question the viability of the two entities’ joint application for a license for the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Project,” the letter stated. “The divergent views of the co-applicants are otherwise apparent. … These continuing differences raise the issue of whether it is in the public interest to continue to commit the Commission’s resources, and those of the other stakeholders, to processing the joint LEAPS application.”

According to the letter, the applicants have 30 days to provide an explanation of why the license application should not be dismissed.

The correspondence was the most recent setback for the project, which has been roundly condemned by conservation groups and the local community for its impacts on the environment and local residents.

“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 at night from Lake Elsinore to a proposed new dam that would be located at the crest of the Cleveland National Forest. The water would be released 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.

During an April 5 meeting in which several hundred residents congregated at Ortega High School in Lake Elsinore for a public meeting held by California Public Utilities Commission officials on the Talega-Escondido/Valley-Serrano 500 kV Interconnect Project, there was zero support for Nevada Hydro’s proposed project.

If fully constructed as proposed, the project would see nearly 32 miles of overhead power lines and 138 steel lattice towers stretching from the planned LEAPS facility, southward to SDG&E's existing 230 kV Talega-Escondido transmission line in San Diego County, and northward to SCE's 500 kV Valley-Serrano transmission line in Riverside County.

The LEAPS Project has also been plagued with problems outside of Lake Elsinore. 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.

Copyright © 2011 Patch. All Rights Reserved.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton