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For Immediate Release, January 31, 2007

John Buse, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 533-4416
Bill Corcoran, Sierra Club, (310) 490-3419

Energy Commission Recommends Flooding Scenic Canyon for 24-Story Dam

Massive Development Would Mar Cleveland National Forest

LOS ANGELES— In a staff report released yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommended building a huge new dam that would drown an oak-filled canyon area at the gateway to the San Mateo Wilderness. This latest version of the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage project would submerge a beautiful landscape and burden Cleveland National Forest with miles of power lines. In place of the project originally proposed by the dam’s sponsors, Nevada Hydro Company and Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, the Commission advanced a staggeringly expensive plan that fails to address the project’s destructive impacts.

“This report catalogs the numerous risks and hazards that have long marked the dam project as a loser,” said Bill Corcoran of the Sierra Club. “Because of its enormous costs both financially and environmentally, the Lake Elsinore dam is a bad deal for ratepayers, residents, and visitors to Cleveland National Forest.”

The dam project would pump water from Lake Elsinore to a higher-elevation reservoir, releasing the water to generate electricity during peak power demands. Nevada Hydro had originally proposed flooding Morrell Canyon, a favorite hiking destination in the Cleveland National Forest, to create the reservoir; this new plan would target nearby Decker Canyon instead, increasing the height of the dam by 60 feet to 240 feet—the height of a 24-story building. The dam’s concrete monolith would be visible for miles, and its reservoir would be surrounded by an eight-foot chain-link fence. Construction would increase wildfire risk, ruin scenic vistas with power lines strung along 170-foot metal towers, and put San Juan Capistrano at flood risk.

In its report, which will guide the five commissioners charged with approving or rejecting the project later this year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff highlighted many of the project’s serious flaws but did little to solve the problems.

“The environmental report for the Lake Elsinore dam presents a host of reasons to deny the project, but few that justify its approval,” said John Buse, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The report discloses such a troubling array of high costs and environmental risks that the project makes no sense. We hope the commissioners will hear the public’s concerns and reject this destructive dam.”

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