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.”
The report proposes burying miles of the project’s transmission lines to avoid conflicts with hang glider users who enjoy soaring on the slopes above Lake Elsinore. Even with the proposal to underground the transmission lines, concerns remain. “The LEAPS project still puts our forest at risk even though it proposes some under grounding of power transmission lines to reduce the risk to hang gliders,” say Mike Hilberath, Vice President of the Lake Elsinore Hang Gliding Association. “It is interesting that FERC even considered having the entire transmission line underground but pulled back due to prohibitive costs.”
The Irvine Corona Expressway is or was a proposed alternate to SR91 between Orange County, specifically Irvine, and Corona in Riverside County. The major part of this project was to be an 11 mile tunnel through the Santa Ana Mountains. Two significant events have occurred in the last few months which dim the outlook for this project, which is good news for the environmental community. First, the western half of the Mid-county Parkway- the Riverside County access road for the eastern tunnel exit, has been cancelled by the Riverside County Transportation Authority (RCTC). According to the RCTC, the reason was negative public reaction to the Draft Environmental Impact Report. SAMTF comments on the DEIR were devastating. The second event was the completion of the geotechnical study for the tunnel by the Kleinfelder consulting firm. The report stated that "there were no fatal flaws" in the proposal but that the tunnel ventilation problem was challenging. As an engineer, I translate this to "probably if enough cash is thrown at the project" it might be possible. Since the initial cost estimate was $8.6 Billion, I wouldn't hold my breath. Kleinfelder in fact stated that "The potential for moving forward using only public funding sources is unlikely due to significant construction and operational costs." SAMTF will remain watchful for further developments in this ill-advised idea.
The proposed Liberty quarry project would be more than just one of the the largest open pit mines (1 mile wide, 1000' deep) in the US.
It will be a huge industrial complex; 2 asphalt plants, cement batch plant and more. In addition to the pollution from blasting (100,000 lbs of explosives per week) , fugitive dust and airborne crystalline silica, 1600 gravel truck trips per day on local roadways, 130,000,000 gallons of new water annually, and much more, this project is adjacent to the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve; 4400 acres owned by SDSU since the early 60's. This quarry, operating 6 days a week, 20 hrs a day, for 75 years would destroy this reserve. The reserve has been used for more than 300 national and international research projects by scientists and students in a variety of fields. This quarry project would sever the last wildlife corridor connecting the coastal Santa Anna Mtns to the inland Palomar Mountains in Southern California. A ground water study shows certain pollution to the Santa Margarita River, last free flowing river in Southern California and drinking water to Camp Pendleton Marine Base.
There is much much more to say about this TOXIC project. It is the wrong project in the WRONG location.