Revived Lake Elsinore hydroelectric project renews fears over popular lake’s future
By David Downey
A $2 billion plan for a Lake Elsinore hydroelectric plant and new reservoir in the mountains above the Riverside County town is no less controversial the second time around.
Many residents of the surrounding region thought they had seen the last of the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage project, also known by its acronym, LEAPS. It was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in July 2011.
But a few months ago, the project proponent, north San Diego County-based Nevada Hydro Co., filed a new application with the federal agency.
A comment period closed late last year. It generated dozens of letters, many in opposition. Among those expressing reservations were influential people and agencies, including Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, Riverside County, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the city of Lake Elsinore.
Many letter writers called for additional studies. Some demanded the energy regulatory commission order the company to prepare an entirely new environmental report and not rely on a previous one.
New environmental study?
In a Jan. 3 letter, Timothy Konnert, chief of the federal commission’s West Branch Division of Hydropower Licensing, acknowledged the requests and said the agency is reviewing the need for more study.
Konnert also asked Nevada Hydro to correct about two dozen deficiencies in its application within 90 days.
Those range from details about how the lake would be operated to how the firm would comply with a Forest Service rule barring road construction in roadless areas. The upper reservoir would be built in one such area: Decker Canyon.
Company spokesman Paul O’Neal said the firm doesn’t anticipate having to do a new study, but will prepare one if necessary. In any event, he said, information about impacts will be updated.
O’Neal said the company isn’t concerned about deficiencies.
“The deficiencies are merely questions that they have about the application […]