For Immediate Release, August 8, 2019

Contact:

Ross Middlemiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 599-2743, rmiddlemiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Dan Silver, Endangered Habitats League, (213) 804-2750, dsilverla@me.com

Legal Action Opposes Federal Approval of Southern California Dam

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif.— Conservation groups today filed a motion with federal energy regulators to intervene in opposition to a controversial plan to build a new dam in Southern California’s Santa Ana Mountains. The project, located on the border of Orange and Riverside counties, would include a reservoir and hydropower project that will cut through roadless areas, inundate forests and threaten endangered species.

Today’s motion comes as the Nevada Hydro Corporation seeks Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage (LEAPS) project. LEAPS has been proposed several times over the past two decades as an energy-storage project focused on renewable energy generation, but regulators have rejected it repeatedly.

“This project would wreak havoc on Lake Elsinore, the Cleveland National Forest and surrounding communities,” said Ross Middlemiss, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal regulators should end this ill-conceived boondoggle once and for all.”

The LEAPS hydroelectric project calls for pumping water from Lake Elsinore to a new dam on the crest of the Cleveland National Forest at night and then releasing that water during the day to power turbines to generate electricity. The applicant, Nevada Hydro, also proposes more than 30 miles of transmission lines that would cut through roadless areas of Cleveland National Forest, Camp Pendleton Marine Base and rural communities.

“This is not a true renewable energy solution but a scheme to generate profit at the expense of wildlife habitat,” said Dan Silver, executive director of the Endangered Habitats League.

The new dam and reservoir would inundate more than 120 acres of oak woodlands and chaparral on the edge of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness in the Cleveland National Forest. The hydropower project and powerlines would threaten a range of sensitive wildlife species, such as the federally endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly and Stephens’ kangaroo rat.

The State Water Resources Control Board previously denied the project’s water-quality certificate, and the LEAPS transmission line has been rejected by the California Public Utilities Commission.

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.

The motion to intervene in opposition to LEAPS was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Habitats League and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. The city of Lake Elsinore and countless local citizens and community groups have also voiced opposition to the project.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Endangered Habitats League is a tax-exempt non-profit California corporation dedicated to the conservation of native ecosystems and to sustainable land use and transportation planning.

The San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society for almost all of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties focused on the protection of natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, and public education about the environment.