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Local Residents And Environmental Groups Blast Proposed Energy Project

The Talega-Escondido/Valley-Serrano 500 kV Interconnect/LEAPS Project saw no support from local residents during a public meeting Tuesday night.

A standing-room-only crowd of several hundred residents from Lake Elsinore and surrounding communities gathered Tuesday evening to send this strong message to California Public Utilities Commission officials: A proposed hydro-electric project would be an environmental disaster for the area and should be stopped.

The residents congregated at Ortega High School in Lake Elsinore for a public meeting held by CPUC officials on the Talega-Escondido/Valley-Serrano 500 kV Interconnect Project. If constructed, the project would see nearly 32 miles of overhead power lines and 138 steel lattice towers stretching from the proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Storage Project (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 electrical transmission line and towers would wind through the Cleveland National Forest, just west of Lake Elsinore and other Southwest Riverside cities.

The project is still in the environmental review stages, and the purpose of Tuesday's meeting was to gather public comment.

During the meeting, Lake Elsinore Unified School District board member Jeanie Corral condemned the project’s high environmental risks and low returns to the community.

“You’re putting an entire ecosystem at risk,” she said. “None of the electricity generated will give jobs to our community or give power to our community.”

Lake Elsinore resident Chris Hyland cited questionable intentions by project applicant The Nevada Hydro Company.

“This whole project is a scam,” she said, calling out the years of combative back-and-forth between the company and the community.

The Nevada Hydro Company filed an application with the CPUC on October 9, 2007, to construct the TE/VS project. The LEAPS project dates back to the late 1980s and is inextricably tied to the TE/VS proposal: Both projects together are considered as a single proposal on the TE/VS application and for evaluating environmental impacts.

But from the onset the project has been met with criticism from residents and environmental groups who cite a litany of problems, including irreparable harm to wildlife and endangered species, increased fire risk from downed lines, decreased property values, seismic concerns, health risks associated with overhead lines, project costs (which by some estimates exceed $1 billion), and more.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Jonathan Evans, a staff attorney for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, criticized TNHC’s proposal to build lines through sensitive forest lands.

“They’ve chosen the most environmentally destructive path possible,” he said. “We need to tell TNHC to support clean energy alternatives.”

Gene Frick, who represents Friends of the Forest --Trabuco District and Santa Rosa Plateau, chastised the CPUC officials repeatedly for not recording public comments during Tuesday's meeting.

“Why are we commenting if no one is recording what we’re saying?” he said, calling the process and the project “unconscionable.”

Frick also criticized the portion of the project proposal that calls for dam and reservoir construction at Decker Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest.

“There are no public meetings scheduled in Orange County,” Frick said, noting that if the proposed dam were to give way or spill, Orange County residents could be in peril. “Dams do break.”

Of the dozens who spoke out during Tuesday's meeting, no one expressed support for the project, and none of the TNHC principals came forward.

The CPUC is seeking public comments on the proposal through April 29. According to the project schedule, the CPUC will publish an Environmental Impact Report late this year, and public comments on the report will be heard next spring. A final EIR is expected April 2012.

The CPUC is holding another local public meeting Wednesday April 6 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Murrieta Community Center, 41810 Juniper St.

To see get more information on the project, click here.

To request additional information, contact:

Andrew Barnsdale, CPUC Project Manager
c/o Aspen Environmental Group
235 Montgomery Street, Suite 935
San Francisco, CA 94104
Fax or Voicemail: (877) 202-2820
Email: interconnect@aspeneg.com

Mary Baker April 06, 2011 at 05:12 PM
This project would be an environmental disaster to our community. Does anyone know if the Butterfield Elementary School site was sold for this project? I think they call this project the Talega-Escondido/Valley-Serrano 500 kV Interconnect Project, so that the residents of Lake Elsinore would not know of its impact in our community.
Susan Cramer April 06, 2011 at 06:14 PM
The text of the Notice of Public Scopings Meetings is here ~ http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/Environment/info/aspen/nevadahydro/nop.pdf
Michelle Deskin April 06, 2011 at 10:29 PM
Forget the EPA, what is the cost to taxpayers & will it "Be better for our environment" in the long run.... I hate to point out the Obvious to the EPA residents, however, maybe the EPA in Washington D.C. has mandated other ways for the utilties to get gas, water & electricity from anouther way or source. Our environment has been fine for years & proved there is no Global Warning. If we concentrate on our own families, we will have happier families that can train their kids or grandchildren to Be Respectful to places they visit, work in, play in & thus improving their lives & others. Just a thought......:-)
Warren April 07, 2011 at 03:40 AM
Why is it being built in the Lake Elsinore area if we (residents) aren't getting any benefit other than negative ones? Why is EVMWD so interested in supporting this project? $$$$$$ I seem to remember them putting a lot of money into the feasibility plans! Is the power line to the substation at Corydon and Mission Trail going to be above ground? That's just what we need, more ugly power poles.
Debra S April 07, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Just say "NO"! EVMWD wants this so they can get approval for LEAPS. NO - Ugly powerlines NO - LEAPS
Debra S April 07, 2011 at 05:55 PM
If anyone hasn't read the NOP Scopings Meetings you should. TY Susan for the link.
Susan Cramer April 07, 2011 at 07:56 PM
From what I saw (maps, schematics, arial pics) and heard of the proposed project at the recent Public Scope Meetings, there would be little benefit and many negative issues. I don't know why EVMWD support LEAPS and the TE/VS power lines proposal. We should publicly ask EVMWD if they are now supporting the project and why. The list of supporters of this project found on the Internet may be outdated. This recent application by The Nevada Hydro Company (TNHC) is considered a new one. Project was denied without prejudice many times before and changes should be reviewed before EVMWD or others say they support it. But, they can tell us why they supported it before, if they will. I think all of those "closed door" sessions previously have gone by the wayside and EVMWD might respond with more transparency this time. The recent Scope meetings were with CPUC to help them in their study to see IF they should grant the application for the proposed project by TNHC. And, it was just about the environmental impact and not the monetary consideration. It was not informing us that the project was going to be built. The CPUC is the judicial board, not part of or hired by TNHC or part of the project. They are there to evaluate many things, including what effect/benefit to our area. Many many many at the meeting Wednesday afternoon were passionate about NO ugly power lines; inlcuding the fact they are not only ugly, but an actual and intense hindrance to fire control efforts.
Susan Cramer April 07, 2011 at 08:32 PM
At the Wednesday (4-5-11) meeting, John Pecora explained that the property to be used is at Santa Rosa Drive at Grand Avenue. He said if you look from the "hairpin" curve from Ortega Hwy down to the lake's shore, that is the place of the proposed LEAPS project. If you want a map to see the "hairpin" turn to the Santa Rosa Drive area, put in Butterfield School address into Mapquest or other map. 16275 Grand Avenue, Lake Elsinore 92530. Who owns that property was not released and there was no proof that Butterfield Elementary was closed for the purpose of the LEAPS project. And, they call it the TE/VS project because those lines currently exits. They also call it the LEAPS project, but that part does NOT currently exist. They are considered one project for the benefit of TNHC's application. This article kind of explains it in the second paragraph. http://blogs.pe.com/news/digest/2011/04/murrieta-second-of-two-forest.html The existing Valley-Serrano power lines are owned by SCE. The existing Talega-Escondido power lines are owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Company. The proposed 500 kilovolt transmission line would link San Diego Gas & Electric Company's transmission system with Southern California Edison, so they call it TE/VS. And, they are considering other avenues of connecting those two existing power lines. I would think for the sake of future organization, that is an appropriate name for the interconnect project.
Susan Cramer April 07, 2011 at 09:12 PM
I saw this document that may answer why the EVMWD, many local city Chamber of Commerce organizations, and other big names support a TE/VS Interrconect project through their area. Mind you, it IS NOT talking about the current application by The Nevada Hydro Company. It is dated 2006 and updated June 2010, and TNHC application was denied. But, the first couple of paragraphs gives some explanantion of why a business would want to provide part of an interstate power grid. ~ http://www.ferc.gov/media/news-releases/2008/2008-1/03-20-08-E-6.asp. "The U.S. needs increased investment in the interstate power grid, both to assure reliability and support competitive wholesale power markets. . . . "EPAct 2005 directed FERC to establish incentive rules to encourage greater investment in the nation's aging transmission infrastructure, promote electric power reliability and lower costs for consumers by reducing transmission congestion." There was one man giving comments at the CPUC meetings presenting an alternative to the LEAPS project. He told of the Inland Energy Center in Romoland and seems to think it can possibly be interesting in the interrconnect of the TE/VS power lines.
Susan Cramer April 07, 2011 at 09:13 PM
And, for clarification, CPUC is jurisdiction for the power lines interconnect and FERC handles investigation of the LEAPS project. However, the interconnect project and the power facility project are combined into one for the sake of the proposal by The Nevada Hydro Company (TNHC). That is because the LEAPS project (FERC's concern) can not operate on its own without power lines that is the CPUC regulated interconnect project.
Debra S April 07, 2011 at 10:39 PM
At one point ENRON was involved in this project. Now if that doesn't send up warning flags...
Martha L. Bridges April 08, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Everyone please take note. We had a great turnout at both meetings and CPUC heard our objections loud and clear, but our concerns have NOT been recorded and will NOT be considered in the decision making process. The CPUC basically went through the motions and provided a chance for citizens to vent, but that will do no good in the long run. Anyone interested in stopping these projects needs to WRITE A LETTER or SEND AN E-MAIL to the address supplied at the end of the original article. In either case, you should request that your letter or e-mail be "entered into the formal CEQA record for the project". This is the only way your objections will be considered. You have to have the letter or e-mail delivered before April 29th, 2011. That is the deadline for CPUC to close formal public comments. Don't wait until the last minute. Time is running out. Do it now to make it count. I urge everyone to take action now. Make your objections known. It is far more important to get them recorded in the formal record than to comment here in the PATCH.
Susan Cramer April 08, 2011 at 01:27 PM
True, Martha, Writing a letter or an e-mail or sending a fax to Andrew Barnsdale as listed in the article above is a great action. However, if people want to comment here, then we can send this article with responses to them and ask to be heard. They did say at the meeting that it is good to be in groups to comment and discuss. I say tell everyboyd to get involved any way they can. If that means reading and commenting here, tell all your friends to do that. We can send this entire link to them as proof of citizens concerns and comments. Even if you just sign onto a comment already made with, "I agree" or "Me, too!" or anything, we can send this entire link with comments to the CPUC to be heard en masse. Let's make this count !
Martha L. Bridges April 08, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Susan, I agree that the commenting is a great way to express our concerns, and appreciate that it helps bring the community together and feel empowered. It is a wonderful service that PATCH is providing. My suggestion was meant to let people know that if their comments and objections are not put in written form and submitted before the deadline they will not be added to the CEQA record and thus will not be taken into consideration. Should legal action become necessary, only those objections documented in the official CEQA record before the close of the comment period can be actionable items in a lawsuit. I'm not an attorney, but believe the law is clear on this point. I urge people to flood the CPUC with their letters and e-mails, and be as specific as possible about their concerns and objections. EVMWD and Nevada Hydro have sunk millions of dollars into these two projects, and they will continue to do everything possible to get them approved. They are concerned about profits, and clearly don't care about the dangers to our environment or the potential damage to our area. It will take a huge amount of letters and e-mails to counteract their investment and powerful political connections. Now is the time to act.
Debra S April 08, 2011 at 03:23 PM
I sent my Objections of the project by email listed at the end of the above article. Whether emailing or writing everyone needs to include their full name, address & phone number to make your complaint valid.
Martha L. Bridges April 08, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Debra S Yes, that is very important, which is why just sending a copy of this article and the comments will not produce something acceptable for the formal CEQA record. The comments posted here on PATCH are much like the verbal comments made at the two meetings. They may get your concerns out to the community, but they are not recorded and counted in the formal record.
seamus April 09, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Having a Hydro Electric dam sounds like a great way to lower rates and provide clean energy jobs, how do we get one that works for us..Are we going to compromise..or just get a used one from japan..wow something might happen in the Diamond patch?
George Cambero April 09, 2011 at 06:00 PM
LEAPS is been a pipe dream of EVMWD and instead of pumping water to us they've been pumping money to TNHC using of course taxpayer's money by increasing water rates. Back in time EVMWD signed an agreeemnt with TNHC given then an exclusive right to the project or signing the deed of the project and open the taxpayer bank account for their own use why because TNHC did not have any money.Most recent 07/2010 TNHC submmited an aplication to built the power lines. without naming their partner in Crime EVMWD which follow a protest filing by evmwd to the office of the governor saying that the CPUC did not have jurisdiction over the project and to say that they were the owners of the project. the response was that the CPUC did have jurisdition over this type of project.During the hearing the CPUC judge said that TNHC have the right over the project because of the 1997 agreement giving TNHC exclusive right over the project.so EVMWD is out and the money is gone. how much $ 4/6/10 million who knows nothing is transparant legal litigation will be ongoing costing more millions. how can we cure this mess - Have you been watching the proceeding over the city of BELL. keep an eye to the 2112 elections... Phil Williams / Harvey Ryan need to go for the better of our water district and consider recalling the rest.
Martha L. Bridges April 10, 2011 at 01:22 AM
George nails the problems. He has been involved in our area for 30 + years and knows the history and the water issues. This whole mess is the result of rampant personal greed and political ambitions…all at continual expense to the taxpayers. EVMWD customers have paid for the LEAPS folly with the astronomical rise in our water bills. We will be paying for the huge amount of money spent on LEAPS, including the ongoing expenses and fees of the legal battles with Nevada Hydro, and CPUC. EVMWD directors recently displayed a total disregard for the public interest by voting for combining the two local water companies without getting and providing adequate engineering reports to estimate the real cost of replacing the MWD infrastructure. Customers will undoubtedly pay for all those unknown costs too. The current directors serve their own personal interests, not those of the general public or EVMWD’s customer base. The 2012 elections will provide us the opportunity to examine all elected officials performance and vote the bad ones out of office. We need to get rid of those directors, old and new, who do not serve the interest of the people.
Ace September 10, 2011 at 10:18 PM
I've always believed the underlying issue is to aquire right-aways for transmission lines through the national forest instead of building power plats in California. LEAPS will neve happen and FERC has put the nail in the coffin even before the EVMWD district killed the 4 million dollar bait and switch scam. If you have not figured out their motivation, I won't bother to say as I like my vehicles undamaged.

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