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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

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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