Tuesday, February 27, 2018

• Close to 100 People Attend Anti-LEAPS Meeting

This is dealing with a very comprehensive topic, that of LEAPS, which is an acronym for Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage. If you're new to the topic, it's a biggin
A packed house for the LEAPS meeting at the VFW.
I'll be the first one to tell you that I didn't know much more than the average person before the meeting. Now I know a little bit more than the average person when it comes to LEAPS, it's that complicated.

What isn't complicated is the premise. 

A premise that is quite old by this point in 2018, and one that I'd thought was killed off ten years ago. I remember laughing over the absurdity of it before Wildomar even became a city.

In short, the scheme envisions building a 5,000 acre feet reservoir in Decker Canyon. 
I looked all over the internet for an actual photo of the area, but came up empty. This is from google images of the area. The red circle is [part of] Decker Canyon. The yellow star is where I took a photo of Decker Canyon from South Main Divide (below), and the blue star is where I took a photo from Decker Canyon Road (also below). The red street marker on Grand is where the pump station was said to be going in (photo below), currently an empty field just south of Santa Rosa Drive.
The idea is to then pump water from Lake Elsinore up to it at night, then let it flow back to the lake during peak hours (presumably between 2:00pm and 8:00pm) when electricity rates are highest.
This photo was taken off of Decker Canyon Road, from the approximate location indicated by the blue star in the graphic above. The arrow is pointing to the location of the yellow star in the previously mentioned graphic.
This photo was taken from South Main Divide, indicated by the yellow star in the graphic above. The arrow is pointing to the location of the blue star (see graphic up above). It's hard to judge by this photo, but the arrow is several hundred feet lower than the spot where the picture was taken.
It was declared that this project would NOT generate any [net] energy at all. 

In fact, the figures given by the speaker, John Pecora, stated that LEAPS would only recover 85% of the energy expended while getting the water to the upper reservoir when it's released for its midday journey back to the lake.
John Pecora spoke to those in attendance. He had a no nonsense approach, but still came off as a friendly person even after he'd tell a person with an off topic question, "We're not going to talk about that right now, we can talk about that in discussion". Which started after 8pm, once the meeting had concluded. 

He reiterated, more than once, that he wasn't there to talk about how the project functions, the merits of the project, or whether he likes the project or not. He was there to help with how to file paper work about how the project will be affecting them, and in seeking compensation.
In other words, if they spend 100 units getting the water up, they only get back 85 units as it comes back down.
Sounds like one of those "offers you can't refuse".
How is that a good thing?

It's certainly not about the environment, conservation, ecology, or green energy. 

It's about money. 

Pump the water up at night, at a net loss of electricity, and then collect higher fees from the rate payers as it trickles back down in the peak times. 

Pretty clever... pretty cagey... pretty slimy in the real world.

Oh, and if this wasn't enough on it's own, anyone remember ENRON? 

Yeah, according to what was said at the meeting, one of the key players in this is a former ENRON guy. He's the LEAPS project manager, David Kates.
 This is a 3-d map of the Falls Fire dated 2013. I'm using it to give you a different perspective of the area. Also that it's been home to many fires over the years. The red area is where Decker Canyon is located, and the proposed location of a 5,000 acre feet reservoir.
As I said at the top of the blog, this is a weighty subject, and if you want more details, I'll post links at the bottom of the page for you to explore. Including one to a facebook page where you can get details from people that better know the topic.
This empty field, at Grand and Santa Rosa Drive in Lakeland Village, is the location that John Pecora indicated would be the future location of the pumping station/powerhouse.
I'll paraphrase key notes I took during the meeting, there were many:
Nevada Hydro is seeking to use a 2006 environmental report/document for the current application.
 Next phase is NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) which requires the applicant to work in harmony with the environment and the community.
 There are about 40 to 45 pump storage projects licensed in the USA. Only 12 of those are 500 Mega Watts or greater, like the LEAPS. Of those 12, only one is built by an existing lake — Michigan. The amount of water that project uses is insignificant to the level of the water in Lake Michigan.
FYI, according to Google, when asking how much water is in Lake Michigan, the answer came back as:
1,180 mi² 

When I asked the same question about Lake Elsinore, the answer was a bit smaller:
43.44 mi²

Basic math tells us that you could fit [at least] 27 Lake Elsinores into 1 Lake Michigan.
 Everyone one of those projects were built in areas where no people lived. Not one was built in a populated area.
A pump storage project the size of LEAPS has never been licensed to this point. 
My apologies for the blurry photo. Apparently my Samsung doesn't do so well in low light conditions. This was shared at the meeting denoting the 12 500MW, or greater, pump storage projects in the USA.
In order to build this project, they will be using a chemical called Rotenone to kill and remove all the fish. Probably remain without fish for at least a year.

• During construction of the reservoir and damn, truckloads of dirt will be hauled from from Santa Rosa Drive, up Ortega Highway, south on South Main Divide and dumped at Decker Canyon, from 6:00am to 3:00pm, at a clip of every six minutes. A total of 2.5 million cubic feet of dirt will be moved. 

• The approximate surface of the reservoir is said to be about 100-200 acres. Lake Elsinore is about 3,500 acres. In brief, the lake is shallow, and the reservoir will be deep.
• There will be a daily "tidal action" at the lake, which will expose a "muddy expanse of shoreline" for a period of time while the water is released down the hill.
• They have to maintain the lake at between 1240-1245 elevation. If they can't provide a contract showing they can get the necessary water, they cannot get a permit.
•  Contrary to rumors that the electricity will be heading to San Diego, the electricity will just be going to the grid.
• The entire project will be underground.
Form letters don't work as well as personal letters/emails, and phone calls, that outline how the project will adversely affect you.
The lake will be closed between one and two years during construction.
• The project will be crossing an active earthquake fault.
"Read the NEPA documents, on almost every page, there is a reference to harmonious with humans. Now everybody hates the EPA, everybody hates NEPA, but you have to remember, most of the [pump storage] projects that are licensed by FERC are in rural areas, there aren't a whole lot of people around. 

This (LEAPS) is different, this is in the middle of a heavily populated area with property owners around the lake." 

—John Pecora, February 26, 2018
Brief Tangent Time:
Many have heard me rail about the misnomer of this area being called "rural" and though it most certainly was at one point, that ship has sailed long ago.

From what I got from the meeting, John Pecora lives in a relatively remote area, but still can recognize that we are in a "highly populated area", which runs completely against the quaint notion that we are somehow rural at the same time.

Last comment

I was impressed with Mr. Pecora. He was articulate, knew his subject inside and out, had a good disposition, seemed to have a good sense of humor, was patient and delivered his points with a positive attitude. It was obvious that the local officials, that attended the meeting, respected what he had to say. 

It sure would be nice if [most of] the local activists in Wildomar had even a tenth of this man's class. Imagine what they could accomplish... but I digress.
These are contacts of the key figures, and John Pecora encouraged those impacted to
try calling them and be ready to explain your damages and what compensation you want.

Other facts
• The city of Lake Elsinore, the County of Riverside, EVMWD, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, US Representative Ken Clavert, among others, have all gone on the record being against this project. 
• The project is suing EVMWD.
Until I went up there to take some photos of Decker Canyon, I'd never used South Main Divide... not even when it was called Killen Trail. Always too busy just trying to get to work, or get back home. Wow, such great views to the east, of the lake, as much as the ones to the west, Decker Canyon.
After the hour long meeting, I went up to Lake Elsinore city councilmember Steve Manos and asked his take on the meeting, if the info seemed legit.

The information, seems to me, to be pretty solid. It was good information and I think that people should put in their requests for compensation [to Nevada Hydro] if it happens, but for us (the City of Lake Elsinore) we're not asking for compensation, we just don't want it (the project). 

—Steve Manos, Lake Elsinore City Council Member
This is the first page you see when you visit the LEAPS Hydro webpage. The gall to claim they will be providing "clean, reliable power" when it'll produce a net loss of 15% when the scores are tallied up. A link to this page is provided below.
If you'd like to join the Stop LEAPS Facebook page, here is the link.

Link to the Official Response (288 pages) by LEAPS Hydro, dated December 17, 2017

Link to LEAPS Hydro (the picture above)

•                •                •

Sometimes it is not enough that we do our best; we must do what is required.
– Winston Churchill 

Yet again, Wildomar Rap has exceeded the requirements.


  1. Good and factual information. Thank you. Please keep it coming.

  2. Just my opinion, one would think the City of Lake Elsinore would be in opposition and want compensation. The city is spending millions of dollars on the lake for recreation. How is it that the shoreline will be affected without causing loss in tourism, fishing and closure up to two years?

    1. The city is most definitely in opposition, and I was told that they didn't ask for compensation (at this point) because they don't want such a move to be seen as accepting the project, or capitulating to the demands of Nevada Hydro. If, at some point, this project does get an approval and moves forward, the city will be there with a laundry list of compensation demands.

      From talking to Steve Manos, at this point in the process, it's premature to ask for compensation.

  3. Hi Joseph.
    This is a good summary of the meeting. Thanks for sending your reporting staff to the event.
    It looks like you resolved the 500 MW question. Since our last conversation, I looked through a few documents so I'm 100% certain of my answer -- it's a 500 Megawatt plant. Also, I gave you a different answer about the fish kills and lake draining than what they gave at the meeting. That part surprised me, and here's why: The 2006 Draft EIS and 2007 EIS both mention killing or reducing fish population and drawing down the lake during construction, but the FERC alternative said no, build a coffer dam instead. (I suspect that building a temporary, water-tight dam using neighboring properties, is more expensive than unplugging the lake.) So, in my layman's view, I believe that the FERC alternative is the one that will get approved, but in truth, the FERC alternative is the one that "more likely" will get approved. As long as "kill the fish" is in the 2007 EIS, which Nevada Hydro wants to use as currently written, then others have a right to worry about the fish poisoning and draining the lake.

    I also like your characterization of John Pecora. I've known him since 2005 because of this project. He also ran for Water Board as a opposition to LEAPS candidate.

    I could also add that pumped storage is a viable means of capturing renewable energy, but it must be tightly coupled to solar or wind energy sources and it's development cost must be low enough that the plant can afford to buy less reliable wind and solar to fill the reservoir. LEAPS, by virtue of its location, will be so expensive that it will operate at ~$126,000,000 (million) loss per year. The burden should be on Nevada Hydro to show how they will pump at night (and other off hours) using enough solar and wind power to make LEAPS a true storage battery of excess renewable energy. It's just as likely that it will be cheaper and more reliable to use excess generating capacity from fossil fuel power plants.

    So why this location? By getting a power plant approved, FERC can also authorize a transmission line. LEAPS is between the SCE and SDGE grids, meaning Nevada Hydro gets the real money maker: a transmission line connecting the two grids, made cheap by generous use of National Forest land.

    Sincerely, John Garrett, writing from the rural community of Wildomar :)

    1. John,

      I always enjoy reading your replies, good info mixed with good humor.


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