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EVMWD, Nevada Hydro settlement provides water for Lake Elsinore

 

Last updated 11/6/2018 at 7:26pm

Kim Harris

According to a settlement between Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District and Nevada Hydro, low water levels and lake quality in Lake Elsinore could become a thing of the past.

According to a press release from Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, a settlement has been reached after six years of litigation between EVMWD and Nevada Hydro, regarding the development of a proposed hydroelectric project in Lake Elsinore.

We have agreed to the settlement to protect EVMWD's ratepayers from the costs of ongoing litigation and to avoid exposure to millions in damages," said John D. Vega, general manager for EVMWD.

According to EVMWD, the San Diego County Superior Court subsequently entered a consent judgment approving the settlement agreement.

The two organizations now are working to finalize a supply of new imported water for Lake Elsinore through a water services agreement. Subject to availability, the EVMWD will procure and supply water required to fuel the project but is not a partner in the project.

According to the settlement, EVMWD, as the water procurement and management agency for Lake Elsinore, will facilitate water services regarding up to 15,000 acre-feet of imported water, subject to availability and paid for by Nevada Hydro. The Project will pay for up to 9,000 acre-feet to promote the stabilization of Lake Elsinore's water level, up to 6,000 acre-feet for the new Decker Canyon reservoir, and additional water to replenish evaporative loss.

"We wanted to alleviate any fear in the community over water depth," Nevada Hydro representative John Sparks said. "This agreement will help access new, good quality water for the lake to stabilize water levels, which is a win-win for everyone. Additionally, we hope this will help improve the quality of the water in the lake. We are committed to working with local agencies and governments to help restore Lake Elsinore and to being a good community partner."

In October 2017, Nevada Hydro filed its Final License Application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Lake Elsinore-based pumped storage hydro project.

According to Sparks, the renewal of the project and the new FERC application, combined with the involvement of their global energy investment firm creates new opportunities for discussion and mutual benefit.

Some members of the community haven't been convinced, voicing opposition with major concerns in open meetings and on social media. In addition to the concern of possible decreasing water levels, which should be resolved with the settlement, there are concerns relating to the aesthetics of the project, transmission lines and potential fire danger from the transmission lines.

In addition to the lengthy and rigorous FERC application and review process, the project team has been assembling suppliers, consultants, and scientists to complete or update the studies and plans requested by the community and FERC," Sparks said. "This includes studies of potential impacts on Lake Elsinore water quantity and quality, seismic and geotechnical research, biological assessment, fire risk, visual impacts, traffic and transmission route options, and cultural resource updates."

The company has commissioned research by University of California Riverside into the impacts of this significant addition of water to Lake Elsinore. Preliminary results are currently being reviewed by local water agencies and will be reported soon. Lake Elsinore has historically suffered from various water quality issues stemming from its shallow depth and lack of aeration. Paul O'Neal, a representative for the project says, "Experts suggest the water transfer between the two reservoirs could actually improve aeration of the lake and help reduce ongoing issues such as fish kills and algal overgrowth. The upper reservoir could also contribute to efforts to maintain water levels in times of drought." The company says Project operations will not pose any harm to boaters, humans, fish or recreation on the lake.

"Our goal is to be accessible and keep stakeholders informed throughout the FERC process," Sparks said. He said that Nevada Hydro expects to hold the first of a series of community meetings once FERC has approved the study plans submitted in September and the regulatory process is clearly defined. In the interim, newsletters, studies and filings can be found on the Project website at www.leapshydro.com.

Valley News Staff can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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