The Eagle Mountain landfill project is dead, but another massive project has desert residents, environmentalists, and some government agencies up in arms. According to a story in Friday’s Desert Sun, a controversial plan to build a hydroelectric plant in the open pits of an old iron mine was granted a license on Thursday by federal regulators. Reporter Dan Stork describes the project, and some objections to it…
The decision to permit the project at the abandoned Eagle Mountain mine prompted strong criticism from residents who say building two large reservoirs in the desert would severely deplete the water supply and harm the wildlife in adjacent Joshua Tree National Park. The decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was a significant step in years of efforts by Santa Monica-based Eagle Crest Energy Company to win government approvals and financial support for the project. The $1.5 billion project has drawn criticism from other federal agencies as well as environmental groups. The proposed Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project would involve pumping water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir during times when electricity from nearby solar plants and wind farms exceeds demands, and letting the water run downhill to generate power during other times when electricity is needed. In order to fill the reservoirs, water would be pumped from the aquifer in the Chuckwalla Valley over a period of four years. The president of Eagle Crest, Steve Lowe, said that the total amount of water that would eventually be needed is “less than 1 percent of what is estimated to be in the aquifer right now,” an estimate that is disputed by residents and environmentalists. A transmission line would need to run through Bureau of Land Management property, and that agency has yet to grant a permit. “We’re reviewing the license and we have significant concerns,” Andrea Compton, the acting superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park, said Thursday in response to the commission’s decision.

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