The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks Formally Protests Eagle Crest Gen-Tie Project to Protect Joshua Tree NP
On June 3, 2017, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition) joined the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and The Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders) to submit to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) a formal protest regarding the Eagle Crest Energy Gen-Tie and Water Supply Pipeline Project (“Gen-Tie Project”). The protest opposes issuing to the Eagle Crest Energy Company rights-of-way (ROWs) over federal public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) required for water and electric transmission lines to support construction of a large-scale pumped storage hydroelectric project adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.
In short, the Coalition, NPCA and Defenders assert that: (1) the proposed California Desert Conservation Area Plan amendment for the project is inconsistent with applicable laws, regulations, planning documents and policies, particularly the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and (2) the associated Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact prepared for the proposed action are legally inadequate and inconsistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Accordingly, we’ve requested that BLM withdraw the defective NEPA documents and deny the proposed plan amendment and project.
Briefly, Eagle Crest Energy proposes to construct and operate a water resources pumped storage hydroelectric generation facility on approximately 2,500 acres of federal and private land adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park, and operate it for a 50-year period in an area that is extremely arid. Water for the project would be pumped from the nearby Upper Chuckwalla Valley aquifer, whose watershed extends into Joshua Tree NP and receives approximately 4.1 inches of rainfall per year. The project would create man made reservoirs in two large former iron ore mine pits by pumping water into the higher elevation pit during low electricity demand periods, and releasing water through electricity generating turbines to the lower elevation pit during times of higher electricity demand. Water supply pipelines to the reservoirs and the necessary electrical transmission lines would run through the proposed ROWs. It is important to acknowledge that the Gen-Tie Project is not itself a renewable energy facility that contributes to achievement of California’s Renewable energy goals. Rather, by definition and design, it is a net energy-losing private arbitrage project that may have the potential for managing minor grid reliability by providing storage capacity to meet some demand deficits created by potential intermittent energy generation.
Of primary interest to the Coalition are potential direct and indirect adverse impacts that the ROWs could cause to Joshua Tree NPs water resources, wildlife, cultural resources and vegetation as a result of creating two expansive man made reservoirs adjacent to the park.