Feds: Hydropower project by Joshua Tree National Park won’t hurt environment

Feds: Hydropower project by Joshua Tree National Park won’t hurt environment
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Federal officials have determined a proposed hydropower project near Joshua Tree National Park won’t harm the environment. 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a “finding of no significant impact” late Thursday for the proposed Eagle Mountain hydroelectric plant near the southern California park, the Desert Sun reports

Supporters of Eagle Crest Energy Co.’s project say the plant will provide more renewable energy to the electric grid in California, which has a goal of generating 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

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The proposal is a pumped storage hydropower project, a plant that pumps water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir during times of low electricity demand for use later.

Hydropower supporters have looked to grow the use of pumped storage plants in the United States and are pushing lawmakers and regulators to streamline the permitting process for those facilities. 

In a statement, the National Hydropower Association called the Eagle Mountain proposal a “prime example of hydropower’s untapped growth potential to create jobs and provide more clean energy.”

Federal regulators have been considering Eagle Mountain’s environmental impact since before last year’s presidential election, and the Sun reports that the BLM was expected to issue a finding of no significant impact even before President Trump took office. 

Eagle Crest has high-profile allies, such as Gov. Jerry Brown (D), Democrats in the state Assembly and U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.). 

But conservationists in the state worry about its impact on Joshua Tree, a popular national park that surrounds the proposed Eagle Mountain development on three sides. 

Joshua Tree’s superintendent asked the BLM to conduct a more intense environmental review of the project, and the National Park Service is reportedly attempting to annex land around the project site to prevent future development.

Lawsuits against the project, which is awaiting final approval, are also likely.