Pumped Storage

What’s Happening

In recent months two massive pumped storage proposals have come to the Eastern Sierra’s public lands, bringing with them potential impacts to important cultural areas, wildlands, and fish and wildlife habitats in Inyo and Mono County.

Owens Valley Pumped Storage

Three different amendments over four months included proposals with reservoirs located in the John Muir Wilderness, the Congressionally designated Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and in Forest Service proposed recommended wilderness, as well as penstocks and tunnels across Wilderness Study Areas and other culturally and ecologically sensitive areas. Due to local opposition and numerous resource conflicts the project proponent withdrew their application in August of 2019.

Haiwee Pumped Storage

Proposes to use water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct and requires construction of two new reservoirs, located either on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Inyo National Forest. One alternative upper reservoir site in the Haiwee Canyon west of Highway 395, overlapping with a recommended wilderness addition to the South Sierra Wilderness on the Inyo National Forest. The project’s two other alternative upper reservoirs are east of Highway 395 in a place of key significance to Native American tribes in the Eastern Sierra. The reservoirs are also located with Conservation Lands, Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and Lands with Wilderness Characteristics. The preliminary application was accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September of 2019.

We can only expect this game of pumped storage project “whack-a-mole” to continue as private industry pursues opportunities for pumped storage projects across wild locations throughout California, including Inyo and Mono Counties. These pumped storage proposals are part of a larger energy development vision for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power operations including upgraded transmission lines and potential new solar installations in the Owens Valley. 

Why It Matters

Friends of the Inyo believes in the urgent need to move away from fossil-fueled energy. We are encouraged by the increased interest in the development of new sources of renewable energy (RE) and evaluate RE projects on a case by case basis on public lands. Although we need to act quickly to combat climate change, renewable energy projects should not destroy the Eastern Sierra’s natural resources and outdoor economy and must be properly sited.

Unfortunately the projects recently proposed for pumped storage do not make sense here because we lack the infrastructure of existing renewable energy power. Furthermore the Owens Valley and Haiwee Pumped Storage proposals have significant conflicts with existing land use management designations and adverse impacts to species as well as cultural and recreational resources.

What We’re Doing About It

Friends of the Inyo submitted preliminary comments to FERC indicating the conflicts and challenges of the Owens Valley Pumped Storage project. Due to the Mobilization of local community activists also submitting comments and generating press attention the project proponent withdrew their application in August 2019.

Friends of the Inyo continues to challenge the Haiwee Pumped Storage proposal located in Southern Inyo County and is in close communication with lead agencies and organizations working on the effort. 

Take Action

Read the Project Documents

Visit the FREC website and search
for docket number P-14991. 

Send a Letter

Send a letter to the
Inyo County Board of Supervisors

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Updates

Eastern Sierra Pumped Storage Projects Update

Premium Energy Holdings, LLC (PE) is proposing two massive pumped storage projects in the Eastern Sierra that could impact local communities, recreational uses, and habitats in Inyo and Mono County. Pumped storage involves pumping water up-slope during times of low energy demand/high energy production and then releasing it (in pipes or tunnels) downhill to power turbines and generate electricity when additional energy is required. On May 24, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that regulates hydropower projects including pumped storage, rejected the company’s application that proposed multiple “closed-loop” reservoir/pum systems within Wheeler Ridge’s John Muir Wilderness.  This proposal would…

Pump Storage threat comes to the Eastern Sierra

Through a public notice and the diligence of our members and supporters, we recently learned of a proposal submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for construction of a large pump storage facility in the Wheeler Crest, Rock Creek and Owens River Gorge. Pump storage involves pumping water up-slope during times of low energy use/high energy production and then releasing it (in pipes in this case) downhill to create electricity when additional energy is required. This massive proposed project would impact the communities of Round Valley, Paradise and Swall Meadows. The project is within habitat for the endangered Sierra…