A proposal by two Central Valley utilities to build a storage dam near Don Pedro Reservoir is on hold indefinitely.
The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts have petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to surrender their preliminary permit for the almost $2 billion Red Mountain Bar Pumped Storage project. The districts notified FERC in a letter dated Sept. 6 that they do not plan to move forward on the project.
TID and MID, co-operators of Don Pedro, filed jointly for the permit, though Reimers said Turlock is the lead agency for the project.
“As partners, both TID and MID continue to believe pumped storage is an important resource for the electric industry and that the Red Mountain Bar Project has great promise and is an excellent site for development,” she stated in an e-mail. “At the appropriate time, we believe the project will be an asset that can provide great benefit to our ratepayers and the region as a whole.”
The proposal called for pumping water uphill from Don Pedro to a smaller reservoir that would power a hydroelectric dam while the water runs back into the lake. The electricity generated at the smaller dam could power as many as 500,000 homes on MID and TID’s power grid during peak demand, according to estimates from last year.
The districts were looking to build the dam about three miles east of the lake. The smaller reservoir would have a capacity of approximately 2 percent of Don Pedro’s 2 million acre-feet of water.
TID and MID filed for the preliminary permit in February 2010. Tuolumne County then filed a motion with FERC to intervene in the process, seeking a place at the table since the project was proposed inside the county. In the motion, County Counsel Gregory Oliver stated that the project had the potential to affect recreational opportunities on the lake, affect fire and law enforcement resources and impact the environment. County officials wanted to be involved in the process to mitigate such impacts, according to the motion.
On Thursday, Oliver said the federal commission granted Tuolumne County its request to intervene, though Oliver said he doesn’t believe that was a major factor in halting the project.
If the utility districts eventually file for another permit to build the pumped storage project again, the county will request intervention, Oliver said.
“We weren’t necessarily opposed to the project. We had concerns,” he said. “They have a right at a future date … to come back to the table and try to get it permitted again.”