Interior Department considers expanding national monument in order to halt development of hydropower plant
In 1950, Congress passed a law carving out a portion of the desert within Joshua Tree National Monument for the newly opened iron mine at Eagle Mountain. More than three decades after the mine shut down in 1982, the National Park Service is now considering whether to expand Joshua Tree National Park to preserve a portion of those lands surrounding the old mine.
Park officials are weighing several alternatives that would add between 22,135 acres and 28,600 acres to Joshua Tree, an expansion of roughly 3 percent for the 790,636-acre park.
“This is an effort to say, ‘Wow, this is a special area surrounded by national park. Maybe we should manage that a little bit differently,’” said David Smith, the superintendent of the park.
The federal lands that would be added to the park now fall under the Bureau of Land Management. If the park is enlarged, the change would push the park boundary closer to the old mine — and near a proposed hydropower plant that park officials have warned could threaten water supplies and wildlife.
The proposed Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project would involve building reservoirs in the vacant mine’s open pits and filling them with water from the desert aquifer. Santa Monica-based Eagle Crest Energy Company plans to pump water from a lower reservoir to a higher reservoir during times when electricity from nearby solar plants and wind farms exceeds demands, and then let the water run downhill to generate power during other times when electricity is needed.
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Reposted by Reagangirl.com 5/9/14