It looked like just another political skirmish between environmentalists and developers. The issue revolved around a controversial hydroelectric project near Oakhurst, California.
Specifically, the proposed $5.4 million hydroelectric project would be located on Lewis Fork Creek eight miles north of Oakhurst in Madera County on the Sierra National Forest. The creek environment includes the 80-foot Corlieu Waterfall and a national scenic trail and, because of its proximity to Highway 41, is a popular stopping point for travelers to Yosemite National Park.
Permits for small hydroelectric projects are required from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Forest Service. After some delay because of its concern over the scenic effects on the popular waterfall, the Forest Service approved the project on December 17, 1986.
Jerry Bishop, head of The California Save Our Streams Council, promptly appealed the Forest Service decision claiming the agency had been pressured by FERC and Vice President George Bush. Bishop also charged that no public hearings were ever held on the project.
It turns out that the hydro project developer, Alternative Energy Resources Inc., is headed by Dale Lucas and Bill Dyer. Dyer’s father, retired oilman Hector Dyer, has known George Bush for nearly 40 years. They were neighbors in Texas when Bill Dyer was a child and both families were involved in the oil business. Bush received separate letters from Hector and Bill Dyer last summer. Responding to the letters, Bush ordered aides to contact FERC and the Forest Service to try to speed up the project.
After initially denying Bush’s role in the project’s approval, a FERC official confirmed in March, 1987, that his agency acted at the request of Vice President Bush in threatening to bypass U.S. Forest Service approval of the project. It was after this threat from FERC that the Forest Service approved the project.
This story probably would deserve no more media coverage than it received in the FRESNO BEE if George Bush were just another low-level political official surreptitiously exerting his influence to help an old family friend make a buck. However, since Bush is the leading Republican candidate for president in next year’s election, one would think that such unethical political skullduggery would deserve some national media attention.
FRESNO BEE, 3/3/87, “Vice president’s hand seen in Yosemite hydro ruling,” p Al, and 3/4/87, “Official confirms Bush’s role in water ruling,” p Al, both by Lloyd G. Carter.