Desert on the Proposed Silver State Solar Project Site

February 19, 2012 - Clark County, Nevada - In early March members of Basin and Range Watch toured the northern area of Ivanpah Valley within the nominated Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) is proposed. This area lies on the Nevada side of the border, and includes the giant proposed 13,042-acre Silver State South solar project and areas to the north that provide connectivity between core populations of the federally Threatened Agassiz's desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii).

Proposed Silver State Solar Project Site

^Window through Mojave yuccas (Yucca schidigera) looking at the Lucy Gray Mountains.

^Large Buckhorn chollas (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa) are common.

^View looking northwards across the Ivanpah Valley towards Jean. The Lucy Gray Mountains lie on the right. The solar photovoltaic plant would replace this desert.

^Yuccas on the alluvial fan of the Lucy Gray Mountains.

^The hard-packed gravel is alive with patches of biological soil crust, dormant during this dry winter.

^Close view of the crust above: squamulose lichens.

^Yuccas, Creosote (Larrea tridentata), and Bursage (Ambrosia dumosa).

^The alluvial fan, location of the northern part of the proposed photovoltaic footprint.

^Barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) and view looking northward.

^Rich Mojave Desert scrub, home to tortoises.

^A tree-like Mojave yucca.

^Mojave yucca.

^Buckhorn cholla.

^Buckhorn cholla, with a view towards the southwest, Primm, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System area, and Clark Mountain.

^Small animal burrow.

^Pencil cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima).

^Chollas, yuccas, and desert scrub, with the natural gas combined cycle power plant in the distance near Primm, Nevada. Despite the proximity to Primm, this area was undisturbed over most of the fan and valley floor.

^Yuccas and chollas near the Lucy Gray Mountains.

^The solar field would scrape this habitat. Roach Dry Lake lies in the distance. The Stateline Wilderness Area is in the distance in California.

^Buckhorn cholla.

^Only a few roads cross this fan and valley. This is a race route for one of the Terrible's 500 races, but we saw no trespass off the route. A few motorcycle tracks went up washes, but we estimated 1-5% of the area was disturbed on this fan east and north of Primm. A small off-road vehicle-impacted area exists next to Primm, but that area is small compared to the large amount of relatively pristine tortoise habitat here.

^Distant view from the solar project site looking northwest to the Spring Mountains.

^Pencil cholla.

^Cluster of Mojave yuccas.

North of the Project Proposal

Towards Jean on the east side of Roach Dry Lake the desert becomes flatter and then sandier, with a few small sand blow-ups on low rocky reef-hills. This may be excellent habitat for the rare White-margined penstemon (Penstemon albomarginatus), which may be warranted for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

^Sheep Mountain on the eastern side of Ivanpah Valley along the road from Jean to a quarry south.

^Looking west across Ivanpah Valley between Jean and Primm. The I-15 highway is barely visible, and the traffic not noticed.

^Tortoise burrows were common here, we found a few immediately upon walking into the desert.

^Desert tortoise burrow.

^Desert kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) tracks. in a sandy wash.

^Sand blow-ups on a low hill.

^A transmission corridor wraps around the north end of the Lucy Gray Mountains, attracting solar companies to Ivanpah Valley.

^View looking south towards Primm and Clark Mountain along the transmission corridor.

^The off-highway vehicle race route. The solar project would cut this route off, and another would have to be built to replace it.

^Ephedra (Ephedra sp) grows green in this dry year, looking southeast at the edge of the giant Right-of-Way along the Lucy Gray Mountains where a solar project is proposed.

^Creosote scrub near the Lucy Gray Mountains.

^Although crossed by a few linear features like transmission lines and dirt roads, most of this part of Ivanpah Valley is a fully functioning Mojave Desert ecosystem. Most of the distant fans in the middle distance would be the location of photovoltaic panels.

^Silver State North Solar Farm is almost completed, next to Primm.


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