The Searchlight Wind Farm
^Looking northward across the Piute-El Dorado Area of Critical Environmental Concern toward hills that are slated for wind farms. This is prime Desert tortoise habitat.
December 25, 2008 - Searchlight, Nevada.
This month the Bureau of Land Management announced plans to start the environmental review process that will enable Catamount Energy Corporation to build a large wind farm on low ranges and hills around the small town of Searchlight, Clark County, Nevada. The first scoping meeting occurred on January 27 in Searchlight -- see our story >>here.
156- 160 turbines would be placed on public land, generating up to 359 megawatts of energy, about the maximum output of the San Gorgonio wind farm just outside of Palm Springs, California. Each turbine would tower 262 feet tall.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) avidly supports the wind development next to his home town. The project may cost $600 million, and would partly serve Las Vegas an hour to the north. Yet the project will only create 15 full-time jobs. See the article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal >>here.
Desert Hills and Yucca Basins
The proposed wind farm will be situated next to the Piute-Eldorado Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which is Desert tortoise critical habitat. New transmission lines will apparently have to be placed across the ACEC.
See more at Bureau of Land Management Las Vegas office website.
Plan of Development for this wind farm.
National Park Service, Lake Mead National Recreation Area's letter of concern >>here.
COMMENTS are WANTED from the PUBLIC -- this is your land!
Comment deadline is February 17, 2009
CONTACT: For further information and to have your name added to the mailing list, call BLM's Mark Chandler, (702) 515-5064.
Send comments to this address (you may copy and paste the letter below or write your own):
Dear Mr. Chandler,
The proposed wind farm facility near Searchlight, Nevada, [Federal Register Notice: LLNV050000-L51010000.ER0000.F8740000; NVN-084626; 09-08807; TAS: 14X5017] will change the character of this part of the Mojave Desert forever. While alternative energy is a good investment, it belongs in areas that have already been developed, not on ecologically sensitive public lands. The projected cost of the facility is 600 million dollars yet it is only expected to create 15 full time jobs. Such an investment is not worth the effort when it will cause so much damage to the scenery, biological diversity, archeology and property values to the area it is proposed for. The project is located too close to the Piute-El Dorado Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Desert tortoise, gila monsters, bighorn sheep, and many species of bats and birds will be killed or disturbed by this project. Individual desert tortoise on neighboring ACEC lands will wander into the project area. Stress from development and movement of tortoises could contribute to upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) and certain shell diseases. The Searchlight area is along the Colorado River migration corridor for geese and ducks between Canada, the Great Salt Lake, and south to Mexico. Many of these birds may be killed by the turbines. The project will be visible from the highway as well as wilderness areas and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The lower Colorado River region is rich in archeological sites which will be destroyed by the blasting and construction of roads and trenches. The Plan of Development is incomplete. It only lists a fraction of the species that will be impacted by the project. There will need to be complete surveys on all sensitive species. The Environmental Impact Statement will need to address the following issues:
-Bird mortality from wind turbines
-Bat mortality from wind turbines
-Impacts on bighorn sheep
-Full surveys on gila monster populations
-Towers as perches for ravens preying on desert tortoise
-Impacts of construction on desert tortoise
-Fragmentation of habitat for all species
-Destruction of all archaeological sites
-Native American concerns
-Impacts to scenery from highways, national parks, and wilderness areas
-Impacts to night sky scenery from flashing lights
-Impacts to private property values and quality of life for local residents
-Leaking oil from wind turbines into ecosystem
-The amount of water that will be needed for construction and operation of the facility
-Transmission line that will need to be constructed on other public lands and Right of Ways in the Piute El Dorado ACEC
(Name and address here)
^Map of the Searchlight wind project: red dots are the turbines, connected by new roads (light blue), and upgraded existing roads (red); the green line will be a new connecting powerline, to substations (purple squares); the yellow squares will be 10-acre scraped and paved "lay-down" areas for equipment; the large pink line will be a large transmission line. The tan line running north-south is US Highway 95. Interestingly, the areas of white land are private properties, the owners of which apparently not yet contacted by BLM concerning the construction. This blue boundary seems to match the "keyhole" within the Piute-ElDorado ACEC, below.
^The wind project will fit fairly exactly into the "keyhole" inside the Piute-ElDorado ACEC (yellow), critical habitat for the threatened Desert tortoise. Other colored areas are various wildernesses in far southern Nevada. The Nevada/California border lies on the left, and the Colorado River on the right.
^Rock art is abundant in the ranges near Searchlight.
^Petroglyphs near Searchlight.
^Apricot mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), blooming by the Newberry Mountains south of Searchlight.
^The Newberry Mountains in the Piute-ElDorado ACEC, just south of the hills that will be developed into a wind farm at Searchlight. The Colorado Desert lies on the other side.
^Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera).
^I found this Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) in a wash in the Piute-El Dorado ACEC south of Searchlight. This is the only part of Nevada where these large snakes are found.
^Wash habitat of Diamondback rattlesnakes near Searchlight.
^This area of southern Nevada is also Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) territory. Seldom see, these reptiles stay in burrows most of the time and come aboveground often after warm spring and summer rains.
^Creosote and bursage flats south of Searchlight, critical habitat for Desert tortoises.
^Sunrise over Colorado River mountains.
^Washes and hills next to Searchlight, leading eastward into the valley of the Colorado River and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Arizona hills lie in the distance.
^Desert bighorn ram next to Mojave yuccas.
^Desert candle (Stanleya pinnata).
^Mojave yucca group in the Piute-El Dorado ACEC.
^Dusk by the Newberry Mountains.
^Lightning storms regularly hit this desert in summer.
^Looking east towards Searchlight from the Piute Range in Mojave National Preserve, San Bernardino County, California.