Defending the Desert

 

  

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Protecting the Basin and Range Province

 

WELCOME

Basin and Range Watch is a group of volunteers who live in the deserts of Nevada and California, working to stop the destruction of our desert homeland. Federal and many state agencies and some local governments are seeking to open up millions of acres of unspoiled habitat in our region to industrial renewable energy development. Our goal is to identify the problems of energy sprawl and find solutions that will preserve our natural ecosystems and open spaces. We support renewable energy but advocate for better national and state planning.

Come visit and experience the great beauty of spring wildflowers, vast open vistas, bird watching trails, and wildlife viewing.

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Eagle Crest Energy Company Purchases Land for its Hydro Project

July 2, 2015 - The company wanting to construct a 1,300-megawatt pumped hydroelectric storage project made a step forward by purchasing the old Eagle Mountain iron ore mine, an open pit next to Joshua Tree National Park. During the worst drought in California history, the project would use billions of gallons of groundwater to store in the mine pit but is expected to lose over 1,500 acre feet of water a year through seepage and evaporation.

http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2015/07/01/eagle-mountain-hydropower-plant-takes-big-step-forward/29597953/

Environmental Groups Sue to Halt Panoche Valley Solar Projecy

June 25, 2015 - San Benito County CA - The Sierra Club and the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society have reignited their effort to halt the $650 million, 2,400-acre Panoche Valley Solar Project by filing a lawsuit against San Benito County and the Board of Supervisors in local superior court, explaining that environmental impacts of the project still have not been adequately addressed. The environmental groups are challenging the certification of the final supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR) for the project, as well as the approval of the project's amended use permit. The groups claim the final environmental report for the project provides "inadequate mitigation measures regarding the Project's potentially significant environmental impacts to biological resources," such as wildlife and groundwater.


See: http://benitolink.com/environmental-groups-again-seek-halt-solar-project

Blythe Mesa Solar Project Lawsuit By Colorado River Indian Tribes

June 25, 2015 - Blythe CA - The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) launched a lawsuit over Riverside County's approval of a 3,600-acre solar energy project that the Tribes say failed to consider the impacts on cultural and natural resources. The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in county Superior Court, seeks to block development of the Blythe Mesa Solar Project. The project developer, Renewable Resources Group, is named as a defendant.


See: http://www.pe.com/articles/county-771385-project-tribes.html

Golden Sun Wind Project Proposed for Chuckwalla Bench

June 23, 2015 - Imperial County CA - Information obtained from the El Centro Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office indicates that the company Exelon intends to put in an application to build a wind project in the Chuckwalla Bench area of the Colorado Desert in California, a controversial location due to rare endemic Munz cholla (Opuntia munzii) and wild landscapes appreciated by desert hikers.

BLM has received a Plan of Development for a wind project on approximately 4,000 acres from the company but is delaying processing the application until after the final Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan comes out in winter. Desert tortoise presence-absence surveys were undertaken in spring of 2014, and 28 live tortoises were found, indicationg a total estimated population on the site of 67 adult tortoises. 11 tortoise carcasses were also found, having died during the past 1-2 years, apparently a larger die-off than in preceding years. Possibly a continuing drought in the desert and shell disease -- cutaneous dyskerotosis -- may be to blame. See more on the Chuckwalla Valley area >>here.

Aerial Views of the Desert

June 17, 2015 - EcoFlight took several beautiful photos over Silurian Valley and Soda Dry Lake in the California Desert. Contrast these large sweeping natural vistas with the fragmentation that occurs with large-scale solar power projects.

^Silurian Valley and Soda Mountain area of the Mojave Desert, San Bernardino County CA, photo courtesy EcoFlight.

^In contrast, an aerial photo of the Desert Sunligt Solar Farm on Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County CA. (Photo from http://www.intersolar.us/en/home.html)

Problems With Large-scale Solar Thermal Projects Operating

June 16, 2015 - A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted issues some of the large-scale concentrating solar thermal projects are having. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in San Bernardino County CA is only producing 40% of the power it was supposed to, mainly due to cloud cover and technical difficulties with the long steam pipe system. Basin & Range Watch had written comments during the early review of the project to the California Energy Commission back in 2009 and 2010 on how it was known at the time that the eastern Mojave desert areas had a stronger monsoonal flow in summer with more cloudy days, than the clearer West Mojave where older CSP plants have been operating since the 1980s.

Abengoa's Solana project in Arizona, a parabolic trough CSP plant, is underperforming by around 50%.

The photovoltaic California Valley Solar Farm in Kern County CA on Carrizo Plain is producing more electricity than rated for, although we wonder if this is due to being closer to the coast. Problems with flash flooding, dust, and intense heat might be hampering desert photovoltaic projects.

Los Angeles Does Not Want Power From Soda Mountain Solar Project

June 12, 2015 - San Berbardino County CA - In a surprising development, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the main utility that would purchase electricity from the Soda Mountain Solar Project, said Thursday the project would be too damaging to bighorn sheep and cost too much. LADWP owns the existing transmission lines that run through the valley. Bechtel, the company wishing to construct this project, said it would seek other utilities.

See the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-solar-20150612-story.html

Moving Towards Approval: Final Environmental Impact Statement Out for Soda Mountain Solar Project

June 6, 2015 - San Bernardino County CA - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), moving a step closer to approval and a Record of Decision which would allow the company Bechtel to build a 3-square mile photovoltaic project next to the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve, depsite objections by environmentalists and supportrs of the park unit. This project was one of the most strongly opposed large-scale projects in the desert since it will impact the beloved Preserve and hinder bighorn sheep movement between mountain ranges.

Mitigation is feeble, reducing the size of the project, setting aside funds for a potential overpass for sheep to cross the project and Interstate-15, as well as build drinking guzzlers for sheep.

See The Press Enterprise.

See the Final EIS on the BLM web page:

http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/barstow/renewableenergy/soda_mountain.html

See the National Parks and Conservation Association page on the project and a proposal for an Area of Critical Environmental Concern >>here.

Three Solar Projects with Expedited Approval on Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone

June 2, 2015 - Clark County NV - As part of an approved Solar Energy Zone under the federal Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the basin north of Las Vegas has had three solar companies bid on leasing land including the ability to build projects with expidited environmental review. These photos show parts of the 3,083 acres that have been approved for the development of three solar projects. All three projects were approved today by the Interior Department. They are on the recently established Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone on Bureau of Land Management Lands in Nevada. The Dry Lake Valley has many transmission lines running through it along with five natural gas plants in the area. While it has its share of disturbance, it still is a natural part of the Mojave Desert that will soon change even more for large-scale energy. More >>here

Sage Grouse Protection Plan

May 30, 2015 - Cheyenne WYO – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) on Thursday released final environmental reviews for proposed land use plans that they say will help conserve greater sage-grouse habitat and support "sustainable economic development on portions of public lands in 10 states across the West". The land management plans, developed during the past three years in partnership with states and with input from local partners have been controversial since some enviornmental groups decry the decision to make these "layered management" approaches instead of listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

See the US Deparetment of Interior press release; in the Federal Register.

Federal Agencies Consider Guidance for Take Permits for Migratory Bird Conservation Act

May 30, 2015 - The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering plans to permit migratory bird kills. It is now in the Federal Review process.


"We are considering approaches that will minimize the administrative burden of compliance with this regulatory process for industry, other Federal agencies, and the Service, and will also consider continuation of our current efforts to work with interested industry sectors to develop voluntary guidance for avoiding or minimizing incidental take of migratory birds. These approaches will not affect 50 CFR 21.15, which was issued to allow the Armed Forces to incidentally take migratory birds during military-readiness activities."


https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/05/26/2015-12666/migratory-bird-permits-programmatic-environmental-impact-statement

BrightSource Withdraws Hidden Hills Solar Power Tower Application

May 30, 2015 - Just a few days after Inyo County requested termination by the California Energy Commission of the Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System, BrightSource Energy sent in its withdrawal notice. This ends the project proposal.

Inyo County Asks to Terminate Hidden Hills Solar Power Tower

May 28, 2015 - Inyo County today requested the California Energy Commission terminate the Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System application, citing the county General Plan Amendment extensively analyzing land use and renewable energy development guidelines, especially the part of the resolution that would allow only photovoltaic installtions and not concentrated solar thermal plants. The plan amendment was partly funded by a CEC grant and is in concert with Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

See the letter to the California Energy Commission >>here.

Ivanpah Valley: Three Solar Projects

May 22, 2015 - San Bernardino County CA and Clark County NV - Our photos this month showing how largescale solar energy projects fragment Mojave Desert ecosystems: Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, Stateline Solar Farm, and Silver State South Solar Farm, >>here.

Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower Flux

May 21, 2015 -Tonopah NV - Good photo (above) by Jack Freer taken this month showing the intense solar flux around the tower of the SolarReserve solar power plant, as tens of thousands of mirrors concentrate the sun's rays toward areas around the receiver during testing.

News Archive: News page 2.....News page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

^May 2015 - A young desert bighorn sheep ram (Ovis canadensis) runs across a wide open creosote-bursage flat in Amargosa Valley, Nye County, Nevada. It may be trying to disperse from one mountain range to another across a basin, and keeping these spaces undeveloped is important to retaining connectivity of populations. A large solar energy zone is proposed for just north of this place.

General:

 

 

 

The Better Alternative: Rooftop Solar and Energy Efficiency (California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan) >>here - Sign the Petition

 

 

Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) >>here

 

Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO, UT >>here - Solar Done Right Response >>here

 

 

Inyo County Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment>>here

Las Vegas Resource Managament Plan >>here

Solar Projects (Active):

 

 

 

Blythe Solar Power Project

A huge 1,000 MW photovoltaic panel project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County with a 5,950 acre footprint. Cultural issues, Fringe-toed lizards, and Desert tortoise are concerns. >>here (under construction)

Crescent Dunes Solar Project

Solar Reserve Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. A 100 MW power tower project with molten salt storage, near Tonopah, Nevada >>here (under construction)

Desert Quartzite Solar Farm

A 2,500-acre photovoltaic project by First Solar near Blythe, in Riverside County, California >>here

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

A large-scale First Solar photovoltaic project in Colorado Desert area of Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, California >>here (in operation)

I-10 Corridor Projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here

Genesis Solar Energy Project

NextEra Energy proposes to build a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant near Ford Dry Lake in Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, CA. Water is a concern. >>here (under construction)

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource's solar thermal power tower proposal in Ivanpah Valley, San Bernardino County CA >>here Updates >>here (online)

McCoy Solar Power Project

750 MW photovoltaic project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County near Blythe CA, by NextEra Energy. >>here (under construction)

Owens Valley Solar Projects

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and private companies are planning on developing large-scale solar facilities in Owens Valley in eastern CA at various locations. See >>here, and LADWP Solar Ranch; Northland Solar Project.

Palen Solar Electric Generating System

500 MW solar power plant in Chuckwalla Valley ten miles east of Desert Center CA, on good Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat. Abengoa Solar. >>here

Silver State South Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, Clark County NV >>here (under construction)

Soda Mountain Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in San Bernardino County CA>>here

Last Spring at Soda Mountain? >>here

Stateline Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley CA >>here (under construction)

See also Ivanpah Updates page >>here; May 2011 >>here

Sunshine Valley Solar Project

A 110 MW photovoltaic project by First Solar on private land in Amargosa Valley NV that is close to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refgue. Federally Endangered Yuma clapper rails may be threatened by the "lake effect" of the solar panels >>here

Solar Demonstration Area in Nevada Test Site by Department of Energy >>here

Wind Projects (Active):

 

 

 

Ocotillo Express Wind Facility

Pattern Energy's project on the boundary of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Imperial County CA >>here (online)

Spring 2011 Field Trip >>here

Mohave County Wind Farm

On the White Hills and fan next to Lake Mead National Recreation Area in northwestern AZ, near Mt. Tipton Wilderness and by places where California condors have been sighted from Grand Canyon reintroductions >>here

Searchlight Wind Energy Project

Duke Energy's proposal to place giant wind turbines over the Searchlight Hills, Clark County NV >>here.

Silurian Valley Wind and Solar Project

Iberdrola plans on various wind and solar projects in this remote Mojave Desert valley southeast of Death Valley National Park, San Bernardino County, CA >>here. (Solar project rejected by Bureau of Land Management)

Spring Valley Wind Energy Project

Pattern Energy wants to build up to 85 giant 400-foot tall wind turbines in Spring Valley east of Ely NV, 12 miles from the boundary of Great Basin National Park. The site is home to Pygmy rabbits, Sage grouse, and Pronghorn antelope >>here (online)

Transmission Projects:

 

Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project

A large Southern California Edison transmission project from Barstow CA south along State Route 247 which would open up huge swaths of desert and threaten local communities with energy sprawl >>here

Eldorado-Ivanpah Transmission Project

Southern California Edison proposal to upgrade and add lines in southern NV and eastern CA in Ivanpah Valley, to deliver future renewable energy to coastal cities >>here (completed)

Sunrise Powerlink

Southern California proposed mega-powerline to supposedly link wind and solar in the eastern deserts and Baja, Mexico to coastal cities in San Diego County CA, but also tied to fossil fuel >>here (completed)

SCE Proposes two New Renewable Energy Transmission Projects in the Mojave Desert >>here

Inactive or Withdrawn Solar Projects:

 

Amargosa Farm Road Project

Proposal with storage in Amargosa Valley, Nye County NV >>here (not active)

Big Dune Solar Prohject

7,500-acre project in Amargosa Valley NV by Pacific Solar, on rare and endemic beetle habitat >>here (inactive)

Calico Solar Project

This project is larger than the city of Berkeley. K Road project by the proposed Cady Mountains Wilderness, San Bernardino County CA >>here. Updates >>here (withdrawn)

Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's second solar thermal power tower proposal in Mesquite Valley, Inyo County CA >>here (withdrawn)

Imperial Valley Solar Project

Former Tessera Stirling dish project on 6,500 acres sited on archaeologically sensitive Colorado Desert with Flat-tailed horned lizards, west of El Centro, Imperial County CA >>here (withdrawn)

Lathrop Wells Solar Facility

An older Abengoa application. In Amargosa Valle NV, a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant that may be upgraded to 500 MW, with 70 MW photovoltaic >>here (withdrawn)

Lucerne Valley Solar Project

Chevron Energy Solutions is proposing to build a 516-acre photovoltaic project on Mojave Desert with Joshua trees and tortoises in Lucerne Valley CA. Some call the area disturbed, but we disagree >>here (inactive)

Rice Solar Energy Project

A 500-foot tall power tower in a remote CA desert by Solar Reserve >>here (inactive)

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal for Kern County CA, in the West Mojave Desert >>here. Updates page >>here (terminated)

Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's third solar thermal power tower proposal along the Colorado River near Blythe, San Bernardino County CA>>here (inactive)

Inactive or Withdrawn Wind Projects:

Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project

RES proposal to place wind turbines on a roadless pristine mountain in San Bernardino County CA, home to the rare Ford's Indra swallowtail >>here

Wilson Creek/Table Mountain Wind Project

This project has been canceled. A proposed 990 MW wind farm on 30,000 acres of beautiful Great Basin mountain range with elk and sage grouse, a popular recreation area in Lincoln County NV near Pioche >>here (withdrawn)

 

Wind Project Impacts - Photos of Construction in the Mojave Desert and Tehachapi Grassland >>here

Wind Project Proposed for Eastern Edge of Joshua Tree National Park >>here

Inactive Transmission Projects:

 

Green Path North Transmission Project

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power high-voltage line would cut through Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in San Bernardino County CA >>here (not active)

Storage Projects:

 

Eagle Mountain Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project

An area that should be part of Joshua Tree National Park, in Riverside County CA. Related to the renewable energy projects along the I-10 corridor >>here

Better Renewable Energy Alternatives:

 

CALL to ACTION for ENERGY DEMOCRACY

Sign the Petition by Solar Done Right (scroll down to petition on left front page)

 

This initiative will bring citizens together to demand a more cost-effective, faster, less damaging, and more democratic path to renewable energy. Our goal is to move renewable energy development away from our ecologically rich and agriculturally important lands and onto rooftops and already-developed areas. Solar Done Right will take this petition to top energy policymakers in our government: the White House, Department of Interior, Department of Energy.

Rooftop Solar and Energy Efficiency (California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan) >>here - Sign the Petition

 

Science:

 

 

 

Desert Tortoise Recovery: Science and Politics Clash >>here

New Desert Tortoise Species Described, Mojave Population Unique, Implications for Big Solar and Conservation >>here

Revised Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Fails to Address Renewable Energy Sprawl >>here

Golden Eagle Research in the Desert: Renewable Energy Impacts >>here

BRW Recommends Agencies Follow the Final Report of the Independant Science Advisors to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here

Desert Pavement: A Natural Soil Type >>here

Sand Lizards of the Desert: Fringe-toed Lizards >>here

Flat-tailed Horned Lizard in Trouble in Imperial Valley, California >>here

Evolutionary Hotsports in the Mojave Desert >>here

Carbon Sequestration in the Desert: Dr. Michael Allen Paper on Gaps in Desert Research >>here

Letter From an Ecologist: Solar Development Threatens the Desert >>here

Renewable Energy Issues >>here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calendar of Comment Deadlines

Luning Solar Energy Project in Mineral County NVEnvironmental Assessment deadline June 8, 2015 >>BLM

Soda Mountain Solar Project protest before Record of Decision July 4, 2015 >>BLM

Of Interest:

Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here

Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project in the California Desert >>here

Robert Lundahl Film: "Who Are My People?" >>here

 

 

 

 

More Renewable Energy NEWS >>here

 

 

 

Hiking the Desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINING NEWS >>here

 

 

 

 

"In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe."

--Edward Abbey, 1967, Desert Solitaire

 

"Polite conversationalists leave no mark, save the scar upon the earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."

--David Brower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE CARTOONS >>here.

All text and photographs Copyright 2014 Basin and Range Watch unless otherwise stated. Basin and Range Watch is an all-volunteer group which does not accept donations from any corporation, individual, or entity.
Web Design by Laura Cunningham, Basin and Range Watch.