Defending the Desert

 

  

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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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Department of Interior Announces Secretarial Order for Huge National Mitigation Plan for Public Lands Everywhere

April 10, 2014 - As if the Solar Programmatic Environmental Review Statement and Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan weren't enough, the federal government has announced it will be working on a landscape-level mitigation framework to enable "balanced development" of wind, solar, oil, and natural gas on public lands. The plan will try to incorporate all other conservation plans nationally.

See the press release: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/secretary-jewell-offers-vision-for-conservation-balanced-development-youth-engagement-in-national-press-club-speech.cfm

Here is the report, A Strategy for Improving the Mitigation Policies and Practices of The Department of the Interior:

http://www.doi.gov/news/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=526203

Bird Mortality Report for Solar Projects Released

April 8, 2014 - Requests by intervenors in the California Energy Commission proceedings of the Palen solar project for US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) studies on avian mortality at large-scale solar power plants under construction in the California desert have been answered. The CEC released a forensics report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab on birds found dead at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, and the Genesis Solar Energy Project.

The report details how solar power towers may especially harm birds: "It appears that Ivanpah may act as a 'mega-trap,' attracting insects which in turn attract insect-eating birds, which are incapacitated by solar flux injury, thus attracting predators and creating an entire food chain
vulnerable to injury and death."

Going ahead with approval of new power towers such as Palen are problematic when so little is known about how they impact birds: "It must be emphasized that we currently have a very incomplete knowledge of the scope of avian mortality at these solar facilities. Challenges to data collection include: large facilities which are difficult to efficiently search for carcasses; vegetation and panels obscuring ground visibility; carcass loss due to scavenging; rapid degradation of carcass quality hindering cause of death and species determination; and inconsistent documentation of carcass history."

The report concludes: "Given these variables it is difficult to know the true scope of avian mortality at these facilities. The numbers of dead birds are likely underrepresented, perhaps vastly so. Observational and statistical studies to account for carcass loss may help us to gain a better sense of how many birds are being killed. Complete histories would help us to identify factors (such as vertical placement of mirrors) leading to mortalities. Continued monitoring is also advised as these facilities transition from construction to full operation. Of especial concern is the Ivanpah facility which was not fully-functioning at the time of the latest carcass submissions. In fact, all but 7 of the carcasses with solar flux injury and reported dates of collection were found at or prior to the USFWS site visit (October 21-24, 2013) and, therefore, represent flux mortality from a facility operating at only 33% capacity. Investigation into bat and insect mortalities at the power tower site should also be pursued."

See the report here: http://docketpublic.energy.ca.gov/PublicDocuments/09-AFC-07C/TN201977_20140407T161504_Center_Supplemental_Opposition_to_Motion.pdf

Resource Agencies Comment on Silurian Solar Project Application

April 8, 2014 - The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and National Park Service (NPS) sent comment letters to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on their concerns with large-scale solar development in the Silurian Valley.

The USFWS stated strongly that the impacts to desert tortoise connectivity, migratory birds and golden eagles were too great and recommended BLM reject the application since it was in a variance area. Large solar panel arrays would create lake-effects that could negatively impact migrating birds, the agency commented. Saratoga Springs, playa lakes, Salt Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and springs in the Kingston Range all served as stopovers for birds in the region. Birds flying into solar panels that look like water could cause deaths.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife similarly recommended against the project in this relatively undisturbed habitat for numerous special status species. Both agencies cited the lack of surveys of many birds and rare plants, and the number of golden eagle nests in the area.

The National Park Service comment letter can be seen >>here.

Silurian Valley Solar Project Public Meeting Report

April 5, 2014 - On March 27 the Bureau of Land Management held a "pre-meeting" in Barstow CA to gather comments on Iberdrola's application to build a large-scale photovoltaic power plant in a remote desert valley in lands outside of the Solar Programmatic Impact Statement designated Solar Energy Zones. Basin & Rage Watch attended >>here.

First Solar in Action: Tortoises in Ivanpah Valley Face the Beginning of Destruction Today

tortoise2

April 4, 2014 - This Friday, First Solar will start digging threatened desert tortoises out of their burrows on about 2,000 more acres of good quality habitat in Ivanpah Valley, California and Nevada. Then the bulldozers will grade the desert ecosystem here to make room for photovoltaic panels that should be going on urban settings. The Interior Department approved two more massive pubic land photovoltaic projects on a critical linkage habitat for the threatened desert tortoise, on public land. The projects are called Silver State South and Stateline.

New Rail Storage Proposal on the Spring Range, NV

March 29, 2014 - A rail energy storage system north of Pahrump, Nye and Clark Counties, Nevada, is in the beginning stages of examination by the Bureau of Land management.

The company ARES Nevada, LLC proposes to build the rail line in Carpenter Canyon in the Spring Mountains west of Mt. Charleston. The rail line would be 6 miles long. See the preliminary Plan of Development >>here.

Sign the Petition to Ask the White House to Protect Mojave National Preserve

February 17, 2014 - Bechtel proposes to build Soda Mountain Solar on 4,179 acres of public land adjacent to Mojave National Preserve, threatening the resources and landscape of this treasured unit of the National Park System.

Sign the Petition at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/protect-mojave-national-preserve-denying-bechtels-request-public-land-grant-build-its-soda-mountain/QVjW78fy

Renewable Energy Projects We Are Following:

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

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

 

Proposal for an Ivanpah Valley Area of Critical Environmental Concern >>here

SearchlightSearchlight Wind Energy Project

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

 

SilurianSilurian Valley Wind and Solar Energy Project

Iberdrola plans on various wind and solar projects in this remote Mojave Desert valley southeast of Death Valley National Park, San Bernardino County, California >>here.

UmaPalen Solar Electric Generating System

500 MW solar power plant in Chuckwalla Valley ten miles east of Desert Center, on good Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat. BrightSource Energy and Abengoa partners on project. >>here

 

Silver StateSilver State South Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, Clark County, Nevada >>here

 

statelineStateline Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, CA >>here

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

 

sodaSoda Mountain Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in San Bernardino County, California >>here

 

fsDesert Sunlight Solar Farm

Many applications for giant solar developments in this Colorado Desert area of Chuckwalla Valley in Riverside County, California >>here. (under construction)

 

GensisGenesis 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, California. Water is a concern. >>here (under construction)

 

McCoy Solar Power Project

750 MW photovoltaic project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County near Blythe, by NextEra Energy. >>here

 

BlytheBlythe Solar Power Project

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

 

 

I-10 Corridor Projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here

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)

 

Rice

Solar Reserve Rice Solar Energy Project

A 500-foot tall power tower in a remote California desert >>here.

 

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 at various locations. See >>here, and LADWP Solar Ranch; Northland Solar Project.

See also: Deepest Valley: The Story of Inyo Continues

ocotilloOcotillo Express Wind Facility

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

Spring 2011 Field Trip >>here

 

spring vallySpring Valley Wind Energy Project

Pattern Energy wants to build up to 85 giant 400-foot tall wind turbines in Spring Valley east of Ely, Nevada, 12 miles from the boundary of Great Basin National Park. The site is home to Pygmy rabbits, Sage grouse, and Pronghorn antelope. DEADLINE for Comments January 15, 2010! >>here (online)

 

tiptonMohave County Wind Farm Project

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

CalicoCalico Solar Project (SES Solar 1)

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

 

hidden hillsHidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's second solar thermal power tower proposal in Mesquite Valley, Inyo County CA >>here (not active)

 

eagleRio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility

BrightSource Energy's third solar thermal power tower proposal along the Colorado River near Blythe, San Bernardino County CA>>here (not active)

Abengoa Lathrop Wells Solar Facility

This project is no longer active. In Amargosa Valley, Nevada, a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant that may be upgraded to 500 MW, with 70 MW photovoltaic. >>here (withdrawn)

 

 

Imperial Valley Solar Project

This project is no longer active. 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, California >>here (withdrawn)

 

Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project

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

 

Pacific Solar Big Dune Photovoltaic Project

7,500-acre project in Amargosa Valley, Nevada, on rare and endemic beetle habitat >>here (not active)

 

AmargosaAmargosa Farm Road Project

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

 

 

Desert dandelionRidgecrest Solar Power Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal for Kern County, California, in the West Mojave Desert >>here. Updates page >>here (not active)

 

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

Robert Lundahl Films on Solar Issues, the Desert, and Indigenous Rights >>here

Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project

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

Wilson

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, Nevada 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

 

Storage Projects:

Eagle Mountain Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project

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

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, California >>here (not active)

Eldorado-Ivanpah Transmission Project

Southern California Edison proposal to upgrade and add lines in southern Nevada and eastern California 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 to coastal cities in San Diego County, but also tied to fossil fuel >>here (completed)

 

SCE Proposes 2 New Renewable Energy Transmission Projects in Mojave Desert >>here

 

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.

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Community Power: Decentralized Renewable Energy in California by Al Weinrub >>1.22 MB PDF

Science:

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

 

 

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

 

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

Water in the Desert: Wet-Cooling and Dry-Cooling Technology for Solar Thermal Projects >>here

 

 

 

Policy:

Prioritizing Where to Site Renewable Energy in California: California Energy Commission Workshop May 2012 >>here

Defining Disturbed and Degraded Lands for Renewable Energy >>here

Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO, UT >>here

Solar Done Right Response >>here

Solar Energy Study Areas

Bureau of Land Management plan to designate renewable energy zones in the desert Southwest >>here

West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Zone >>here

Good Plan, Too Late: Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan New Website >>here

BLM Announces Solar Rental Fees for Public Land >>here

Governor's Renewable Energy Policy Conference

March 24, 2010 at UC Riverside, California: Expediting Solar and Wind in the Desert >>here

 

Expediting Big Solar: Padilla Bill Signed Into Law at Harper Lake (Where CSP Plants May Be Fighting Over Water) >>here

Solar Energy Development on Federal Lands: The Road to Consensus

Congressional Field Hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Chaired by Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), hosted by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) >>here

Reid and Heller Introduce Competitive Lease Solar and Wind Bill for Public Lands >>here

Nevada: American Solar Energy Pilot Leasing Act of 2010 >>here

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

Fast-Tracking Renewable Energy

California Renewable Energy Coordination Offices, Renewable Energy Action Team, and the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here. California Fast-Track solar and wind projects >>here. November 2009 summary of projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here; more projects >>here

Nevada Fast-Track Projects >>here

Senator Feinstein Bill: California Desert Protection Act of 2010

Proposal for Mojave Trails National Monument and Sands to Snow National Monument, some new wilderness areas, some wilderness study areas removed, and a giant plan for a Mitigation Zone for renewable energy projects >>here. Abengoa Solar and Cogentrix Energy support the bill, according to the California Wilderness Coalition

January 2011: Senator Feinstein Crafts New California Desert Protection Bill Minus Solar Provisions >>here

All Renewable Energy Issues >>here

Summary of Solar

^March 2014 - Desert lily and Moonrise, Soda Mountains, San Bernardino County CA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calendar of Comment Deadlines

DEADLINE EXTENDED to May 28, 2014 - Comment to Bureau of Land Management on the Silurian Valley Solar Project in eastern San Bernardino County CA : email BLM_CA_Siluruan_Valley_Solar@blm.gov

Comment on the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA) of Inyo County CA >>Inyo County

Comment on Palen Solar Electric Generating System proceedings >CEC

New Website of Interest: Deepest Valley: The Story of Inyo Continues

Check Out the Watch East Kern Website - Good Information on Our Precious Desert Groundwater http://watcheastkern.info/

Visit to Los Angeles Dep of Water and Power Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch Proposed Site and Manzanar National Historic Site >>here

Visit to the Northland Power Independence Solar Project >>here

Comment on the Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch Project >>here

Please Sign the Petition: Save the Blythe Sacred Sites from Sprawling Energy Development and Solar Power Projects >>here

Photos of the Raptor Migration on the Searchlight Hills >>here

 

 

 

 

 

More Renewable Energy NEWS >>here

 

 

Desert Pavement: A Natural Soil Type >>here

Hiking the Desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Best In The Desert" 500-mile Off-road Race Vegas to Reno Starts August 20, 2010 >>here

 

MINING NEWS >>here

Reward Mine Gets Permit >>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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE CARTOONS >>here.

All text and photographs Copyright 2010 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.
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