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Showing posts from July, 2010

Calico Solar Evidentiary Hearing Scheduled for 4 August

The California Energy Commission (CEC) announced that it will hold an evidentiary hearings for the proposed Calicor Solar power project on 4 August beginning at 12 noon.  The hearings may extend into 5 and 6 August, as well.  The hearings will be held in Barstow -- details copied at the bottom of this post below.   You can also find the details at the CEC Calico Solar site here.

As noted in previous posts on the Calico Solar power project, the impact of the project on wildlife in the Mojave Desert will be significant.  The site is home to dozens of desert tortoises, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, and foraging habitat for bighorn sheep. 

Information for the evidentiary hearings:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 12:00 noon, and continuing into the evening hours, if necessary.
and on
Thursday, August 5 and Friday, August 6, 2010, beginning each day at 9 a.m.

Location:
Hampton Inn & Suites Barstow
2710 Lenwood Road
Barstow, CA 92311

Could CDPA 2010 Hitch a Ride With Another Sensible Renewable Energy Bill?

I keep coming back to the prognosis for the passage of the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, or S.2921) because even if I am pessimistic about its chances, I know Washington is an unpredictable arena where one has to keep an eye open for opportunities.  Part of me believes CDPA 2010 is unlikely to be considered by Congress this year.  As I've noted in previous posts, Senator Feinstein's proposed CDPA 2010 is still stuck in the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, and Congress has plenty of business to consider in a relatively short amount of time, meaning that the bill faces an uphill battle.

However, there may be a fleeting window for the Senator's office to establish the two national monuments and host of other off-road recreation and wilderness designations included in CDPA 2010 by including her language in legislation that is more likely to be considered before the full Congress before the end of the year.  It appears that Congress is mu…

Governor Dismisses Mojave Wilderness; CDPA 2010 Left Out of Recent Committee Action

You heard it here already -- the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010, or S. 2921) was going to face a lot of hurdles this year, and its chances of making it out of the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources were slim.  However, I found it frustrating to read today that the Senate Committee delivered 18 bills and may deliver another 11 before the Senate recess in August.  CDPA 2010 was not among this list of bills for delivery.  Given the broad support that CDPA 2010 receives from communities, recreation enthusiasts and even energy companies, it was still surprising that CDPA 2010 was not included on the Senate Committee's list of business before August recess.   After Congress resumes business in September, there will not be much time left to conduct legislative business, further reducing the chances that CDPA 2010 will be passed this year.

Meanwhile, the Governor of California mocked the need to protect threatened and endangered species--to include the …

Aldo Leopold

I'm reading Mitch Tobin's Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink, and so far I am definitely enjoying the book and learning a lot.  One quote that Tobin uses is attributed to Aldo Leopold, who made a statement that should give us pause in our feverish efforts to change and fragment our final remaining wilderness:

"The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not.  If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering."

This quote reminded me of criticisms by proponents of increased industrialization and urbanization of open spaces in the Mojave Desert, arguing that the desert tortoise, Mohave ground squirrel, or Mojave milkweed do not deserve to be given …

Beacon Solar Approved to Operate in Mojave Desert

In the California Energy Commission's (CEC) first decision among several proposed solar projects under consideration, Beacon Solar was given approval to operate on a portion of former agricultural land near California City, located in the West Mojave Desert.  The Beacon Solar proposal came under scrutiny because it will not use dry-cooling technology, which means it will use 1,400 acre-feet of water per year to cool down the fluid heated by the solar array to produce energy.  That amounts to approximately 456 million gallons of water a year in a State that is historically pushing the limits of its water supply and demand curve, and its not clear that recycled water is a condition of Beacon Solar's certification.

One of the conditions of certification upheld in the presiding member's proposed decision (subject to a 30-day comment period now) includes a number of rules governing Beacon Solar's use of water, to include mandating netting over its evaporation ponds (which c…

Desert Tortoise Photo Exhibit

The Kelso Depot in the Mojave National Preserve is hosting a photo exhibit featuring pictures taken by high school students of desert tortoises in the Mojave.  The exhibit runs from early May until 7 August, so you still have a couple of weeks left to check it out.

Info:

Tortoises Through the Lens:  A Conservation Exhibition by Mojave Desert Students
May 2 - August 7, 2010

Kelso Depot Visitor Center, Mojave National Preserve

Woodland

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Joshua Tree woodland in the Mojave National Preserve

San Bernardino County Opposed to Conservation; Supports Corporations Pilfering Public Land

According to the minutes from the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisor's meeting from 13 July, the County approved a position requesting that Federal Agencies avoid purchasing private land for conservation purposes, and also requested that additional land be set aside for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use.  At the end of the day, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors showed just how short-sighted their policy decisions are, and supported a subsidy for corporations that are swallowing up open space and desert wilderness for their own profit.

Summary:  We (the County Supervisors) support industrial scale development of pristine, public desert wilderness, but we do not want you to conserve additional land in order to off-set the damage.  We should, however, allow more OHV use, which is well known to destroy wilderness.  Net effect: Less wilderness, less wildlife, less camping, less hiking, less photography,  less beautiful vistas, less nature, less open space, less natural …

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project Consideration Suspended for Two Years

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According to a letter submitted by Solar Millennium, the company has asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) to temporarily suspend the application review of its proposed Ridgecrest Solar Power project.  As noted previously on this blog, the Ridgecrest Solar power project could fragment critical Mohave Ground Squirrel habitat and harm a healthy desert tortoise population.  

Solar Millennium intends to use the suspension period to conduct an intensive study of the Mohave Ground Squirrel--aided by a known expert on the species--to shed light on the population and behavior in the vicinity of Ridgecrest beginning in Spring 2011 and run for two years.  In its letter, Solar Millennium stated its plans to restart the application for the Ridgecrest site if the study finds that construction will not significantly impact the Mohave Ground Squirrel.   The company could use the study to find a configuration for the site (or perhaps an alternative location) that would be less likely to draw o…

Newberry Springs Solar Proposal Draws Opposition

A proposal to construct a 3 Mega-Watt solar power station in Newberry Springs--which was conditionally approved by the San Bernardino County Planning Commission earlier this year--is drawing opposition from neighbors who contend that the Rural Living zoning of the area should preclude industrial scale solar projects.  The site, which would encompass 80 acres and would be built by Solutions for Utilities, is located among disturbed and fallow agricultural land west of the proposed Calico Solar Power project site.  The opposition to the Solutions for Utilities project brings attention to a developing angle in the "solar rush" taking place in the Mojave--pressure placed on rural communities to accept the industrial scale development that should not occur in pristine wilderness, but that would disrupt quality of life in more populated areas.

The appeal by the opponents of the site will be heard by the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors at tonight's (13 July) meeting.  The a…

Mohave Ground Squirrel In Peril; Conservation Plan Lagging Behind Threats

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In response to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) initiation of a status review to consider listing the Mohave Ground Squirrel (MGS) under the Endangered Species Act, a representative from China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station expressed opposition to the listing of MGS.  The rational of the military was that military installations in the area support a healthy populations of the MGS and are participating in conservation measures being considered through the Desert Managers Group to preserve the species through regional management.  Unfortunately, this opposition to the listing of the MGS rings hollow, since regional efforts have been slow, and the military's efforts within DoD installations do not address the threats posed to the species on 2/3 of its range outside of military land.

Mohave Ground Squirrel Thriving on Military Bases?

Although studies submitted indicate that the Mohave Ground Squirrel does have core populations located on or near China Lake Nava…