Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bulldozers on the Horizon for Ivanpah; CEC Acknowledges Tortoise Density in Calico

Ivanpah Update:
Check out Chris Clarke's Coyote Crossing for a photo sent to him by Basin and Range Watch.  It appears that BrightSource Energy is beginning to mark the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating Site in the Eastern Mojave Desert for construction.  The Presiding Member's Proposed Decision has not yet been finally approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC), but we know that BrightSource Energy will be rushing to beat the clock once the approval is made final.

In order to qualify for the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds, BrightSource must break ground on the project before the end of the year.  But before the company can break ground, it must identify and relocate desert tortoises on the site.  This might explain the seemingly premature placement of construction markers on the site.

Calico Solar Update:
The 18 August evidentiary hearings are further proof that Tessera Solar's Calico Solar power project should not be approved by the CEC.  This company made a poor choice, and it could result in the deaths of over one hundred endangered tortoises in otherwise healthy and beautiful Mojave Desert  wilderness.  The site includes lands donated to the Bureau of Land Management by the Wildlands Conservancy for the preservation of wilderness, not its destruction. 

The CEC posted a document affirming their statements during the 18 August evidentiary hearing (see previous post).  In those statements, the CEC supports a finding by the California Department of Fish and Game recommended that much of the Calico Solar power project site (proposed by Tessera Solar) should be mitigated at a 5-to-1 ratio.  The CDFG found that a previous calculation under-estimated the number of endangered desert tortoises on the site, and thus Tessera Solar should be required to set aside thousands of additional acres for conservation.

CDFG testified that the Calico Solar power project would result in a "take" (likely death, injury or loss) of more desert tortoises than the agency had every previously authorized.  The CDFG believes that the construction could result in the translocation of over 100 desert tortoises, but noted that as many as 436 desert tortoise eggs may be present on the project site.  As noted in previous posts, earlier translocation of desert tortoises from Fort Irwin resulted in a high death rate.  The CEC is also concerned that suitable sites to receive translocated tortoises may not be fully identified.

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