In bad news for Tessera Solar LLC, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) increased its recommendation for Desert Tortoise mitigation levels required if the company's Calico Solar site is approved. As explained in previous posts, mitigation costs are the conditions imposed on energy companies that want to build on public lands that will result in significant harm to the environment. The proposed Calico Solar site could result in the relocation and likely deaths of as many as 132 endangered desert tortoises if the site is approved and built, and biologists have deemed the site to be of high ecological value.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) and CDFG previously assessed that Tessera Solar should pay over 50,000,000 dollars in mitigation costs for the projected damage done to the tortoise population, assuming the site is approved. This cost is determined by the number of acres of suitable tortoise habitat that the energy company will have to purchase and set aside for conservation in another part of the Mojave Desert. In the original CEC assessment, it was determined that for every acre of habitat that would be disturbed by the company, an average of 3 acres would have to be set aside elsewhere. This resulted in the requirement that Tessera Solar would have to purchase over 14,000 acres as mitigation.
However, according to the transcripts from the 18 August evidentiary hearings, the CDFG recently increased the mitigation requirements for some of the Calico Solar site to 5 acres for every 1 acre disturbed by the energy company. This would increase the mitigation costs by millions of dollars, and it is another affirmation of the ecological importance of the site to the overall health of the Mojave Desert. It's not clear if these increased ratios are official, although a CEC Staff member indicated they would support CDFG assessment.