Among the three different alternatives, layout "C" would have the least impact on desert tortoises and other sensitive plant and wildlife, but the BLM and CPUC expressed support for layout "B," which contains at least 22 active desert tortoise burrows. Surveys of the smaller layout "C" only found 7 active burrows. The draft Environmental Impact Statement did not explain why the more destructive layout "B" was justified.
|The Desert Sunlight Project (center, outlined in bright blue) would be built just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Map from Bureau of Land Management.|
|A closer examination of the three different layouts, with the smallest layout outlined in light gray.|
In addition to desert tortoise, layout "B" would also impact burrowing owls, loggerhead shrikes, and a high number of foxtail cactus. The transmission lines and substation for the project would be built on public land designated as desert tortoise critical habitat south of the main project site. The draft environmental impact statement dismisses the option of encouraging rooftop solar, and also dismissed the option of building the site on private land, or public land with lower quality habitat.
Desert Sunlight would be one of several large-scale solar energy projects proposed or approved for operation in the Chuckwalla valley of the Colorado Desert (see "Chuckwalla Valley Under Seige"). The Blythe Solar power project has begun construction in the Chuckwalla valley and will destroy over 14 square miles of desert habitat.
Public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement are due by 27 November.
|Desert Tortoise. Photo from BLM Draft EIS|