The California Energy Commission (CEC) provided preliminary approval for a solar power project that will consume almost 8 square miles of mostly public land near the Palen Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and that would disturb part of the designated Chuckwalla Critical Habitat Unit for the desert tortoise. The Palen Solar power project is being proposed by Chevron and a subsidiary it created, Solar Millennium LLC.
The CEC is requesting that Solar Millennium LLC build a reconfigured layout and not the initial proposal in order to reduce (but not eliminate) impacts to Mojave Fringe Toed Lizard habitat. However, the project would also disrupt desert tortoise linkages since it would block multiple washes that allow them to travel under Interstate 10. If built, the project would probably slow genetic ties between the tortoise populations north and south of the Interstate. Defender's of Wildlife proposed that Solar Millennium and the CEC should reduce the project by half so that much of the eastern portion of the site would remain undisturbed and continue to provide habitat to the Mojave Fringe Toed Lizard, Kit Fox, and Western Burrowing Owls. The request was ignored.
Also in the Colorado Desert region, protesters wrapped up a two night educational camp at the proposed site of the Imperial Valley Solar project. The project would be built by Tessera Solar LLC on nearly 10 square miles of public land that contains American Indian cultural sites and stone formations. The Quechan Tribe is suing the Department of the Interior for approving the project without conducting proper review of the site's significance. You can read more about the importance of the site and the protest held earlier this week at the Desert Protective Council website. If the project is built, as yet unstudied elements of American Indian history would be lost.