Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ivanpah Conservation Initiative Presented to BLM Officials

Basin and Range Watch members met with officials from the Bureau of Land Management's California and Nevada state offices earlier this month to present the proposed Ivanpah Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which is also supported by the Desert Tortoise Council and Desert Protective Council.  The ACEC is needed to protect biological and cultural resources that would be imperiled by additional solar energy development in the Ivanpah Valley, including a connectivity corridor for the endangered desert tortoise.  As human-induced  climate change challenges desert ecosystems, the genetic connectivity and healthy habitat offered by the Ivanpah Valley will be critical to the survival of many desert species.

The productive meeting with BLM, which took place in Reno,  represents potential reprieve for the beleaguered valley in the northeastern Mojave Desert as a coalition of smaller groups and concerned citizens speak up for a smarter renewable energy policy that does not involve sacrificing desert wildlands.  National environmental groups have not yet spoken up about the two additional solar projects proposed for the Ivanpah Valley--First Solar's Stateline and Silver State facilities--although a Sierra Club representative previously expressed concern to me regarding the potential impacts on rare plants and wildlife.

The Google Earth image above shows the major projects impacting or threatening the Ivanpah Valley, including BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (under construction), the proposed right-of-ways for First Solar's Stateline and Silver State solar projects, the El Dorado-Ivanpah Transmission Line, and the Desert Xpress rail line.

Construction is already underway for BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), which will destroy 5.6 square miles of the valley and has already displaced over 125 desert tortoises.  The sad scale of destruction can be viewed at the Ivanpah website.  An aerial photo of the project taken in March depicts only a third of the planned destruction.

An aerial photo by Erin Whitfield shows an early stage of construction for the ISEGS project.  The bulldozing has already begun on the third block of the facility closer to the mountains in the background.

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