BLM Takes Another Piecemeal Step in Ivanpah

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in late November issued the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for First Solar's Stateline Solar power project, only a month after issuing the Silver State South Solar DEIS -- both projects would be built in the Ivanpah Valley.  The BLM's draft documents lay out a plan allowing First Solar to bulldoze approximately 8 square miles of ecologically intact desert habitat, but fails to present a credible conservation strategy and overlooks other major developments on the horizon in this corner of the Mojave Desert.

This Google Earth image shows the BLM's preferred layout of First Solar's Stateline solar power project, covering nearly 3.4 square miles.  The BLM estimates that the project could kill or displace 32 desert tortoises, although a higher estimate of 88 tortoises is also possible.  Rare plant species likely occurring on the site include Rusby's desert-mallow, Mojave milkweed, and the small-flowered androstephium.
The BLM only proposes token conservation measures in the documents --  establishing an area of critical environmental concern (ACEC) that arguably does not even preserve habitat connectivity for the Federally-listed desert tortoise (see my last post), and an extension of a desert wildlife management area (DWMA).  Both land use changes provide substantial carve-outs for the ill-sited solar projects, rendering the conservation steps meaningless toward their original intent of preserving a north-south genetic linkage for the desert tortoise, and preserving special status plant populations.  The massive loss of habitat is sure to impact other species, removing foraging habitat for raptors and bighorn sheep active in the area.

The Google Earth image below (also available in a larger PDF at the bottom of this post) depicts the locations and footprints of some of the more substantial projects built, under construction or proposed for the Ivanpah Valley and vicinity.


Click on image to expand

Although the BLM's analysis of the Silver State South and Stateline Solar projects acknowledges other foreseeable projects in the Ivanpah Valley -- including the Desert Xpress rail line and the Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport -- it misses developments that could be potentially more damaging.
  • The BLM's analysis does not account for a proposed transmission and natural gas line that would traverse desert habitat just north of Primm, Nevada and connect Brightsource Energy's Hidden Hills Solar project (over 30 miles away) to existing transmission and natural gas lines in the Ivanpah Valley and El Dorado Valley. 
  • The BLM does not evaluate plans by Elissa Resources to mine rare earth elements on the eastern edge of the Ivanpah Valley -- the company drilled 21 core samples this summer that revealed "significant" deposits.  If the company begins larger scale mining operation, extensive surface disturbance, water usage, and natural gas and power facilities may be required. 
  • Partially overlapping with the Elissa Resources mining claims, Oak Creek Energy Systems plans to install over 220 wind turbines for the proposed Crescent Peak Wind project along the eastern edge of the Ivanpah Valley and adjacent to the South McCullough Wilderness.
The Department of Interior is showing that it is more interested in saying yes to corporate interests than acting as a responsible steward of our public lands and the biodiversity of our desert ecosystem.

A downloadable PDF version of the map included above.
Ivanpah Cumulative Projects Graphic

Comments

  1. These maps are conclusive, the Ivanpah Valley is about to be split in half, with dire consequences for the plant and animal life and for the local ecosystem.

    ReplyDelete

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