Chuckwalla Valley Under Siege

The Chuckwalla Valley in California's Colorado Desert is currently being considered for multiple solar energy projects, and has also been targeted for development in the Federal government's solar energy study zones.  The largest solar power project in California, the Blythe Solar power project proposed by Solar Millennium LLC, already received approval from the California Energy Commission (CEC), and NextEra's Genesis Solar power project received preliminary approval.   Both of these projects are proposed for public lands.

These two projects alone would fence off and bulldoze over 10,000 acres, and as you can see in the graphic below, the desert valley that currently is home to desert tortoise, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, bighorn sheep, lynx, burrowing owls, and kit fox will be transformed into an industrial zone if all of the remaining projects are approved.

Proposed solar energy projects and the solar energy study zone targeting much of the Chuckwalla Valley, according to a graphic prepared by the California Energy Commission Staff for the Palen Solar project
The next project currently awaiting CEC preliminary approval is the Palen Solar power project, which would be located on public land east of Desert Center.  The CEC considered the initial project proposal to be too harmful to threatened species in the area and asked Solar Millennium to draw up a reconfigured layout to avoid prime Mojave Fringe-toed lizard habitat.   The company submitted two alternatives, and evidentiary hearings are tentatively scheduled for mid-October.
The valley pictured above would be scarred by Solar Millennium's proposed Palen Solar power project is approved by the California Energy Commission.  Screenshot from CEC Staff report on the Palen Solar project.
However, both of the reconfigured layouts would still destroy over 1,500 acres of Mojave Fringe-toed lizard habitat, according to a CEC Staff assessment of the site.  A reduced acreage alternative offered by the CEC would only impact 584 acres of the habitat, but Solar Millennium appears intent on consuming as much public land as possible and remains focused on the more destructive plans.  Solar Millennium is also responsible for the Blythe Solar power project, which will displace and harm over a thousand Native American cultural sites--such as stone tools and ceramics--in addition to the environmental damage.

For more information on the natural resources and some excellent photos, check out Basin and Range Watch's Chuckwalla page. 


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