Public Workshops for Ridgecrest Solar Power Project

According to the California Energy Commission (CEC), there will be four public workshops held to discuss the proposed Ridgecrest Solar Power Project.  The workshops will give members of the public an opportunity to discuss or learn more about the recently published staff assessment and environmental impact statement for the project.   The first pair of workshops in April will address water, soil, visual, air, land use, and traffic issues.   The second pair of workshops in May will address biological resources.   You can read more about the staff assessment and EIS on a previous post on this blog. The workshops will be held on 22 April AND 23 April, and on 3 May and 4 May (biological issues) at the Ridgecrest City Hall at 8AM on each day.  You can also call into the workshop if you cannot attend in person.  The following information is from the CEC e-mail notice: *Who*: The staff of the California Energy Commission and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will jointly hold a publ

Palen Solar Power Project Environmental Impact Summary

Once again I'll stray from the namesake of the blog and address an industrial project proposed for the Colorado Desert (a subzone of the Sonoran Desert).  Since the recent gold rush of solar projects will have impacts that affect species that roam to and from the Mojave Desert and neighboring Colorado Desert, I've been tracking projects throughout southern California. The Palen Solar Power Project proposed for the Chuckwalla Valley in California would have significant impacts on the Mojave fringe-toed lizard.  Basin and Range Watch actually has an excellent summary of the most important points to take away from the EIS, and you can check it out at this link to their site.  As noted in the California Energy Commission (CEC) report, and summarized by Basin and Range Watch, the transport of sand through the valley would be impeded by the project if it is built as proposed.  This would affect approximately 1,400 acres of sand dune habitat downwind from the site.  This is signifi

Mojave camping trip part 2: Cima to Granite Hills

Picking up on my previous post covering my late March camping trip in the Mojave National Preserve, I last left you as we came off Aiken Mine Road, turning onto Cima Road.  For those that have visited the Preserve in the past, you'll know that the Teutonia Peak is one of the most popular hikes on Cima Road.  I had already hiked the peak during a previous trip, so we continued on down Cima Road en route to Kelso Depot for a refreshment before we scouted out a camping site.  It's always impressive to see the Joshua Tree woodland in the Cima dome area.  Where I grew up in Victorville the Joshua Trees are thicker, more robust and probably taller (on average), but much more sparse than in Cima.  The trees in Cima are thinner and shorter, but obviously the ecosystem fits the "woodland" description quite well!  I was excited when we got to Kelso Depot and we spotted the first desert dandelion.  I know, it's kind of nerdy, but I have not seen a desert dandelion in

Erasing Wilderness and Belittling America

I've come across a few instances of press articles and editorials that criticize the California Energy Commission's (CEC) proposed biological conditions imposed on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, and the CEC Staff's recommendation against the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project.  The criticism contends that economic development is held up for the sake of "squirrels" and "turtles", referring to the endangered Mojave ground squirrel and desert tortoise.  The argument assumes that all business decisions are wise ones and that our country should essentially grant right of way to industrial development wherever the private sector points on the map. I have two problems with these critics. 1.) America's wilderness is at a premium these days.  The open tracts of desert and forest, and the various species of flora and fauna that keep it a healthy wilderness, embody the original America that inspired and challenged earlier generations to innovate

Redefining Success in Ivanpah

On 1 April, the California Energy Commission Staff posted its "opening brief" for the final consideration of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System site proposed for the northeastern Mojave Desert.  Overall, it continues the trend that I've posted about before on this blog -- that the CEC is likely to rule in favor of BrightSource Energy building an approximately 3,237 acre solar field on biologically important public land.   The next and final steps will be important in determining how much the private energy firms will be held accountable for mitigation procedures if they choose to develop on public land that is of biological value.  It is in the interest of the public that energy firms, such as BrightSource, that propose building on land that holds so many threatened biological resources should be required to pay for conservation measures that can off-set the damage done by the project. The CEC Staff's opening brief may be followed by a brief from BrightSou

Mojave Camping Trip part 1: Kelbaker to Cima

Just getting around to giving a read-out on my late March camping trip in the Mojave National Preserve.   We started out with a drive to the lava cinder cones in the western portion of the preserve. Lots of shrubs blooming along the road, and some wildflowers here and there.  Plenty of greenery on the desert floor amidst the lava flows and the cacti looked fresh and ready for the spring. The lava tube is definitely worth checking out.  It's just a short walk from Aiken Mine Road.  The rough cinder walls of the tube are broken in spots at the top, allowing a flood of light to enter. The cinder cone area is scattered with creosote and Yucca, with some ephemeral washes coursing through the lava flows. You can see in the picture above that the sky was clear, although that came at a cost.  Plenty of wind across the Preserve that day.    After the lava tube we continued East on Aiken Mine Road -- a dirt road that connects Kelbaker Road and Cima Road.  If you check out, go slow and s

Blooms in the Mojave National Preserve

I promised a read-out of my camping trip to the Mojave National Preserve -- I have not gotten around to summarizing the trip yet.  But I can say that the Preserve should be seeing some nice wildflower blooms this weekend or next.  When I was there the ground was green and there were fields of yellow and purple, but many of the cactus and other blooms had not peaked.  Here are shots of some of the flowers I photographed during the trip, weekend of March 26. Not sure what species are in the first picture below, but they were a brilliant, almost neon color that stand out near the lava flows in the western portion of the preserve.  Second photograph I believe is Indian Paintbrush near Cima Dome.  The third were very tiny white flowers blanketing parts of the ground near Granite Hills.  If you did not scrutinize the ground you could miss them entirely.  Fourth photo of some white flowers in a shrub.  The fifth photo was actually taken at the Ivanpah site -- to me it almost looks like the