Soda Mountains: VICTORY FOR THE MOJAVE DESERT! San Bernardino County Supervisors REJECT Soda Mountain Solar

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Updated 24 August 2016: VICTORY FOR THE MOJAVE DESERT! San Bernardino County Supervisors REJECT Soda Mountain Solar!

THANKS to all who pushed so hard to get San Bernardino County to deny the harmful Soda Mountain Solar project. This project has been hotly contested since 2009; first being fast-tracked, then de-prioritized, then sold, then bought by Bechtel, then back in the fast lane, then hamstrung by the City of Los Angeles’s decision not to buy the power, then approved by the Interior Department, then sold to Regenerate, and yesterday (Aug 23, 2016) denied by the San Bernardino County board of Supervisors. Hands in the air!

Tens of thousands of Americans opposed this project, as did scientists, the National Park Service, and damn near the entire California desert. This was a remarkable doing and could not have happened without the concerted effort of thousands of community voices and leaders. The National Park Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife stood up against this bad project. So many organizations said no. Pushing back on this bad project draws a line in the sand that bad projects don’t get a free pass to harm our parks, our wildlife, or our communities.

SB-SupPlease thank San Bernardino County Supervisors Lovingood (email), Gonzales (email), and Rutherford (email) for their powerful votes. As our walk was not easy, neither was theirs – the Unions pushed really hard. The incredible organizing done by Sierra Club and the Alliance for Desert Preservation, in addition to so many groups and activists, made a huge difference. Thank you!

Many people thought this couldn’t be accomplished. A special place lives to fight another day. A wise decision and a good day for Mojave National Preserve, for our communities, and our desert. Forget Texas – don’t mess with the California desert!

Previously published:

On February 12, 2016 the Obama Administration demonstrated great leadership and foresight with its designation of three new National Monuments in the California desert (Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, Castle Peaks). A mere eight weeks later, on April 5, 2016 – this same Administration lost its mind and approved a hotly-contested solar project on previously undeveloped California desert wildlands.

The Soda Mountain Solar Project has been contested from the get-go: By scientists, biologists, current and former National Park Superintendents, public stakeholders, and numerous other organizations and individuals who provided a plethora of logical and scientific reasons (via written comment submissions and during public meetings) why this project should not move forward at this location. First and foremost: the proposed project boundary is a mere 1/3 mile from the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve. Allow me to say it again just in case you didn’t catch it: Our federal government approved an industrial project a mere one-third of a mile from one of our third-largest National Park unit. Among numerous other significant impacts, this project would severely threaten the lives and migration patterns of bighorn sheep who reside and move through the Soda Mountains.

Please have a look at the photo heading this post. Proponents of this project claim that they have mitigated visual impacts of the project from within the Mojave National Preserve by removing from development lands north of Interstate 15. My photograph illustrates either the Bureau of Land Management‘s (BLM) disingenuousness or that it knows much less about the land we have entrusted it to manage than does this landscape photographer. That’s a two way view: the Kelso Dunes, Providence Mountains, and Granite Mountains of the Mojave National Preserve can all be seen in the background. If one places themselves in these locations inside the Preserve post-development, solar panels will fill in the background. Are these the views we want and expect from inside a unit of our National Park system?

During public and private meetings over the last few years, Bechtel was urged to take this project elsewhere where it could not destroy previously undeveloped desert and seriously threaten wildlife. Guess which finger they held up in reply?

During public and private meetings over the last few years, the BLM and Department of Interior were asked to not permit this project to move forward where it would destroy previously undeveloped desert and seriously threaten wildlife – there are better and more sensible options. Guess which finger they held up in reply?

This solar proposal has no power purchase agreement and the City of Los Angeles has stated that they will not purchase power from this project due to its environmental impacts.As Chris Clarke points out in this KCET article, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and San Bernardino County are doing a better job at protecting the California desert than the Bureau of Land Management (an agency entrusted by the public to protect our public lands in the public interest. Note public interest, not corporate).

The Center for Biological Diversity  suggests that “a recent report identifies nearly 1.5 million rooftops throughout Los Angeles County that could be used as solar power generators that would create 19,000 megawatts from rooftop solar. The total rooftop solar potential for the city of Los Angeles is more than 5,500 megawatts (more than 15 times what the Soda Mountain solar project would generate), which could power the city on most days since the highest-ever peak in Los Angeles was 6,177 megawatts.”

Dear President Obama: Why would you protect but then sign-off on the destruction of my beautiful Mojave Desert in the span of only eight weeks? Visitors come from around the world to tour and enjoy these vast and unspoiled landscapes.

Given that this project ignores and defies directives set forth in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (six years in planning) and given the massive science against and opposition to this project, I am left wondering who took the bribe? 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Read more on the following pages:

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For information and photographs, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

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STOP the Proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project!

Proposal zone from the tip of the proposed North Array. This entire view would be covered by PVT panels. In the background is the Mojave National Preserve.

Proposal zone from the tip of the proposed North Array. This entire view would be covered by PVT panels. In the background is the Mojave National Preserve.

Dear Readers and Friends of the California Desert, I urge your action against the proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project, south of Death Valley National Park and proposed for development immediately adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve. Renewable energy projects should be smart from the start, but the proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project is THE poster child for inappropriately sited renewable energy projects which threatens the Mojave National Preserve, bighorn sheep migration corridors, desert tortoise habitat, the endangered tui chub pup fish, and world-renowned scenic view-sheds. With your help we can help the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to understand the full range of impacts this project proposes for wildlife, viewshed, the Mojave National Preserve and adjacent Wilderness Study Areas. Together we will ensure that the BLM does not blindly approve this harmful project (what’s wrong with “green” energy?).

The Soda Mountain Solar Project is a proposed 350-megawatt photo-voltaic electric power generating plant proposed on 4,397 acres of public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) some six miles southwest of Baker, California and immediately adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve  (yes, immediately adjacent to a

Proposal zone from the southwestern tip of the proposed South Array. This entire view would be covered by PVT panels. In the background is the Mojave National Preserve.

Proposal zone from the southwestern tip of the proposed South Array. This entire view would be covered by PVT panels. In the background is the Mojave National Preserve.

National Park unit). The application by Soda Mountain Solar, LLC requests a right-of-way authorization to construct a solar field on 2,691 acres, a project substation, an access road, operations and maintenance buildings, and to realign approximately 3.3 miles of Rasor Road. The Sierra Club’s Desert Report recently featured a piece on this proposal which outlines this tragedy in the making. Author Sid Silliman explains that “[t]he consequences for the Mojave National Preserve are of special concern because the project threatens not only the particular resources and landscape that Congress mandated to be protected by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, but the very integrity of this treasured unit of the National Park System.”

Overview at sunset of the proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project. Photographed from the northern tip of the proposed 'North Array' along Blue Bell Mine access road. The Old Dad Mountains and Kelso Peak of the Mojave National Preserve can be seen at the far left edge of the frame, Interstate 15 runs horizontally through the frame (big rigs are visible), with existing transmission lines visible on the right side of the frame.

Overview at sunset of the proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project.

I urge you to please submit your comments by March 3, 2014 to:

Jeffrey Childers, Project Manager
BLM California Desert District Office
22835 Calle San Juan de Los Lagos
Moreno Valley, CA 92553

jchilders@blm.gov

Please share this post freely with others who care about our National Parks, protecting desert wildlife and views, and with those who care about holding renewable energy developers responsible for not harming our world-famous deserts (tourists travel from around the world to take in our vast and timeless desert views). PLEASE HELP STOP the Soda Mountain Solar Project!

ADDITIONAL READING:

Soda Mountain Solar Energy Project (comprehensive overview) Basin and Range Watch

Soda Mountain Solar Project Facts National Parks Conservation Association

Don’t Let Clean Energy Projects Stain National Parks The Sacramento Bee

Will A Proposed Solar Power Plant Near Mojave National Preserve Defeat Good Planning?National Parks Traveler

Mojave Desert not ideal for massive solar project The Press Enterprise

Public troubled with 4K-acre solar project near Mojave Preserve The Civic Bee

Relocate the Mojave National Preserve’s planned Soda Mountain Solar Project: Guest Commentary San Bernardino Sun

Retired National Park Leaders Oppose Soda Mountain SolarKCET.ORG

Overwhelming Opposition to Soda Mountain Solar Project The Desert News Post

Here we go again: Soda Mountain Solar ProjectHi-Desert Star

Saving the Mojave from the solar threatLos Angeles Times

BLM advances solar project that will harm bighorn sheepHigh Country News

L.A. won’t buy power from Mojave Desert solar plant, after all Los Angeles Times

MOJAVE IS A MAGICAL PLACE. LET’S PROTECT MY FORMER HOME Park Advocate

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on FacebookGoogle+, and  Twitter.