November 14, 2014 - Basin & Range Watch attended the North Las Vegas, Nevada, public meeting hosted by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on November 12. We asked BLM about the proposed new solar energy zone maps. We asked if there would be any more description than simply maps. We were told that this is all there will be, BLM looked for places in southern Nevada that would be suitable for solar energy based on percent slope, etc. Environmental Assessments (EAs) will be written for each project as they are proposed by a company, similar to how BLM is reviewing projects for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone under the parallel Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Solar PEIS). There are currently three proposals in that zone which will be reviewed with an EA, a lower level of detail for review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). But we said the Solar PEIS had a more thorough analysis of solar energy zones to begin with, doing a higher level EIS level of analysis, not just an EA level. There needs to be an EIS-level of analysis in this Resource Management Plan, we commented. BLM told us to submit a comment on this.
The meeting was crowded with members of the public concerned about off-road routes and land disposal, perhaps 200 people were present.
Las Vegas and Pahrump Field Offices Draft Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Nevada
^Amargosa Valley at sunset near Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada -- area of more proposed Solar Energy Zones.
October 11, 2014 - The Las Vegas and Pahrump Field Offices Draft RMP/Draft EIS decision area encompasses approximately 3.1 million acres of public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management Southern Nevada District in Clark and Southern Nye Counties, Nevada. Multiple resource uses are addressed which include livestock grazing; minerals development, recreation, and solar and wind energy development. New potential Aresa of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) will be considered, one one possible reduced in size (Ash Meadows ACEC).
Of concern are the new Solar Energy Zones put up for consideration across southern Nevada desert lands, in addition to those already designated during the Solar Programmayic Environmental Impact Statement review. In four alternatives, the older zones and some of the new zones these include:
Amargosa Valley (8,204 acres)
Dry Lake (5,717 acres)
Ash Meadows (3,797 acres) - new
South Beatty (7,142 acres) - new
Lathrop Wells (8,852 acres) - new
Mercury-Tech (179 acres) - new
Dry Lake Expansion (1,521 acres) - new
Off-The-Grid (3,700 acres) - new
The Bureau of Land Management has just announced that they would like an additional 39,113 acres of Solar Energy Zones on public lands in Nevada. The Obama Administration has made it OK for parties to nominate new Solar Energy Zones on Federal Lands when BLM Resource Management Plans are updated. In this case, it is the Draft Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement Available for BLM Las Vegas and Pahrump Field Offices. There are now over 20,000 new acres of potential Solar Energy Zones in the Amargosa Valley, Nevada. Permitting of large solar is streamlined in Solar Zones. One of these “zones” is called the Ash Meadows Solar Energy Zone. Now the BLM has been extensively told the facts about birds being killed by the false “lake effect” of sig solar plants. They are killing birds by the thousands throughout the southwest. Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a very important wetlands for birds and Devils Hole would only be a few miles from this solar zone. There should not be any solar zones in this migratory corridor.
"Assuming new SEZs identified in Alternative 3 [the BLM preferred alternative] are approved and that 75 percent of the SEZs could be developed, it is expected that the acres utilized for renewable solar energy would grow to approximately 28,787 acres to meet the Renewable Energy Portfolio standard in multiple states, including California." (page 472 of the PDF)
There are also areas that would be designated as "open" to wind energy and "wind avoidance" areas. Several open wind areas in the mountain pass between Pahrump and Las Vegas, and areas around Mojave National Preserve.
January 7, 2015 deadline - Comment on Las Vegas and Pahrump Field Offices Draft Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Nevada >>www.blm.gov