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Renewable Energy, Blessing and Curse

November 23, 2010 | The Conservancy News | Quartz Hill, CA
Renewable Energy, Blessing and Curse

Photo by Chris Clarke

Contact: Wendy Reed
President, Antelope Valley Conservancy
(661) 943-9000 | avconservancy@yahoo.com

 

Renewable Energy, Blessing and Curse

 

QUARTZ HILL, CA-- Across the Mojave Desert, thousands of acres of industrial sized “renewable energy” projects are being fast-tracked by federal incentives and Governor Schwarzenegger’s Executive Order. Californians want cleaner energy for homes, cars and businesses, but the destruction of core habitat is decidedly not “green”.

Energy companies are targeting remote and fragile Mojave Desert habitats, and even public lands are being permitted for massive energy plants.

At Ivanpah, “The project hemorrhages the very heart of the biologically rich eastern Mojave Desert, where plant diversity rivals that of the primeval coastal redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest,” said Jim Andre, Director of the University of California’s Granite Mountains Desert Research Center. “This area is treasured by scientists throughout the world for its unparalleled pristine quality among deserts, one of the last functional ecosystems left on Planet Earth.”

Antelope Valley rural areas are being impacted, from Neenach to Roosevelt to Bouquet Canyon.

In Bouquet Canyon, landowners allege that transmission towers were erected in violation of the permit, and the height and location now impedes fire fighting planes’ flight path to Bouquet Reservoir. They claim that careless construction crews had little concern for children walking home from school, and even less concern for the red legged frogs they encountered in their work.

In Neenach to the north, over 200 acres of Joshua tree woodlands, much of which were located within an SEA, were bulldozed last year without biological review. The agricultural firm that bulldozed the site allegedly ignored a County cessation order. They were reportedly leasing the land from a solar company.


Next door, in the Fairmont Butte area, citizens are defending not only their rural community and home investments, but also the Poppy Reserve State Park and mitigation lands purchased (with public funds) in the Significant Ecological Area (SEA 57) from being destroyed by thousands of acres of wind and solar plants.

To the east, in quiet rural Roosevelt, 5,000 acres were proposed for a solar plant and transmission line. The size of the proposal has been reduced to 700 acres, but half is pristine Joshua tree habitat, not disturbed lands. The community is opposing the project. “There are plenty of roofs to put solar on”, says Roosevelt Rural Town Council President Barbara Firsick, “they don’t have to come here to ruin the neighborhood and the birds’ habitat.”


What are local residents to do?

Citizens are finding it hard — and expensive — to address concerns or violations. Antelope Valley Conservancy thinks that formation of a citizens oversight committee might be a way to support and provide resources for communities’ project responses. At the October 28 meeting of the Association of Rural Town Councils, Wayne Argo proposed a coordinated letter of concerns, and asked the RTCs to submit their concerns (wayneargo@hughes.net). Near Ivanpah, citizens are uniting through Solar Done Right (solardoneright.org). Citizens can visit the DRECP and California Energy Commission web sites, and write letters/emails of comment during the public comment periods.

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