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Renewable Energy: The Worst of the worst: Bechtel’s Soda Mountain Solar Project

Renewable Energy:  The Worst of the worst: Bechtel’s Soda Mountain Solar Project

Renewable Energy:  The Worst of the worst: Bechtel’s Soda Mountain Solar Project

Many recreational users who I know: off-roading enthusiasts, rock hounds, hunters, backpackers and hikers have watched as federal land policy has resulted in a renewable energy gold rush in the California desert- sometimes with disastrous consequences on our public lands. As somebody who has explored the mountains, sand dunes and canyons of the California Desert from Death Valley National Park to the Algodones Dunes, I believe that we can and must strike a balance between protecting our spectacular public lands and buffering ourselves from the worst impacts of climate change by becoming energy independent. To do that, we need to double down on our efforts to fight for sensitive public lands and making them off limits to utility scale renewable energy development that would harm recreational opportunities, communities and wildlife. At the same time, we need to support renewable energy development on highly disturbed lands, rooftops, homes and other locations in the built environment.

Send an e-mail today and urge Congressman Cook and the Department of Interior to relocate this misguided project!

Soda Mountains

Soda Mountains. Photo by Michael Gordon

Bechtel’s Soda Mountain Solar Project is the worst of the worst projects proposed for the California desert. It would harm community, ecological and recreational resources, and should unquestionably be relocated. The project would sprawl across approximately 4000 acres and is slated for development ¼ mile away from the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve, a mile west of the town of Baker, California. This project would harm the water resources, scenic vistas, and dark night skies of the Mojave National Preserve, while impairing off-road vehicle campgrounds for those traveling along the storied Mojave Road. I’m writing this post to ask you to take immediate action to urge the Department of the Interior and Congressman Cook to relocate the project to private lands, Environmental Protection Agency brownfields, Superfund sites or another site that does not harm important resources. The Department of the Interior has the power to do this, they just need to hear and enact the will of the people!

The Soda Mountain Solar Project’s original footprint would have irreparably harmed efforts to reconnect Death Valley National Park’s bighorn populations with those of the Mojave National Preserve. There’s been some talk about reconfiguring the project to solve this problem, but don’t be fooled! No reconfiguration of this project can make its current location acceptable within a stone’s throw of the lower forty eight state’s third largest park unit. The problems with any configuration of this project at its current proposed location are numerous. Project pumping would use copious amounts of groundwater during construction that would be pumped from a hydrologic system that is not well understood and could have impacts on seeps and springs along Zzyzx road that are used by bighorn sheep and would certainly drawdown the area’s precious groundwater resources.

 
Soda Map

Map of the proposed Soda Mountain Project.

 

Additionally, Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts exploring the Mojave Road on multi-day journeys from west to east would be adversely impacted by light pollution from this project. The area’s dark night skies would be diminished for those camping along the Mojave Road because the Rasor OHV Area is a convenient camping location. Finally, the project would harm the Mojave National Preserve’s scenic vistas, a resource that is beloved by the public and a huge part of recreational tourism in the California desert! A 2013 Mojave National Preserve Visitor Use Survey found that 60% of visitors to the Preserve rated scenic vistas as “Extremely Important.” In fact, visitors chose scenic vistas as a more important resource of the Preserve than any other feature. The glint, glare, structures and roads associated with this project would mar vistas from the Preserve.

Our elected officials and the Department of the Interior should be giving credence to the Mojave National Preserve’s power as a diverse ecosystem, a recreational haven, but also as an economic engine. In fact, in 2013, Headwaters Economics found that the half a million visitors to the Preserve spent over $30 million dollars in gateway communities and supported over 350 full and part time jobs. In order to protect our economy, desert ecosystems and recreational experiences, please ask the Interior Department to do the right thing and relocate the most harmful project proposed in the Mojave.

   

CLICK HERE TO SEND A LETTER TO: Tommy Beaudreau & Congressman Cook

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