Federal Judge Rejects Environmental Group Challenge
November 22, 2015 - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that environmental groups including the Desert Protective Council had not shown that the Bureau of Land Management acted arbitrarily in greenlighting the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility project in the desert east of San Diego.
The three-judge panel said BLM did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, as the environmentalists claimed, because BLM “sufficiently evaluated and disclosed the environmental impacts of the Ocotillo wind energy project.”
Basin & Range Watch placed a Freedom of Information Act request on this project. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was not completely satisfied with the qualifications of some of the raptor biologists hired on the Ocotillo Express Wind Project. The environmental review, in our opinion, may have been flawed.
August 28, 2015 - On Novermber 3, 2015, oral arguments will be heard in the case involving the Ocotillo Express Wind Project in Imperial County CA. You can go to the US Courthouse in Pasadena CA at 9 AM. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will be hearing arguments from Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, Desert Protective Council and the Laborers’ International Union of North American, Local Union No. 1184.
January 17, 2015 - Ocotillo CA - On January 15 residents reported a fire on a wind turbine generator (number 110) in the afternoon. The desert smelled like burning fiberglass according to Jim Pelley, a resident who took photos of the event. The area was not cordoned off to public access, and only some of the wind turbine generators were curtailed the next morning. Residents have reported several oil leaks on turbines, which might have been a cause of the fire.
Here is video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGYvHM5KlJs&feature=youtu.be
(Photos: Jim Pelley)
^Gates still open during and after the turbine fire on public land. This is a saftey concern.
See also the Imperial Valley Press coverage.
Avian Monitoring Tower Admitted to Not Work
January 1, 2015 - Ocotillo CA - Personal communication with the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service has informed us that Pattern Energy is considering shutting down the avian monitoring station (High Tech Avian Tower) built to watch out for any birds that may be hit by the turbines. They are talking about applying for a Golden Eagle Take (kill) permit with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Pattern says mirage-like heat waves disrupt their filming and radar equipment.
Herbicide Use to be Approved Near Local Community
May 11, 2013 - On May 2nd, the Bureau of Land Management released an environmental assessment with only a two week comment period reviewing the impacts of treating the invasive weeds around the Ocotillo Wind Express Project with herbicides, in Imperial County CA.
The Bureau of Land Management approved the Ocotillo Wind Express Project which is being built within a 1/4 mile of local residents of the town of Ocotillo. Now the BLM is going to authorize the use of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) made by Monsanto, to control the spread of invasive weeds that are being spread by the disturbance caused by the Pattern Energy wind project. The safety and well being of local residents is not a priority to BLM. The local people of Ocotillo have been forced to put up with noise, failed dust mitigation, bright, unnecessary night lighting, Pattern Energy employees who threaten them, and now exposure to dangerous herbicides.
Symptoms of exposure to glyphosate include eye irritation, blurred vision, skin rashes, burning or itchy skin, nausea, sore throat and difficulty breathing, headache, lethargy, nose bleeds and dizziness.
In lab tests, glyphosate and herbicides containing glyphosate caused genetic damage to human and animal cells.
Studies of farmers and other people exposed to glyphosate herbicides link this exposure to increased risks of cancer, miscarriages and attention deficit disorder. Additional laboratory tests have confirmed the results of these studies. Application of glyphosate herbicides increases the severity of a variety of plant diseases.
Glyphosate herbicides cause more off-target damage incidents than all but one other herbicide — 2, 4-D.
Glyphosate herbicides cause genetic damage and harm to the immune system in fish. In frogs, glyphosate herbicides cause genetic damage and abnormal development.
Triclopyr products have been determined toxic to ducks, but there is no information on humans.
See the Environmental Assessment pdf >>here.
Photos of Lack of Wind, Night Lighting, and Desert Destruction
January 27, 2013 - Updates >>here.
Desert Protective Council Files Lawsuit Against Ocotillo Wind Project
May 25, 2012 - San Diego and Imperial Counties - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Terry Weiner, Imperial Projects Coordinator, the Desert Protective Council: (619) 342-5524; email@example.com; Attorney Larry Silver, California Environmental Law Project: (415) 515-5688; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today the Desert Protective Council is filing a lawsuit in Federal Court in San Diego to stop the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Project (OWEF) from causing damage to fragile desert lands in western Imperial County, adjacent to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in the U.S.
The lawsuit, naming the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, the County of Imperial, California, and the Project Permittee, Pattern Energy of La Jolla, CA as defendants, alleges that the Secretary violated the right-of-way provisions of the Federal Lands Policy Management Act (FLPMA) when he approved the Project. The lawsuit further alleges that the Secretary acted illegally when he approved amending the 1980 California Desert Conservation Area Plan (CDCA) and when he ignored the requirements of NEPA to explore all reasonable alternatives and to take into account the cumulative impacts of this
project. The lawsuit alleges that Imperial County ignored the requirements of CEQA, as well as County ordinance standards relating to noise intended to protect nearby residents from excessive noise that will disturb their peace and interrupt sleep.
The suit alleges also that both the Secretary and the County failed to take adequate measures to protect the endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep and the protected golden eagles that inhabit the 12,400-acre site where the Pattern Energy plans to build 112, 450-ft. tall turbines. The lawsuit asks for an injunction to halt construction of the Project.
The Desert Protective Council (DPC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization. Founded in 1954, the DPC’s mission is to safeguard for wise and reverent use by this and succeeding generations those desert areas of unique scenic, scientific, historical, cultural, spiritual or recreational value and to educate children and adults to a better understanding of the deserts. DPC will be asking the District Court to resolve this matter as soon as possible so that the already started construction activities can be halted in order to prevent additional irreparable damage to natural resources and to the Native American cultural landscape. The California Environmental Law Project of Mill Valley, California represents DPC in this litigation.
Judge Denies Injunction by Tribe
May 23, 2012 - A Federal judge yesterday denied a petition by the Quechan tribe to halt construction of the Ocotillo Express Wind Project.
The Quechan filed for the injunction on May 14, just three days after the Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, gave “fast-track” approval for the project. The Quechan complaint stated that the Department of Interior, in approving the project, "violated... federal laws, regulations, and policies including the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA); National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA); National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); Administrative Procedures Act (APA); and the CDCA [The California Desert Conservation Area] Plan."
See photos of construction and news on Save Ocotillo's website: http://saveocotillo.picturepush.com/
See a summary of how large this project will be compared to the city of San Diego on Mojave Desert Blog.
^Protest (photo courtesy East County Magazine).
Tribes File Suit
May 18, 2012 - On May 15 in La Jolla at Pattern Energy's corporate office a coalition of environmental groups, Native American tribes and outraged citizens urged President Barack Obama to stop fast-tracking of massive energy projects on public lands and halt construction at the Ocotillo Express wind facility immediately.
The Quechan Tribe announced it has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction to halt the desecration of sacred lands including a dozen or more cremation/burial sites. The Quechan say they were not included in consultations that the federal government is required to conduct with tribes before allowing development that could impact cultural resources.
Tribal representatives, skeptical of Pattern’s survey of cultural resources, sent in their own trained forensic dogs and within hours, promptly found six additional burial/cremation sites in the areas deemed least likely for such discoveries, a tribal leader disclosed.
The wind project site contains tens of thousands of cultural artifacts including village sites, as well as petroglyphs and geoglyphs. Archaeologists from the state’s Historic Preservation Office have designated one site on the project as a “mega-site.” It is also a cultural landscape utilized today by multiple tribes for ceremonial purposes.
On Friday at 2 p.m., a federal judge in San Diego will consider a temporary restraining order motion filed by the Quechan Tribe seeking to halt construction at the Ocotillo Express wind project on land managed by Bureau of Land Management.
Other lawsuits are likely to be filed soon, including litigation set to be filed by the Save Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps, Donna Tisdale of Boulevard has indicated. Boulevard, in San Diego’s East County, may soon be surrounded by numerous massive-scale energy projects including industrial wind and solar facilities as well as a
Greybuck Espinoza, Viejas substation.
“This is nothing more than a public land grab for private profit. The BLM is literally giving this away to corporations…This may be out in the desert today, but tomorrow it could be in your backyard…Already over a dozen projects are proposed in San Diego and Imperial County.” – Robert Scheid, Viejas media relations.
See East County Magazine: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/9679
Protest at Pattern Energy: Coalition of Community Groups Outraged by U.S. Interior Secretary's Decision to Approve Wind Turbines in Ocotillo
May 15, 2012 - A coalition of environmentalists, tribes, and residents opposed to the Ocotillo Express industrial wind facility will hold a news conference Tuesday, May 15 at 2 p.m. in front of the La Jolla offices of developer Pattern Energy (4225 Executive Square, La Jolla) to explain to the public why they cannot accept Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to approve the project--and why they will continue their opposition.
The public is welcome to stand in solidarity with Native Americans, residents and environmental groups seeking justice.
Continue reading: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/9666
Salazar Signs Record of Decision
May 11, 2012 - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today signed the Record of Decision -- the approval -- for the Ocotillo Express Wind Project, ignoring the protests and appeals of local residents, concerned citizens, environmental groups, and recreationists. Next Bureau of Land Management will issue a Notice to Proceed. Construction could begin at any time.
See the ROD >>here (pdf).
BLM also posted a description of the approved Right-of Way and project, which would be on 10,151 acres of public land, producing 315 megawatts with 112 turbines. Only 20 permament jobs would be created after construction. The project would connect to the controversial San Diego Gas & Electric 500 kilovolt Sunrise Powerlink under construction.
Native American Tribes Join Environmental, Recreation and Hunting Organizations to Call for a Moratorium on “Fast-tracking” Energy Projects on Public Lands
May 11, 2012 - See this page >>here.
Daniel J. Tucker, Chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
March 25, 2012 - Video by Robert Lundahl. See http://vimeo.com/38796243.
San Diego Workshop Evaluates Controversial Large Solar and Wind Projects, Desert Conservation, “Rooftop” Solar and Distributed Energy Opportunities in Mexico and the U.S.
San Diego, CA— Indigenous leaders from San Diego County and across the state met with renewable energy and conservation experts, and lawmakers in a workshop, March 16th, to evaluate strategies for renewable energy implementation in Southern California and Northern Baja California, Mexico.
Controversial energy projects in the Southwest deserts have raised concerns about large-scale impacts to desert ecosystems, endangered and threatened species and Native American cultural resources. Several legal challenges by tribal and environmental groups are being heard in Federal Courts in the United States and Mexico. Projects have repeatedly been stopped and delayed.
The workshop focused on the best ideas and strategies for implementing renewable energy in Southern California and Northern Baja California, Mexico in an environmentally and culturally respectful manner. Participants discussed appropriate criteria for decision-making.
Workshop speakers included dignitaries Daniel J. Tucker, Chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, Chairman Anthony Pico of Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and Chairman Charles Wood of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe.
They were joined by experts and lawmakers including statewide and national energy consultant Bill Powers, P.E., Powers Engineering, Terra Peninsular Executive Director, Saul Alarcon Farfan, former Mexican Congressman Jaime Martinez Veloz, former San Diego Trial Judge and attorney, Robert C. Coates, Attorney Cory Briggs, Congressman Bob Filner, San Diego Supervisor Dianne Jacob, and others.
Terra Peninsular sponsored the event. Terra Peninsular is a science-based nonprofit organization that conserves and protects the natural and cultural heritage in the Californias for future generations. For more than 10 years Terra Peninsular has worked to protect the ecosystems integrity of the bi-national region.
The conference was held Friday, March 16, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, 326 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101, from 8:30 am. to 1:00 pm.
Final Environmental Review Statement Out, Sign the Petition to Stop the Project
March 9, 2012 -
The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Ocotillo Express Wind project has been published in the Federal Register, permitting 112 wind turbines on a stretch of desert wildlands nearly as big as the city of San Diego.
^The hard copy of the FEIS weighs 25.5 pounds.
Please Help Save Ocotillo
Local residents and desert supporters write this:
Pattern Energy is in the works to develop a Wind Energy plant in Ocotillo on BLM land.
If this project goes forward there is a good chance the entire desert in this area could be occupied with massive Industrial Wind Turbine Generators like Palm Springs.
We are asking for your help to stop this project which is wrong in so many ways, the final EIR/EIS is out and we only have 30 days to comment.
This project will destroy our desert with over 100 465-foot-tall industrial Wind Turbine Generators in the little quite town of Ocotillo.
Please take 10 minutes and sign our petition to help stop this madness of big corporations making billions of dollars from tax payer money, it’s more like Greed Energy.
Green energy is not reliable and costs more than conventional energy so there is a real good chance that rate payers in San Diego will be seeing higher rates if this is approved.
We are not against Green energy if it is done right, Roof Top solar makes way more sense.
Please ask all your friends to sign the petition as well, this is BLM and BLM is suppose to Preserve and Protect this land, we would get a ticket if we drove on the wrong road but now it’s okay to destroy this land for, it’s just wrong.
Thank you very much for your help in this extremely important matter.
Click on link to sign the petition:
January 30, 2012 - Several stakes mark geo-technical bore hole test sites on the Ocotillo Wind Express project site and also mark the locations of where the 450 foot turbines would be placed. The Bureau of Land Management authorized a series of disturbances on the site relating to geo-technical explorations by Pattern Energy so they can site their turbines in the best places. The Ocotillo Wind site lies entirely on Class L lands. These lands were designated “Limited Use” by the Bureau of Land Management under the California Desert Conservation Area in the 1980’s. Limited Use lands protect biological, cultural and visual resources. If a civilian gets caught driving off of a designated route, they get fined.
Because this is public land, we wanted to make sure Pattern Energy was following all regulations and legal requirements in its application process, and is held to the same standard as any citizen. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sent a memo out enabling the Bureau of Land Management to use the “tool” of a Categorical Exclusion to expedite renewable energy testing projects. A Categorical Exclusion or CX is a BLM internal review that never goes out to the public. In effect this gives Pattern Energy special treatment while everybody else is held accountable by the law. If they put this up for public review, we would no doubt all have objected. There are stakes and tire tracks on a lot of this site now. Permission was just granted to Pattern Energy in December 2011 to do this. They are getting started before they even got official approval.
Below is a quote from the Categorical Exclusion:
“By this instrument, the holder: Ocotillo Express LLC, 1600 Smith Street, Suite 4025,
Houston, Texas 77002, receives a right to construct, operate, maintain and terminate a total of 155 survey sites, 16 geotechnical boring sites, 16 electrical resistivity surveys areas, and various soil samples in preparation of and in connection with the Ocotillo Wind Express Wind Energy Project site located on public lands within Imperial County, California."
^Survey stake marking the site of a proposed wind turbine generator, surrounded by Ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens) and Teddybear chollas (Cylindropuntia bigelovii).
^Contractors for Pattern Energy drove onto public land, which the public is not allowed to do, in placing these stakes.
More photos taken January 2012 >>here.
Geotechnical Cover Letter and Decision (137 KB PDF file)
Geotechnical Plan of Development (4.74 MB PDF file)
Geotechnical Right of Way Grant (92 KB PDF file)
Geotechnical Terms and Conditions (269 KB PDF file)
Ask BLM for Another Public Meeting
August 29, 2011 - The Bureau of Land Management held public meetings to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Ocotillo Wind Express Wind Energy Farm on August 24th and August 25th in the communities of Ocotillo and El Centro, California. In spite of the fact that many people showed up to express their concern this project, BLM did not allow anybody to make public comments. The BLM claimed that the meeting was simply an “Open House”, but did advertise the meetings as public. The public should have opportunities to submit comments for the public record both at meetings and in writing. The Ocotillo Wind Express project would develop over 12,000 acres of public lands for a 550 MW wind energy facility. The project would be located five miles from the community of Ocotillo. It would be visible from Anza Borrego Desert State Park and adjacent wilderness areas. It would be built on habitat for the flat-tailed horned lizard, and the Peninsular bighorn sheep. Large turbines could harm golden eagles and other birds. Twelve species of bats could be impacted by this project. The project would destroy prehistoric sites and be partially located in the region of the Yuha Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
The is listed as a BLM “Priority Project” meaning that the agency is under pressure from the Department of the Interior to approve it. They would very much like to see it become hooked into the Sunrise Powerlink, under construction now.
We believe that BLM short-changed the public by not allowing them to submit comments at these meetings. The below letter can be copied and pasted and e-mailed to the BLM. It requests more public meetings that allow public comment and requests an extension of 30 days on the comment deadlines for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Please copy the below letter and send it to: Teri Raml, District Manager, California Desert District Office, Bureau of Land Management and Cedric Perry, project manager for the Ocotillo Wind Express Project. Their e-mail addresses are mailto: Teri_Raml@blm.gov and email@example.com;
Add what you want and sign your name.
Sample letter below:
To Whom it May Concern,
The Bureau of Land Management recently denied the pubic comment opportunities at the El Centro and Ocotillo meetings for the proposed 12,000-acre Ocotillo Wind Express Energy Project on August 24th and 25th, 2011.
Public comments are an important process in the review of large projects like this. Many people would prefer to submit their comments at a meeting rather than in writing. The BLM need only provide a court reporter to record oral comments. When people travel great distances and are not permitted to speak, it appears as though the BLM has already decided to approve this project. This wind project will have negative impacts on native plants and wildlife, prehistoric cultural sites, Native American values, visual resources, private property, property values, and access to public lands. It is the responsibility of the BLM to hear all concerns associated with this project. The BLM can best accomplish this by accepting all comments in both written and oral form.
The BLM’s National Environmental Policy Act Handbook States: “Public involvement begins early in the NEPA process, with scoping, and continues throughout the preparation of the analysis and the decision.” Agencies are required to “make diligent efforts to involve the public in preparing and implementing their NEPA procedures” (40 CFR 1506.6(a).
I would like to request that the BLM hold another series of public meetings in the local communities in which oral public comments are accepted and recorded. I would also like to request a 30 day extension on the comment deadline for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. This would allow more time for the public to prepare for additional meetings.
(name and address here)
Draft Environmental Statement Out
^Ocotillos and barrel cacti (Photo by Terry Weiner).
[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 131 (Friday, July 8, 2011)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Bureau of Land Management
Notice of Availability of a Draft Land Use Plan Amendment, Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impact Report for the Pattern Energy Group Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project, Imperial County, CA.
AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of Availability.
SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended (FLPMA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared a Draft California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) Plan Amendment (PA)/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Ocotillo Express Wind Energy
Project (OWEF) and by this notice is announcing the opening of the comment period on the Draft CDCA PA and EIS/EIR.
DATES: To ensure that your comments will be considered, the BLM must receive written comments on the Draft PA/EIS/EIR within 90 days following the date the Environmental Protection Agency publishes its Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. The BLM will announce future meetings or hearings and any other public involvement activities
at least 15 days in advance through public notices, media releases, and/or mailings.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments related to OWEF by any of the
Web site: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro.html.
Fax: (760) 337-4490.
Mail: Cedric Perry, Project Manager, California Desert District (CDD), BLM, 22835 Calle San Juan De Los Lagos, Moreno Valley, California 92553.
Copies of the Draft PA/EIS/EIR are available on the BLM Web site at: http://www.ca.blm.gov/elcentro and at the CDD at the above address and in the BLM El Centro Field Office, 1661 S. 4th Street, El Centro, California 92243.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information and/or to have your name added to our mailing list, contact Cedric Perry, BLM Project Manager, telephone (951) 697-5388; address 22835 Calle San Juan De Los Lagos, Moreno Valley, CA 92553; e-mail Cedric_Perry@ca.blm.gov. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to
contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal business hours.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pattern Energy, Inc. through Ocotillo Express, LLC (OE LLC) has submitted a right-of-way (ROW) application to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission an approximate 12,436-acre, 474 megawatt (MW) wind energy project including 158 wind turbine generators, a substation, administration, operations and maintenance facilities, transmission lines, access roads, and temporary
construction lay down areas.
The proposed wind energy project would be located on BLM-administered lands and a small portion of land under the jurisdiction of Imperial County, approximately 5 miles west of Ocotillo, Imperial County, California. The proposed OWEF would be constructed in 2 phases. Phase I is anticipated to total approximately 315 MW, with the installation of up to 137 turbines ranging from 1.6 to 3 MW in generating capacity. Phase II would include the construction of 21 turbines (also ranging 1.6 to 3 MW in capacity) generating up to 159
The BLM has invited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to be a cooperating Federal agency in the preparation of the Draft PA/EIR/EIS because the Corps has jurisdiction by law under its delegated authority in section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as amended (33 U.S.C. Section 1344), as well as special expertise in aquatic ecosystems that
could be affected by the Ocotillo Project. The BLM and Corps agree that it will be beneficial to create a more streamlined, coordinated approach in developing the OWEF Draft PA/EIS/EIR. The two Federal agencies will be developing a Memorandum of Understanding for this purpose.
The BLM's purpose and need for the Draft PA/EIS/EIR is to respond to OE LLC's application for a ROW grant to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission a wind energy facility on public lands in compliance with FLPMA, BLM ROW regulations, and other applicable
Federal laws. The BLM will decide whether to grant, grant with modification, or deny the ROW application for the proposed OWEF. Concurrently with its action on the ROW request, the BLM is also proposing to amend the CDCA Plan by designating the project area as
either available or unavailable for wind energy projects. The CDCA Plan, while recognizing the potential compatibility of wind energy generation facilities with other uses on public lands, requires that all sites proposed for power generation or transmission not already
identified in the CDCA Plan be considered through the plan amendment process. If the BLM decides to amend the CDCA Plan, a ROW for this project could be granted. If not, the ROW could not be granted. In addition to the proposed action and a no action alternative, the BLM is analyzing a 137-turbine alternative and a 105-turbine alternative. The Draft PA/EIS/EIR also analyzes two "no project'' alternatives that reject the project but amend the CDCA Plan to make the project area either (1) available to future wind energy generation projects; or (2) unavailable to future wind energy generation projects.
The Draft PA/EIS/EIR evaluates the potential impacts of the proposed OWEF on air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, water resources, geological resources and hazards, land use, noise, paleontological resources, public health, socioeconomics, soils,
traffic and transportation, visual resources, wilderness characteristics, and other resources. A Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS/EIR for the OWEF project was published in the Federal Register on December 13, 2010 (75 FR 77654). The BLM held 2 public scoping meetings in El Centro and Ocotillo, California, on January 5th and 6th, 2011, respectively. The formal scoping period ended on February 4, 2011. Please note that public comments and information submitted including names, street addresses, and e-mail addresses of persons who submit comments will be available for public review at the above
address during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Monday through Friday, except holidays. Before including your phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comments, you should be aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Ocotillo wind farm to provide power to SDG&E
February 4, 2011 - San Diego Gas & Electric and Pattern Energy announced a 20-year contract for 315 megawatts of wind energy from Pattern’s Ocotillo Express wind energy project.
The Ocotillo-area project is proposed to generate 550 megawatts of power by the end of 2012. It would include up to 193 wind turbines on mostly public lands.
The project is in the environmental stage of the planning process at both the county and federal level.
If all government approvals are processed in a timely manner, Pattern expects to complete the project by the end of 2012, according to an SDG&E press release.
“This project presents a unique opportunity for a significant volume of environmentally-friendly power to be delivered to our customers, reaffirming SDG&E’s ongoing commitment to secure regional renewable resources for the San Diego area,” said James P. Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E. “This renewable resource is precisely the type of project the Sunrise Powerlink was designed to support.”
The contract has to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. If approved, it would be the fourth renewable energy contract SDG&E has signed in the past nine month, totaling 600 megawatts of power, according to the press release.
Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project Environmental Review to Begin
December 13, 2010 - A Federal Register Notice for scoping for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and potential California Desert Conservation Act Plan Amendment for Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project on 15,000 acres of desert between the town of Ocotillo and Anza Borrego Desert State Park appeared today.
January 21, 2011 is the comment deadline. Please contact the project manager and request a public scoping hearing in the impacted community of Ocotillo.
Bureau of Land Management e-mails to send comments:
The project lies between the 15,000 acre Tule Wind project to the west in the McCain Valley National Coopertative Land and Wildlife Management Area in Boulevard in Eastern San Diego County, and the 6,500 acre Imperial Valley Solar project to the east in Imperial County. It also lies between the Coyote Mountain Wilderness and Jacumba Wilderness on both sides of State Route-2 and Interstate-8. Just southwest of the Ocotillo Express location is Sempra's proposed cross-border 1,250 MW Energia Sierra Juarez wind project. Turbines are proposed in Baja adjacent to the border, the Jacumba Wilderness and bighorn sheep habitat. Comments closed on November 1 for the Department of Energy Presidential Permit Application for the 500 kV cross-border gen-tie line that will connect to SDG&E's proposed ECO Substation: www.esjprojecteis.org.
Ocotillo Express relies on the Sunrise Powerlink, that is still in state and federal court. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the ribbon at SDG&E's premature Sunrise Powerlink groundbreaking, where over 200 protestors were present to urge better alternatives to this massive transmission line.
Cumulative impacts are significant when added to Sunrise Powerlink, Imperial Valley Solar, Tule Wind, Energia Sierra Juarez, and more. Bighorn sheep and Golden Eagles have been observed in the last year in Ocotillo, Mountain Springs, In-Ko-Pah, Jacumba Wilderness, Boulevard, and the Sierra Juarez. Critical habitat and corridors will be fragmented.
Federal Register: December 13, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 238)
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Bureau of Land Management
Notice of Intent To Prepare a Land Use Plan Amendment and an Environmental Impact Statement for the Pattern Energy Group Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project, Imperial County, CA
ACTION: Notice of Intent.
SUMMARY: In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA); the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended, and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) El Centro Field Office and Imperial County, California, intend to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) along with a proposed amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA)
Plan (1980, as amended). This notice announces the beginning of the scoping process to solicit public comments and identify issues.
DATES: This notice initiates the public scoping process for the Draft EIS/EIR and possible CDCA Plan amendment. Comments may be submitted in writing until January 12, 2011. The date(s) and location(s) of any scoping meetings and site visits will be announced at least 15 days in advance through local media, newspapers and the BLM Web site at: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro.html. In order to be included in the Draft EIR/EIS, all comments must be received prior to the close of the scoping period or 15 days after the last public meeting, whichever is later. We will provide additional opportunities for public participation upon publication of the Draft EIR/EIS.
ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on issues and planning criteria related to the Pattern Energy Group Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project Draft EIR/EIS by any of the following methods:
Web site: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro.html.
Fax: (760) 337-4490.
Mail: Cedric Perry, Project Manager, California Desert District (CDD), BLM, 22835 Calle San Juan De Los Lagos, Moreno Valley, California 92553.
Documents pertinent to this proposal may be examined at the CDD or the BLM's California State Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, California 95825.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information and/or to have your name added to the project mailing list, contact Cedric Perry, BLM Project Manager, telephone (951) 697-5388; address 22835 Calle San Juan De Los Lagos, Moreno Valley, CA 92553; e-mail Cedric_Perry@ca.blm.gov.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Ocotillo Express, LLC has submitted an application for a right-of-way authorization to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission, an approximate 15,000-acre, 550 megawatt (MW) wind energy project including a substation, administration, operations and maintenance facilities, transmission, and temporary
construction lay down areas. The proposed wind energy project would be located on BLM administered lands and a small portion on lands under the jurisdiction of Imperial County, approximately 5 miles west of the town of Ocotillo, Imperial County, California. The proposed action consists of the construction, operation, maintenance, and
decommissioning of wind turbine generators and associated facilities necessary to successfully generate up to 550 MW of electricity. The project would be constructed in 2 phases: Phase I is anticipated to total approximately 299 MW, and Phase II is about 251 MW. A recently approved high-voltage transmission line known as the Sunrise Powerlink
crosses the Ocotillo Wind Energy Project site and will facilitate interconnection of the proposed project and transmission of its renewable energy output to Southern California.
The BLM will be the lead agency for NEPA compliance and Imperial County will act as the lead agency under CEQA for the project. The BLM has invited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to be a cooperating Federal agency in the preparation of the EIR/EIS because the proposed project may require a section 404 permit under the Clean
Water Act. The BLM and Corps agree that establishing a cooperating agency relationship will create a more streamlined and coordinated approach in developing the Ocotillo EIR/EIS and they will be developing a Memorandum of Understanding for this purpose.
The purpose of the public scoping process is to determine relevant issues that will influence the scope of the environmental analysis, including alternatives, and will guide the process of developing the EIR/EIS. At present, the BLM has identified the following preliminary issues: air quality, biological resources, recreation, cultural
resources, water resources, geological resources, land use, noise, paleontological resources, land with wilderness characteristics, public health, socioeconomics, soils, traffic and transportation, visual resources, and other issues. Authorization of this proposal would
require an amendment of the CDCA Plan. By this notice, the BLM is complying with requirements in 43 CFR 1610.2(c) to notify the public of potential amendments to land use plans. The BLM will integrate the land use planning process with the NEPA process for this project.The BLM will use and coordinate the NEPA commenting process to satisfy the public involvement process for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470(f)) as provided for in 36 CFR 800.2(d)(3). Native American Tribal consultations will be conducted in accordance with policy, and Tribal concerns, including impacts on
Indian trust assets, will be given due consideration. Federal, State, and local agencies, along with other stakeholders that may be interested or affected by the BLM's decision on this project, are invited to participate in the scoping process and, if eligible, may
request or be requested by the BLM to participate as a cooperating agency.
Public comments, including names and street addresses of respondents, will be available for public review at the Bureau of Land Management, El Centro Field Office, 1661 South 4th Street, El Centro, California 92243, during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), Monday through Friday, except holidays. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Deputy State Director, Natural Resources.
^Part of the hills near the proposed wind project location, as seen from the site of the proposed Imperial Valley Solar Project to the east.
February 23, 2010 - Southern Colorado Desert, California
Wind Farm Proposed on Boundary of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Pattern Energy, through Ocotillo Express LLC (OE LLC), proposes to construct, operate,
maintain and decomission a 561 megawatt (MW) wind generation facility on approximately
14,980 acres in the Ocotillo Express wind project area, with 244 wind turbines in the Imperial Valley desert, Imperial County in southern California near the border of Mexico. The turbines would be about 400 feet tall.
If approved the project would be in operation by the end of 2012. The electricity would flow to Sunrise Powerlink, San Diego Gas and Electric Co.'s controversial transmission line from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.
Wally Leimgruber, District 5 county supervisor, said the Ocotillo Express Wind Project would advance the county's renewable energy industry.
The Sunrise Powerlink has been attacked for claiming it would carry renewable electricity, while actually connecting to many fossil fuel power plants south of the border. Early proposals would have driven the giant transmission line through Anza-Borrego State Park.
"The project scope will include a network of 16 foot wide roads that will provide access to each turbine location and to the project’s O&M building."
"During the course of construction, access roads will have an additional temporary disturbance of 20 feet to facilitate the travel of large tracked cranes. These disturbed areas will be graded and compacted for use and then decompacted and stabilized at the conclusion of the project. In addition to the crane travel paths, the underground collection system will also parallel the access road network further widening the disturbed area" (page 6 of the draft Plan of Development obtained by Basin and Range Watch).
"A total of about 20,000 gallons of water per turbine will be needed for batching
concrete. Based on the maximum of 244 turbines, a total of 5,000,000 gallons of water will be needed for turbines. In addition, approximately 15,000,000 gallons of water are expected to be required for road maintenance and dust suppression. In total, approximately 20,000,000 gallons (61.4 acre feet) of water will be needed for the project during construction. All water would be delivered from the selected source, by truck to the Batch Plant and project area. Up to 3500 vehicle trips would be required for water delivery. Temporary water storage tanks would be installed support these water needs" (page 7 POD).
Gravel and concrete aggregate would come from up to three, 15-acre locations within or near the project area.... The materials will be trucked to the batching plant and placed into stockpiles. Cement will be delivered on trucks from a source to be identified and stored in two to five silos on site. Approximately 510,000 pounds of sand, 800,000 pounds of gravel and 240,000 pounds of cement will be needed for each turbine site. Based on a maximum of 244 turbines installed, 124,500,000 pounds of sand, 195,200,000 pounds of gravel and 58,560,000 pounds of cement will be utilized. Additional sand, gravel and cement will be required for construction of the substation, switchyard and O&M facilities (page 20, POD).
Ocotillo lies near Jacumba Mountains Wilderness and Coyote Mountains Wilderness. The area is biologically rich, with Flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii), Peninsular bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni), and Ironwood forests. The Flat-tailed horned lizard is due for a decision this November on whether it should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
From local resident Edie Harmon, February 23, 2010: "The area around Ocotillo has an incredible glow of all shades of greens, with creosote, verbena, encelia, cheesebush, burroweed, datura, and countless small annuals up and in bloom now. Buds on cacti are abundant and look as if they will also soon be blooming. Definitely not a barren wasteland for those who are not blind and choose to open their eyes. Sure beats looking at and listening to freeway traffic for me! Guess that beauty is in the eyes and ears of the beholder. The proposed Wind Zero site almost looks golf-course green where it flooded during January and September rains, all depending on where one is standing and looking."
The turbines would be 2.3 MW Siemens at 126.5 m total height, or 1.8 MW Vestas at 125 m.
Download the Plan of Development.
Pattern Energy also is pushing a large wind farm next to Great Basin National Park near Ely, Nevada, about a mile from a cave that shelters more than one million Brazilian free-tailed bats (our story on this project >>here).
Story in AnzaBorrego.net
PermoCo Engineering and Management >>here.
Maps and diagrams from the POD.
^Flat-tailed horned lizard (Copyright Laura Cunningham 2010).
See also the Tule Wind Energy Project in McCain Valley, eastern San Diego County >>BLM website.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION San Diego Gas & Electric East County Substation Project