The proposed wind facility by Duke Energy near Searchlight, Nevada, will change the character of this part of the Mojave Desert forever. Alternative energy belongs in areas that have already been developed, not on ecologically sensitive public lands. The projected cost of the facility is 600 million dollars yet it is only expected to create 15 full time jobs. Such an investment is not worth the effort when it will cause so much damage to the scenery, biological diversity, archeology and property values to the area it is proposed for.
The project is located too close to the Piute-El Dorado Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Desert tortoise, gila monsters, bighorn sheep, and many species of bats and birds will be killed or disturbed by this project. Individual desert tortoise on neighboring ACEC lands will wander into the project area. Stress from development and movement of tortoises could contribute to upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) and certain shell diseases. The Searchlight area is along the Colorado River migration corridor for geese and ducks between Canada, the Great Salt Lake, and south to Mexico. Many of these birds may be killed by the turbines. The project will be visible from the highway as well as wilderness areas and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The lower Colorado River region is rich in archeological sites which will be destroyed by the blasting and construction of roads and trenches.
In some cases, the project would be located within a quarter mile of private property. The environmental review does a poor job of evaluating public health impacts such as Wind Turbine Syndrome and effects from dust stirred up during construction.The project would damage the property values of local residents.
The Bureau of Land Management needs to consider a distributed generation alternative, a private lands alternative and an alternative that sites the project away from sensitive wildlife resources and private property.
April 19, 2013 - Three Nevada residents, and the grassroot groups Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains and Basin & Range Watch are suing the Interior Department over its approval of the Searchlight Wind Energy Project, arguing the wind project would cause widespread damage to sensitive wildlife habitat.
Two grassroots groups -- Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains and Basin and Range Watch-- and three residents who live near what would become the Silver State's largest wind project filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada in Las Vegas against former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. They claim the defendants failed to properly analyze the full impacts of the project on sensitive wildlife species and nearby residents.
Salazar signed a record of decision (ROD) last month approving the 200-megawatt Searchlight Wind project, which would be built on 18,949 acres of federal land about 60 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
The 30-page complaint says that the environmental impact statement (EIS) "presents a one-sided and incomplete portrait of the proposed project and its likely adverse environmental impacts."
"The Project would pose significant adverse harm to a wide array of sensitive and protected species -- including desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, bald eagles, and resident and migratory birds and bats -- through direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts," the complaint says.
Instead of addressing these issues, "Salazar selectively relied upon his own agency's internal policies seeking to promote renewable energy on public lands, while disregarding other policies" that call for protecting sensitive species such as golden eagles.
The complaint argues that the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Salazar violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act when the project was approved.
The plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Miranda Du to vacate and remand the final EIS, biological opinion and ROD back to the agencies, and to issue an injunction preventing BLM "from allowing construction to commence on the project through ground-clearing, site preparation, or other such actions until such time as Defendants have fully complied with the law."
The plaintiffs want BLM and FWS to redo the documents to consider the larger impacts not only to sensitive wildlife but also to the property values and quality of life of those living nearby, said Dave Becker, a Portland, Oregon-based lawyer representing the two groups and three residents.
The 428-foot-tall wind turbines would be visible from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the east, as well as the town of Searchlight, Nevada, where the light and noise from the spinning turbines could affect property values and quality of life -- none of which was considered by BLM in its EIS, Becker said.
"There are many species we are concerned about with this project," he said. "But one of the species we are most concerned about is the human species. This project is too close to where tortoises, eagles and people live."
The high desert country is no place for an industrial-scale wind farm like Searchlight Wind. Numerous species of birds use the nearby Colorado River as a migration corridor roughly 10 miles away from the proposed wind farm site. The area is habitat for golden eagles and bald eagles fish nearby in Lake Mojave.
Also at risk is the Mojave Desert tortoise. Fish and Wildlife has estimated the Searchlight Wind project area contains more than 388 acres of tortoise habitat. Bighorn sheep use the area as a winter migration route.
A large wind project would fragment the area with roads and trenching for underground cables. And there would be a lot of traffic on the roads during the 30-year life of the project. More roads mean more motorists, and that means the potential for more road kills.
Quality-of-life is also a major concern outlined in the lawsuit.
Of the three individuals named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Ronald Van Fleet Sr. is a member of the Fort Mojave tribe who uses the BLM lands that will be affected by the project for spiritual activities, including spiritual runs.
The two other plaintiffs -- Ellen Ross and Judy Bundorf -- live near the project site, and both are active volunteers working with Basin and Range Watch, as well as Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains.
Ross owns 17 acres of property as close as 800 feet from the project site. Bundorf owns 90 acres of property about 1.4 miles north of the wind farm project site.
In other places, wind turbines associated with the project would be constructed as close as 1,345 feet from residential properties, and the final EIS fails to disclose the full extent of properties that would be visually and aurally affected by the project.
Similarly, the final EIS fails to disclose or analyze effects of the project on recreation and tourism in the Searchlight area. Instead the EIS estimated that as many as 800 visitors might be drawn to view the turbines without ever evaluating whether the 300,000 visitors who annually come to the area for its scenic beauty and to use and enjoy the public lands and resources of the area will avoid the newly-industrialized area and seek recreation and tourism opportunities elsewhere.
See also ReWire by Chris Clarke >>here.
March 13, 2013 - Record of Decision signed for the Searchlight Wind Project,
On March 13 Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced the approval of McCoy Solar Energy Project (750 megawatts), Desert Harvest Solar Farm (150 MW), and Searchlight Wind Energy Project (200 MW). McCoy solar is a project by NextEra Energy, in Riverside County near Blythe CA, Desert Harvest is an EDF Renewable Energy (formerly enXco) project in Riverside County near Desert Center CA, and the Searchlight wind project is by Duke Energy in Clark County, NV. Secretary Salazar made the announcement in San Francisco with California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. The Interior Department story can be read >>here.
Here is the Bureau of Land Management announcement of the Record of Decision.
March 22, 2013 - Read the Bureau of Land Management Record of Decision for the Searchlight Wind Energy Project.
^February 23, 2013 - About 40 people showed up to protest the poorly planned Searchlight Wind Project in Searhlight Nevada. Participents were local people, Native Americans and desert conservationists. Most people would rather see the desert left alone. See more >>here.
December 14, 2012 - Searchlight Wind Energy Project: The Final Environmental Impact Statement has been released by the Bureau of Land Management. >>here
Send a letter in opposing the Seachlight Wind Project >>here
See the Gallery Page >>here
See the Wildlife and Plants page on the Searchlight Area from Basin and Range Watch : >>here
Basin and Range Watch Searchlight Wind Project pages can be viewed >>here
Sacred land near Spirit Mountain and the treasured landscapes surrounding Searchlight, Nevada are threatened by a pending proposal to build an ill-sited industrial-scale wind farm.
Please join area residents, Native American Tribal Members, conservationists and recreational users in opposing the Searchlight Wind Project.