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Desert News

Friday, August 29, 2014

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Every week we scour dozens of sources to bring you the latest environmental news for the Desert Southwest. Click a date above to read that day's edition. Want your news included? Email us.

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Fish and Wildlife OKs Death, Injury of Hundreds of Ivanpah Tortoises

BLM Lifts Suspension of Activities Order for Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System [BLM Press Release, dated today]

The Bureau of Land Management has issued a notice today allowing construction to resume on parts of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. An immediate temporary suspension of activities decision was issued April 15 and has now been lifted since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new Biological Opinion concluding the project will not jeopardize the threatened desert tortoise.

The BLM reinitiated consultation with the FWS in March after the project proponent BrightSource Energy reported finding more tortoise in the project area than originally anticipated. The BLM issued an Immediate Temporary Suspension of Activities decision for the project in April when project biologists reported reaching the limit of number of tortoises handled under the original Biological Opinion.

After reviewing the new information and clearance data at the project site, the FWS issued a new Biological Opinion today that includes new stipulations for translocating tortoise as well as new requirements for protecting them from predators and increased monitoring and fencing.

“This new Biological Opinion allows the project to move forward without jeopardizing the tortoise, taking into account the higher number of animals found,” said BLM-California Acting State Director Peter Ditton. “We worked closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service throughout the development of this new BO and will continue to work together to monitor construction of the ISEGS project.”

The BLM issued a Notice to Resume Activities and Notice to Proceed on Units 2 and 3 today, giving BrightSource the green light to resume construction with the new stipulations and requirements for protecting tortoise. Approved construction will include the power block in Unit 2 and the Unit 3 access road. Work on the heliostat fields in Units 2 and 3 will not move forward until the tortoise translocation window reopens in the fall when the weather cools. The new Biological Opinion and Notice have been posted on the BLM website at http://blm.gov/b45c.