Sunday, September 19, 2010

Can plant and animals coexist with these new energy developments?

I am no botanist or biologist or scientist, just a bus driver. What I am is a person
that is interested in conserving the desert to the fullest extent possible. This question
came to me as I was sitting upon the sacred metamorphic hill the other day at the
site of the soon to be approved Ivanpah SEGS.

After making the ascent, and having settled in on a fairly comfortable lava rock perch and
after securing my desert rat hat from the very gusty winds up there, I looked around in
the directions toward Ivanpah’s 1,2, and 3. Then I finally remembered what had been
stuck far away in memory- the new plan for this project is to mow vegetation to about
18 inches high and maintain it at that level in the heliostat fields. Of course roads will
be bladed through for the trucks to go down for the mirror washing process, etc but
as far as I can remember, most of the site will be mowed and not completely bladed.

It has occurred to me before on drives out to the Palm Springs area, looking at the wind
turbine fields and from having walked through one out there, pssst don’t tell anybody,
that even though they have made dirt roads between the rows and there are obvious
equipment laydown areas etc, animals could and I bet are still living in and on those
wind farms.

What happened this morning to also jog my memory was the sighting of a very large
and obviously well fed opossum seen in the Embassy Suites driveway in the Disneyland
area of Orange County, California. By the way, in the past, a raccoon raced and beat
my trolley at night near a Disney parking lot and a coyote family was living near the
strawberry field near the Convention Center until they turned it into a parking lot recently.
So wild animals are still alive and well in the big city, judging by what I personally have
witnessed, just not in large numbers.

Now I spent some time online today looking for information on this subject and didn’t
have much success. I will continue looking and if anybody reading this has any links or information, let me know via a comment or email it to me.

Here are the facts as I see them or as I read the tea leaves. Even though I don’t like it
and have railed against it, this Ivanpah SEGS project appears like it will be given the
go ahead by the CEC. Since it appears that the major environmental groups haven
given their tacit consent by not opposing it, I think it is highly unlikely that any lawsuits
will be brought forward against it on NEQA grounds. I would but I sincerely doubt any
attorney would take my check for a million dollar or so retainer :-(

So we have to work with what we have. Several fast tracked projects either already or
about to be approved and a DRECP plan just released for public comment, no chance
of its’ recommendations being implemented anytime soon.

As it stands, the many desert tortoises and other species affected are under a sentence
and that sentence is death, death by translocation re: the desert tortoise.  No
matter how it’s done, as Ft. Irwin proved, translocation= death for a majority of
the the tortoises involved.

These projects right now being approved total around 49 square miles if memory serves me. That’s a lot of land, a lot of species both plant and animal, and they ain’t no signs
of an environmental group riding to the rescue, legal briefs in hand. A done deal in other
words. Understand that I am being very cynical and discounting any chance that the CEC
will come to its’ senses and actually turn down any of these boondoggles.

So my idea, albeit late in the game, is to consider removing the tortoises for example
safely, place them in a safe area where they can be examined, fed, checked out, and after
the approved projects are built, let them back in to coexist with the plant, in the areas
still vegetated of course. I know there will be all kind of objections, but after all this is
their home, they could be tagged with transponders and receivers could be mounted in
the mirror wash trucks for example, workers could be educated, biologists could be on
call- it just seems to me that the death rate would be way lower this way than if they were
yanked out of their burrows and translocated elsewhere in other tortoises’ existing
home territories, where agonistic behaviour would be a guaranteed result.

For example, here are a few ideas to think about. The security fencing could have tortoise
and badger sized holes along the bottom in places, but small enough to not allow in coyotes or man. Other similar sized animals would still be able to enter and exit as well.

Ravens could be kept in control by sharpshooter if necessary, especially during hatching
season. Other birds could still come and go, but would be in danger of frying if caught in
the line of the heliostats and the receiving tower, etc. Ponds would still have to be covered
as mentioned in the plans already submitted.

As I have said several times, I am not a politician, just a small fry blogger and bus driver.
I don’t do spreadsheets or math models, nor do I parse my words or ask anyone for
permission to write or post. I do not agonize before posting whether I will piss off any of
my readers and followers either.

I am just throwing this idea out there, now that the handwriting is on the wall and destruction to the ecosystems these project sites represent, is imminent. What harm can
it do to just consider the idea? How hard would it be for folks like intervenors, environmental groups, government types, and energy company folks to sit down and
hash something out?

I am probably way out in the “lunatic fringe” with this idea but I really don’t care. If it’ll
save some of these endangered soon to be dead animals, it’s okay, call me a wack job.



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