Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

BLM Approves Alta Windpower Project in Southern California; Comprehensive Protections in Place for California Condors

May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013                                                                                                                        
Contacts:  Amy Krause (BLM) 916-978-4615
               Scott Flaherty (FWS) 916-978-6156

                          

BLM Approves Wind Energy Project in Southern California 
Project advances responsible wind development on public lands; employs comprehensive measures for California Condor and Golden Eagle protection 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved the issuance of a right-of-way grant to Alta Windpower Development, LLC (Alta Windpower) to construct, operate, maintain and decommission a wind energy generation facility capable of generating up to 153-megawatts of power.  Once fully operational, Alta Windpower expects the facility to produce enough electricity to power approximately 45,000 homes.  To address potential impacts to sensitive species, the project will utilize cutting-edge technology to detect and avoid impacts to the California Condors and Golden Eagles. 

The project would employ an estimated 260 workers during peak construction and create 15 permanent jobs. A 12.5 mile generation interconnection transmission line also is proposed to connect the project to Southern California Edison’s Wind Hub Substation. 

“Today’s approval of the Alta East Wind Project builds upon the U.S. Department of the Interior’s commitment to expand renewable energy on public lands in a responsible way,” said Jim Kenna, the BLM’s California State Director. “Not only does this project create good jobs and generate clean and reliable power, but we’ve also worked closely with the company and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the protection of eagles and California Condors.” 

The project would be located approximately three miles northwest of the Town of Mojave and approximately 11 miles east of the City of Tehachapi, and will encompass 1,999 acres of public lands.  Alta Windpower also submitted use permit applications to Kern County for an additional 593 acres of private land, for a total project size of 2,592 acres. The BLM worked with the proponent, a subsidiary of Terra-Gen Power, LLC, to minimize the project’s footprint.  The number of turbines has been reduced by more than 50% from the initial proposal of 106 turbines to 51 turbines authorized in the record of decision.  

The project underwent extensive public review throughout the development of the draft and final environment impact statements.  Terra-Gen also worked closely with the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to implement key mitigation measures.  The company installed comprehensive condor detection and avoidance measures that greatly reduce risks to condors. Because of these measures, the FWS issued a biological opinion that finds that this project will not jeopardize the recovery of the California condor and allows for the take of a single condor over the 30-year lease to protect BLM from violation of the Endangered Species Act should take occur.

In the unlikely event that a condor is struck by a turbine blade, the BLM will require Alta Windpower to cease day-time operations and implement additional measures to ensure that the project does not pose any further threat to condors.

“This is a positive step as we continue to support the conservation and recovery of condors,” said Ren Lohoefener, regional director for the FWS’s Pacific Southwest Region. “This project provides a basis for future consultations and an opportunity to engage other renewable energy companies and stakeholders with best practices that support condor recovery.”

As a further mitigation measure, Terra-Gen has committed to contributing to the Condor Recovery Program to help fund and implement a lead abatement program. Ingesting lead from spent ammunition is the single biggest cause of wild condor deaths.  Terra-Gen’s contribution will also help fund research to further resolve potential wind energy and condor conflict, and other appropriate recovery actions for the 30-year life of the project.

For golden eagles, Terra-Gen has applied for a take permit from the FWS, and the BLM is requiring the implementation of a comprehensive Eagle Conservation Plan.  In the unlikely event that an eagle is struck by a turbine blade prior to Alta Windpower obtaining a take permit, the BLM will require Alta Windpower to implement additional measures to ensure that this project does not pose any further threat until such permit is issued.

The Record of Decision, biological opinion, right-of-way grant, fact sheet and map for the Alta East Wind Energy Project are available http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest/alta_east_wind_project.html.  

(BLM)