Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin
Ocotillo Express Wind Project
Ocotillo Express Wind Project in Imperial County, California. Ocotillo Express LLC received a 5-year eagle take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on March 29, 2019 for the operation of the Ocotillo Express Wind Project. Credit: Heather Beeler/USFWS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received an application from Ocotillo Express LLC for a long-term eagle take permit, pursuant to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, associated with the operation of the Ocotillo Express Wind Project. Ocotillo Express Wind Project is a 315-megawatt project located almost entirely on Bureau of Land Management lands in Imperial County, California. The permit application requests take of golden eagles associated with project operations. The project is currently operational and consists of 112 wind turbines within an approximately 12,500-acre area.
The applicant prepared an Eagle Conservation Plan, submitted with their application, which details how they propose to avoid, minimize, and mitigate for adverse effects to eagles. Compensatory mitigation is proposed to fully offset eagle take by retrofitting power poles in areas with high densities of eagles, which reduces ongoing fatalities of eagles due to electrocution.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq.) in response to our respective requests from Ocotillo Express LLC for an eagle take permit and a Right of Way grant amendment at its Ocotillo Express Wind Project. In the EA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assessed impacts of the proposed action (i.e. issuance of an eagle take permit), as well as alternatives to the proposed action. Our analysis, as presented in the EA, considers authorization for take up to a maximum of two golden eagles over a five-year-period, as well as also assessing the option of issuing a 30 year permit. The applicant’s BLM Right of Way grant amendment consisted of two requested changes to the grant: 1) A request to lift the requirement of an experimental system that was intended to minimize risk to eagles, and 2) a request to change the night time lighting system on the turbines from lights that flash all night to lights that would turn on only when an aircraft is flying near the project.
The alternative selected as outlined in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the EA is for our issuance of a five year eagle take permit that will authorize the take of up to 2 eagles over a five year period and for the BLM’s amendments to the project’s ROW grant.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a 5-year eagle take permit to Ocotillo Express LLC for operation of the Ocotillo Express Wind Project effective on March 29, 2019.
FONSI Attachment 1: Final Environmental Assessment (22MB)
EA Appendix A: Eagle Conservation Plan
EA Appendix B: Avian and Bat Protection Plan
EA Appendix C: Listed Species
FONSI Attachment 2: Response to Comments on Draft EA
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