U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

News Release

Public Input Sought on Conservation Plan for New Solar Complex

May 27, 2014

Media Contacts:
Sarah Swenty, 530-665-3310, sarah_swenty@fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking input on a study of the environmental impacts for Maricopa Sun’s proposed solar energy facility in Kern County. In order to receive a federal permit for the facility, Maricopa Sun, LLC must develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). The draft HCP and associated draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be available for public comment from May 28 to August 26, 2014.

An HCP describes a project's anticipated impacts on at-risk species; how those impacts will be minimized or mitigated; and how the HCP is to be funded. HCPs can apply to both listed and non-listed species including those that are candidates or have been proposed for listing.

Maricopa Sun, LLC has requested an incidental take permit (pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act) for three federally listed endangered species and two unlisted species. In order to receive an incidental take permit, Maricopa Sun, LLC must develop an HCP. The Service will then evaluate the impacts of both the project and a no-action alternative.

The proposed HCP, if permitted, would preserve almost 5,700 acres of species habitat and natural lands within Kern County in the San Joaquin Valley. By protecting threatened and endangered species, as well as securing habitat for currently non-listed species, an HCP can provide for the long-term survival of these species, ensuring these species will exist for future generations.

The permit requested by Maricopa Sun, LLC would cover impacts to at-risk species associated with construction, operation, and decommissioning of an up to 700 megawatt solar facility. The permit would also cover the HCP conservation actions for the project site that covers 5,784.3 acres in southwest Kern County, California. The project is made up of multiple parcels and located approximately six to 20 miles east of Taft along South Lake Road and along Copus Road.

Three federally listed endangered species are expected to be covered in the applicant’s proposed HCP: The Blunt-nosed leopard lizard, the Tipton kangaroo rat, and the San Joaquin kit fox. The unlisted burrowing owl and Nelson’s antelope squirrel will also be covered by the HCP for a 35-year term.

About the Process
In issuing an incidental take permit, the Service must comply with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The Service must conduct a NEPA analysis on the potential issuance of an incidental take permit to evaluate, and disclose the potential effects of HCP implementation to the public. Service and NEPA policy requires the agency to involve the public in the process to develop an HCP and associated NEPA analysis, which primarily occurs through the Federal Register.

As a part of the NEPA process, the Service prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Maricopa Solar Complex HCP because the effects of plan implementation are likely to have substantial effects on one or more elements of the human environment, primarily with respect to development of the covered activities on existing agricultural resources.

The public is involved through development of: 1) a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS and public scoping meetings, 2) a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the draft documents (EIS, HCP, etc.), and 3) a NOA of the final documents. These Federal Register processes invites the public to comment during a 1) 30 day period for an NOI, 2) 90 day period for an NOA associated with draft documents and 3) 30 day period for final documents.

The Service published an NOI on December 23, 2011 and held one public scoping meeting on January 23, 2012 in Bakersfield, California. The Service received one comment letter on the NOI from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on February 16, 2012.

To request further information or submit written comments, please use one of the following methods, and note that your information request or comment is in reference to the Maricopa Sun Solar Complex Habitat Conservation Plan.

  • U.S. Mail: 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825-1846.
  • In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (916) 414-6600 to make an appointment during regular business hours to drop off comments or view received comments at the above location.
  • Fax: Justin Sloan or Mike Thomas, (916) 414-6713, Attn.: Maricopa Sun Solar Complex Habitat Conservation Plan.

What's Next
The Service will evaluate the application, associated documents, and any public comments submitted on the draft EIS to prepare a Final EIS and determine if the proposed HCP meets the criteria for an incidental take permit. A permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the publication of a Final EIS notice in the Federal Register and completion of the Record of Decision.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

Last updated: December 1, 2017