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 Park in Merced County

Public Comments Due By March1 16, 2015

January 13, 2015

Media Contact:
Sarah Swenty, (530)665-3310, sarah_swenty@fws.gov

Sacramento - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is making available to the public a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) developed by Wright Solar Park LLC for a solar energy facility in Merced County, California. The Service is opening a 60 day public comment period and will accept comments on the proposed Wright Solar Park HCP and draft EA through March 16, 2015.

Wright Solar Park LLC has requested an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the endangered Blunt-nosed leopard lizard and San Joaquin kit fox and the threatened California tiger salamander Central California distinct population segment. In order to receive an incidental take permit, Wright Solar Park LLC must develop an HCP to cover impacts to at-risk species.

Figure 1 - Wright Solar Permint Area

An HCP describes the anticipated impacts on at-risk species associated with its covered activities, 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. Because issuance of an incidental take permit is a federal action, the Service will evaluate the impacts of both the project and a no-action alternative pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The proposed Wright Solar Park HCP, if permitted, would preserve approximately 2,450 acres of species habitat and natural lands within Merced County in the San Joaquin Valley and cover impacts to at-risk species associated with construction, operation, and decommissioning of an up-to-200 megawatt solar facility. The permit would also cover the HCP conservation actions for the project site that covers approximately 2,731 acres in western Merced County, California. The project is made up of multiple parcels located approximately 0.6 miles north of the Los Banos Reservoir, east of Interstate 5, and south of Billy Wright Road. The proposed permit term is 35 years.

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 at-risk species.

In issuing an incidental take permit, the Service must comply with NEPA and evaluate and disclose the potential effects of HCP implementation to the public. Service and NEPA policy requires public involvement in the process to develop an HCP and associated NEPA analysis. As a part of this process, the Service prepared the draft EA for the proposed Wright Solar Park HCP to evaluate the the effects of plan implementation and determine whether or not they are likely to have substantial effects on one or more elements of the human environment.

To encourage public involvement in the process, the Service invites the public to review the draft HCP and EA and make comments. The public can submit written comments, or request further information, through the following methods:

  • 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: Joshua Emery or Mike Thomas, (916) 414-6713, Attn.: Wright Solar Park Habitat Conservation Plan.

When contacting the Service, please note that your information request or comment is in reference to the proposed Wright Solar Park Habitat Conservation Plan. For more information about HCPs and incidental take permits can be found at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/permits/hcp/index.html.

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