County planning director Cory Lytle voiced concerns about the Bureau of Land Management’s draft final report on the Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Valley North Solar Energy Zone at the Aug. 17 County Commission meeting.
He said after all the input given regarding the solar energy zone, the draft report was submitted to commission members and a letter of reply sent in return.
Lytle said, “From the language of the letter and the extent of comments we have some serious issues with it. We think there should be some different direction taken in the mitigation, and we are trying to spell out to potential developers, this is what it is going to cost you up front. This is what we want to do to solidify some of the potential projects.”
Lytle said Lincoln County has already done this, having previously developed energy zones, and were inviting the development to occur in these locations. We want to have them come here.”
However, the point being, developers need to keep themselves only in the 25,000 acres in the area the county has identified, and not anywhere else. “What we want to do is establish where these developers can come in at.” He summarized the thinking as being, “This is where the development is invited by the county, don’t deviate from it, so the mitigation should be as minimal as possible.”
Lytle said some of the numbers given in the original report for the regional mitigation strategy were very high, “absolutely ridiculous,” and some of the other concepts listed were hard to put numbers to.
The purpose of the comment letter , Lytle said, “is to make sure our comments were heard and we are not trying to identify some other off-site areas.” He said one proposal, of which he thought was completely unnecessary, would be to create a Joshua Tree Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
An ACEC is an administrative designation made by the BLM through a land use plan. It is unique to BLM in that no other agency uses this form of designation. Private lands and lands administered by other agencies may be located within the boundaries of ACECs, but are not subject to the prescribed management of it.
“But,” said Lytle, “in the Dry Lake Valley North Solar Energy Zone there are probably no more than 10 Joshua Trees, if any at all.”
Commissioners approved the comment letter and to have it forwarded to the Ely BLM office. Lytle said, “This is just one part of the overall process, it’s all going to take time.”
Critics of the county’s position, Lytle noted, have said, “What you are doing with this document is basically saying to developers why not to come. But we want to change that direction and hopefully give developers a better incentive to come.”
One person at the meeting said the comments in the letter are consistent with previous positions taken by the commission board.
Concern was also voiced that if the mitigation strategy were to be adopted without our suggested changes, that it will result in encouraging a developer to go somewhere else, outside of the solar energy zone, or outside of the county itself.
Lytle said the solar energy zone in Dry Lake Valley North will still retain its multiple use concepts, you can run cattle on it, race dirt bikes, etc., through the proper channels, but for right now it exists on paper only.”