BLM launches environmental review of transmission for California solar project

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced Aug. 29 that it will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to assess the impacts of a proposed transmission line that would connect the Rio Mesa Solar Project in Riverside County, Calif., to the state’s transmission grid.

The announcement follows a request by developer Rio Mesa Solar Holdings for a right-of-way (ROW) authorization to develop a 10-mile transmission tie line, a three-mile service power line, and three miles of access road on land managed by the BLM.

As the lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), BLM will prepare an EIS to analyze the site-specific impacts of the proposed ROW and a proposed amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area Plan.

The agency published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register Aug. 29, initiating a 30-day public scoping period that ends Sept. 28.

During the scoping period, BLM will solicit public comment on issues, concerns, potential impacts, alternatives, and mitigation measures that should be considered in the analysis of the proposed action.

On Aug. 30, the agency announced that two, two-hour public meetings have been scheduled for Sept. 13 in Palm Desert, Calif. BLM will use the comments received during those public meetings to prepare the draft EIS (DEIS). The DEIS will be available for public review later this year.

The EIS will analyze the site-specific impacts on air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, water resources, geological resources and hazards, hazardous materials handling, land use, noise, and visual resources and transmission system engineering and transmission line safety, it said in a statement.

Rio Mesa Solar, which is owned by BrightSource Energy, is proposing a 500 MW solar generation facility using mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on power towers. According to the developer’s project web site, the project will be built on private lands approximately 13 miles southwest of Blythe, Calif. The majority of those lands are owned by the Blythe Metropolitan Water District, according to the web site.

The developer said the project will create more than 1,700 construction jobs at the peak of construction and approximately 100 operations and maintenance jobs.

Calls seeking additional details from the developer were not returned by press time Aug. 30.

If approved, construction would begin in late 2013 and is expected to be complete by 2016.