US: Calico project sued

The groups have filed a lawsuit after failing to come to an agreement with the developers and the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the possible relocation of the project to a site where the environmental impacts will be lessened.

Calico’s current and former developers K-Road Power and Tessera Solar have met with the groups for the last three years to work out a solution. The group has demanded that the project be relocated to a less environmentally sensitive site. The options included degraded private agricultural lands near the proposed project that would significantly reduce the project’s impacts and bring it more in line with "smart from the start" principles. The proposals were rejected by the developers.

The 4,000 acres (approximately 16 square kilometers) of the Mojave Desert’s Pisgah Valley is a key desert tortoise habitat that connects several tortoise recovery areas in the region. The groups fear that the development of the project on this site will threaten the tortoise habitat and that of at least six other imperiled animals and plants.

Defenders, NRDC and the Sierra Club have previously supported or reached agreements with developers of five of the seven large-scale solar projects approved in California by Interior since 2009. This consensus building effort resulted in better projects that would create almost 3,670 construction jobs, about 525 permanent jobs and nearly 2,600 megawatts of clean power while minimizing impacts on key species and wild lands.

"What’s frustrating about the Calico solar project is that the developer and the Bureau of Land Management can avoid the worst impacts to wildlife by being smart from the start and moving the project to degraded agricultural lands near the proposed site," said Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife’s California program director. "If this project moves forward at this location, Calico will irreversibly harm the sensitive Pisgah Valley and the desert tortoise."