December 3, 2013

Solar project planned next to Mojave National Preserve

Soda Lake in the Mojave National Preserve reflects the sky. A commercial solar development is proposed within a mile of the lake bed, prompting worries about water depletion and the fate of an endangered fish, among other concerns. (David Danelski/staff photo)


Federal officials are taking public comments on a draft environmental study on plans for a commercial-scale photovoltaic solar development on public land next to the Soda Lake area of the Mojave National Preserve.

The Bureau of Land Management likely will hear plenty of environmental concerns before the comment period closes on Feb. 26.

The Soda Mountain Solar Project is proposed by Bechtel, the nation’s largest construction and engineering firm. According to the company, the solar operation at peak production would generate 358 megawatts, enough electricity to power 116,300 homes.

The development has drawn opposition from the National Park Service and environmental groups because its footprint would be within a mile of the national preserve. Among their worries: loss of quality wildlife habitat, negative effects on bighorn sheep that range in the surrounding mountains, and potential harm to water sources needed by a nearly extinct fish.

Bechtel officials have said the site has plentiful sunshine, nearby power lines and fewer environmental issues than other sites. Some of the project area already has been disturbed by a freeway, mines and pipelines, they have said.

The development would create 200 jobs during construction, which could start next summer if Bechtel obtains the necessary approvals.

To learn more, click here for a report I did last year on project and the controversy.

The BLM’s information and documents on the project can be found here. Yet- to-be-scheduled public meetings are planned in Barstow.

Written comments may be sent to Jeff Childers, Soda Mountain Solar Project Manager, 22835 Calle San Juan De Los Lagos, Moreno Valley, CA 92553, or to

Childers can be reached at 951-697-5308.