WASHINGTON —Public input is being sought on a plan to locate solar and wind energy developments on property in Cochise County.
The Bureau of Land Management is inviting comment on a draft document that is part of President Obama’s initiative to spur renewable energy development on “previously disturbed” public lands.
“We have two parcels identified as potential sites for future renewable energy in Cochise County,” said Tom Dabbs, BLM Gila District Manager.
One is a 43-acre site at the Tombstone Landfill and the other 156 acres of agricultural land located near the U.S.-Mexico border at the San Pedro River, according to Dabbs.
Public comment began this week and will continue for a 90-day period. The draft document environmental impact statement, including maps, is available online at http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/energy/arra_solar.html.
“With some of the most significant solar resources in the world, Arizona has great potential to build a strong renewable energy economy,” Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar said.
“This blueprint for Arizona will help focus activity in the places where it makes the most sense to develop renewable energy, both for the companies and for the environment. Early, comprehensive analysis of things like resource potential, transmission, and environmental conflicts is simply good government. I am confident this smart planning will pay dividends for the state now and far into the future,” Salazar said.
The project seeks to establish renewable energy development areas on lands that were previously disturbed or have low resource sensitivity, including former landfills, brownfields, mines, isolated BLM parcels, and Central Arizona Project canal rights-of-way. The draft EIS also proposes a baseline for environmental protection measures for facilities sited in these areas.
The areas can be used for wind or solar projects, both utility-scale (more than 20 megawatts) or smaller distributed-scale
While the final plan will only apply to BLM-managed lands, the draft EIS examines all lands in Arizona and can serve as a resource for the public, policy makers, and energy
The preferred alternative identified in the draft EIS calls for designating lands within five miles of utility corridors and existing transmission lines or near a point of power demand, such as a city, town or industrial area; and addresses water issues by instituting design features to avoid negative impacts to watersheds, groundwater supply, and water quality.
The BLM manages about 237,100 acres in Arizona that meet these criteria. If adopted, the preferred alternative would amend several BLM resource management plans in the state to provide directed, landscape-scale planning for future solar and wind projects and allow for a more efficient permitting and siting process.
The Restoration Design Energy Project complements a parallel process being undertaken by the BLM to conduct a comprehensive environmental analysis to identify ‘solar energy zones’ on public lands in six western states, including Arizona.
Comments on the draft EIS may be submitted by any of the following methods: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Fax: Attn: Lane Cowger, (602) 417-9454; Mail or other delivery service: BLM Arizona State Office, Attn: Restoration Design Energy Project, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004-4427.
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