A Native American tribe wants to block a proposed wind power plant on protected California land that it says is home to hundreds of archaeological sites.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved the Ocotillo Wind Express Facility (OWEF) on 10,000 acres of the Ocotillo Desert in California earlier this month.
But the Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation says the land is protected under the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) plan.
The planned project will include 112 wind turbines standing 450 tall, with blades that sweep a circle measuring 371 feet in diameter, according to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
“The OWEF Project is only one of many large utility-scale renewable energy projects located on California desert lands that have recently been approved, or are under consideration for approval, by Interior, and which threaten scenic, cultural, and biological resources designated for protection under the CDCA plan,” the complaint says.
The tribe says that the Interior’s final environment impact report found that the area features 287 archaeological sites and is also home to rare artifacts, prehistoric trails and half a dozen burial sites.
“The Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has been quoted in recent media reports as stating that his department’s current approach to renewable energy development is so aggressive that it is ‘on steroids,'” the complaint states.
“Despite Interior and the applicant’s aggressive efforts to ‘fast-track’ the review of the OWEF Project, Congress did not waive or limit the applicability of any federal laws or regulations related to compliance with NEPA, the NHPA, FLPMA, or other laws with regard to the OWEF Project,” according to the complaint, abbreviating the National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. “Full compliance with applicable federal laws is mandatory.”
East County Magazine reported that a coalition opposed to the project condemned the agency’s decision.
“It came as a devastating blow to many who live in and love the desert and the history it contains,” the groups said in a statement, according to the magazine. “It seems Mr. Salazar doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that this project will cause irreparable harm to sensitive desert habitat and destroy land and view sheds which are sacred to Native Americans as well as destroying the quality of life for local residents.”
As a federally recognized tribe, the Quechan people were reserved the lands and resources of the Fort Yuma Reservation in 1884, according to the lawsuit.
It seeks a permanent injunction against the proposed project.
The tribe is represented by Thane Somerville with Morisset, Schlosser, Jozwiak & Somerville of Seattle.
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