Tribes Fear Destruction of Cultural Sites by Solar Project
Indian Country Today
Tribes in California fear the destruction of cultural resources with the construction of a solar project dubbed Palen developed by Brightsource Energy.
“Artifacts and cultural sites, they don’t reproduce,” pointed out Arlene Kingery, tribal historic preservation officer for the Quechan tribe at a meeting July 22, reported The Desert Sun. “They’re taken, and they’re put somewhere and destroyed. When they’re gone, they’re gone.”
The meeting was between tribal representatives, state officials and Brightsource Energy, the developer of the Palen project, which would place two 750-foot tall solar towers about 60 miles east of Indio, California. According to The Desert Sun, each tower would be surrounded by 85,000 reflecting mirrors.
The California Energy Commission released a report in June that said some 800 cultural sites could be affected in some way by solar projects, whether that means land dug up or obstructed views of the site; 75 of those were found in the area of the Palen project.
Alfredo Figuero, who is with La Cuna de Aztlan, a group that monitors sacred tribal sites in the desert, said the Palen project could destroy tribal trails crossing the area, reported The Desert Sun.
Tribal representatives at Monday’s meeting felt their concerns weren’t being heard or taken into account.
“There are limitations in how we get responses back and how our words are openly received,” said Linda Otero of the Fort Mojave tribe, reported The Desert Sun. “You have to look at visual impact and analysis and really see what that means. For Native people, Mojave, along the river, it’s different. We sacrificed so much, and we’re sacrificing again.”
Lorey Cachora, a cultural resource consultant for the Quechan, fears another Genesis, NextEra Energy’s 250-megawatt solar thermal project, which is under construction just 15 miles east of Palen. The discovery of Native American artifacts there in November 2011 merely slowed construction.
Visual impact is another concern for many involved.
“We saw the Ivanpah tower,” Kevin Emmerich, of Basin and Range Watch, a grassroots environmental group keeping an eye on solar projects in California and Nevada, told The Desert Sun. Emmerich was referring to another BrightSource project, this one has three 459-foot towers, and is now nearing completion in eastern San Bernardino County near Las Vegas, Nevada. “You really could not go anywhere in that very large basin without having your attention drawn to that.”
A final environmental impact report is scheduled to come out August 23 and the Bureau of Land Management will be issuing its impact report as well, which will kick off a 90-day public comment period.