Quechan tribe tries to stop Imperial Valley solar project

El Centro, California (AP) November 2010

A Native American tribe has sued the federal government in an effort to block construction of a solar project planned on 6,000 acres of public land in the Imperial Valley.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Quechan tribe alleges that Tessera Solar’s project near El Centro could damage “cultural and biological resources of significance.” In a complaint against the Interior Department, the tribe claimed department officials ignored their concerns and rushed through or skipped permitting steps, violating federal law. The solar farm completed its approval process in October.

The 3,500-member tribe is asking a federal judge in San Diego to issue an injunction against the project.

State and federal agencies have fast-tracked several major solar projects to help the companies take advantage of federal stimulus funds.

The complaint said more than 28,000 solar dishes intended for the site could harm the flat-tailed horned lizard, which plays an important role in the tribe’s creation mythology. To offset the impact of its Imperial Valley project, Tessera agreed to buy 6,600 acres of lizard habitat.

The project is expected to create as many as 700 jobs during construction and 160 permanent operation positions.

The company is also moving forward on a similar installation near Barstow.

Tessera joins BrightSource, SunPower and other solar energy firms that have encountered wildlife issues on proposed solar farm sites.