Few people might notice the 750-megawatt solar facility proposed for an area of desert land near Blythe, CA, which will provide power for up to 264,000 homes. But tribal leaders say the land contains precious cultural resources that the project would destroy, despite some amendments by the company intended at preserving them.
Now the McCoy Solar Energy Project will be the site of a tribal ceremony on Saturday intended to help maintain the tribes’ footprint on ancestral lands. It is being organized by the Mohave Elders Committee of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT).
According to CRIT, the land in question contains burial sites, petroglyphs, sacred trails and intaglios that belonged to the ancestors of present-day CRIT members, who lived across a much broader region than the contemporary CRIT reservation.
The solar project, situated on mostly federal land a few miles west of Blythe, has been held up as an example of how renewable energy – solar, wind, etc. – has dropped in cost to the point that it is economically viable as never before. Energy leaders are increasingly looking for good locations for such projects, which also mitigate environmental concerns that fossil fuel plants raise. In the enthusiasm to find such locations, CRIT suggests that the federal Bureau of Land Management has turned a blind eye to tribal concerns.
In a letter to the California Energy Commission back in January, CRIT Council Chairman Dennis Patch wrote, “Shifting the burden of renewable energy development to the unique communities that have occupied this landscape since time immemorial, while providing such communities with no identified benefits, is the very definition of environmental injustice.”
A Commission spokesperson agreed that tribal concerns are legitimate, saying that some areas of public lands are uniquely important to the Tribes. The amendments to the project plans aim to resolve some of the concerns and preserve some of the cultural resources in question.
Saturday’s ceremony will involve tribal singing and other rites and, according to a CRIT flyer, is “sponsored by the CRIT Mohave Elders Committee and NextEra”, the parent company building the solar facility.