CRIT sues Riverside County over solar project

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The Colorado River Indian Tribes has filed a lawsuit against Riverside County and its board of supervisors for approving the 3,660-acre Blythe Mesa Solar Project allegedly without fully considering the impact of the development on tribal resources.

CRIT filed the suit on June 12th in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Riverside. Project developer Renewable Resources Group is also named in the suit, which requests that the court direct Riverside County to rescind its approval and halt construction of the project until it comes into compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and all applicable laws.

“The project is located in the ancestral homelands of the Colorado River Indian Tribes’ Mohave and Chemehuevi members, in a region rich in cultural resources that have been used since time immemorial,” said Councilwoman Amanda Barrera. “These resources have remained intact for millennia, but now are threatened by ever increasing pressure to develop the Mohave Desert with utility scale solar facilities.”

The Colorado River Indian Tribes assert that the county violated CEQA by failing to adequately disclose, analyze or mitigate impacts in a number of areas, including cultural and spiritual resources like ancient trails, landscapes, and archaeological patrimony.

Last month the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the 485-megawatt plant near Blythe. Clean energy advocates and environmental groups have supported the proposal, which is to be built on lands the tribes say are of cultural importance to their people. The project would generate more than $500,000 in annual revenue for Riverside County through the county’s $150-per-acre solar fee.

Project planners say they tried to minimize environmental impact by placing the plans for the project on previously disturbed lands as much as possible, including near power lines. But several large-scale solar projects like Blythe Mesa have stalled or been abandoned because of concerns raised by conservationists.

In 2014 CRIT says it sent extensive comments to Riverside County during the public comment period, identifying the issues now listed in the lawsuit. The county approved the development, which is located eight miles from CRIT’s reservation, without adequately responding to CRIT’s concerns, according to a statement by the Tribes.

“Despite maps that verify the presence of prehistoric trails in the vicinity of the project, the county incorrectly found that there were no trails present,” Councilwoman Barrera said. “We object that the county solely relied upon archeological field studies to determine the existence of buried cultural resources. We urged them to consult with tribal elders regarding the location of buried cultural resources and perform geomorphic studies to determine the likelihood that these are on the project site, but Riverside County failed to address these concerns.”

Although the tribes today are based in Parker, AZ on the CRIT reservation, the ancestral homelands of the Mohave people are a much wider expanse of the Mojave Desert, with the lands’ use evident in archeology and passed down in oral tradition over centuries. The tribes are commemorating 150 years of the CRIT reservation this year, which was established by Congress in 1865 on the banks of the lower Colorado River.

23 comments

  1. Maggie Alcaida Lee

    Why wasn’t this stopped before it was completed? It wasn’t built over night. Didn’t the tribe send tribal members to the grand opening/ribbon cutting for a ceremonial dance blessing the project?

  2. Rob Kaufman

    they dont seem worried about putting 2 gas stations that polute on thier land .

  3. Tim C. Stevens-Welsh

    Oy I usually defend my tribe but I can’t on this one so have at it everyone because our tribe doesn’t inform us of big projects that are going up . The two gas stations happened so quick and as far as the ribbon cutting wasn’t a ceremony blessing so know your facts before blasting it please …. I know that because I was a part of it …. It was a ceremony for all the disturbed graves out there.

  4. Parker Live Updates

    Maggie- As I understand the project isn’t even ready for construction yet. So there haven’t been any ceremonies or grand openings to speak of.

  5. Maggie Alcaida Lee

    Thanks. Guess I got it confused with the other project I see on 10 entering Blythe I need to do some research on this. Keep us posted.

  6. Maggie Alcaida Lee

    Elyse I wasn’t h8 ing. Just trying to get answers.

  7. Angela Nez

    the gas stations aren’t being built on gravesites

  8. Angela Nez

    but can you imagine if the tribe was putting a gas station atop the graveyard? who would be the first to file lawsuit?

  9. Maggie Alcaida Lee

    I was asking a question not blasting

  10. Parker Live Updates

    That’s a great point. The lawsuit is about losing cultural artifacts, primarily.

  11. Angela Nez

    they weren’t blessing the project…

  12. Eilleen Garcia

    U tell them Angela Nez!!!

  13. Rob Kaufman

    its all about $$$$ thats why they are sueing. why wouldnt the tribes let them build it and then reposess it like that do with similar properties and project? becasuse its not clear if the land is completly tribal or state. If is was clearly tribal land there would be no lawsuite. whos land is bigrivers? prove it

  14. Süd Schiller

    Rob thats all this country is ever about. Probably has to do with a competitors energy company in cahoots with that tribe trying to get the upper hand. Cultural artifacts… we wont be able to enjoy those artifacts if we continue to pollute our planet with fossil fuels. I hope the case gets tossed.

  15. Robert Shank

    So this is about trails that may or may not exist off the reservation? Or am I missing something here?

  16. Large scale solar is a huge waste of not only beautiful desert land, and all of the magic that this starkly powerful area has to offer but actual public money, let me explain for starters every dollar we put into geothermal energy we would have to put in three dollars just to be on an even playing field when investing in solar. The sun shines strong enough for only around eight hours a day as compared with geothermal or (the heat from our mother) twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Forget about storage because that is a separate issue from production and that’s what is on the table right this moment is the production of energy from whatever source is being harvested. Also geothermal has the smallest land use footprint of any energy source alternative or conventional, and has the lowest carbon footprint of any energy source alternative or conventional. The earth we live apron is over one thousand degrees Celsius or hotter over ninety nine percent of its mass making it an unlimited clean source of energy for humanity for the foreseeable millennium. Their is new geothermal technologies that have been and are being invented that do not use water for the heat collection process which will be perfect for this desert area. I will write to infom all of you about just how we are going to accomplish both clean energy independence and preservation of our mother. until then Tree man Dave signing out.

  17. Make no “bones” about it, it’s all about the mighty $$$ and how the Indians aren’t going to profit from it. It’s not about ancient trials, or ancestral land from “time immemorial” it’s about the Indians not getting a cut.. Period….

  18. If it is a comment on whether or not a peoples who have used a piece of property for thousands of years have a vested interest and or a legal right to use this said property with a permanent easement to cross it when needed
    and desired, then I would say that they absolutely have that right end of argument. Back to the solar plant (which will in many ways alter a beautiful and living landscape in a negative way for ever, and deny the original property holders the ability to use this land in the ways that they have for time immortal). First lets talk about how this power system is built how it functions to turn sunshine into electricity. They start by scraping the land to build the parabolic collectors, support roads, pipeline paths etc. Then they build the system including power lines crossing even more pristine desert land. Pipelines to supply the water for the concentrating steam pipes, and the use of precious water in the middle of the hot dry desert. and don’t forget about all the new roads and bright lights for night maintenance. O.K now they are ready to start producing power, but even now after all of this destruction to the environment and misleading the public by saying that they can produce four hundred mega watt hours of electricity( this is per hour every hour) this only means maximum output which solar thermal never reaches. On average thirty percent capacity is about average for these types of solar power generating systems, which makes this plant more on the tune of a one hundred and forty mega watt power system. Then thier is the paltry one hundred and fifty dollars a year leasing fee per acre that riverside county gets out of between two hundred to three hundred million dollars a year that is split by the solar plant owners and the utility transmission line owners. All the while we the tax payers will be giving them huge tax breaks, Be sure to add that when you are totaling up your energy bill. geothermal addresses all of the issues that are raised from these land destroying solar monster plants. When a conventional geothermal power plant says a four hundred mega watt maximum capacity output they average around seventy five to ninety percent of this output. And like I said in my writings yesterday
    geothermal has both the smallest carbon footprint and the smallest land use footprint of any energy system alternative or conventional. with the new systems that are coming for
    Geothermal energy extraction that use other materials to collect the heat/ energy other then water, Geothermal doesn’t waste water, Especially important in a desert setting. Well that gives you people a little more knowledge about how all of this stuff works in the real world and I will write again soon. Tree man Dave PS for all of you native American bashers don’t you think it is time to stop after three hundred years.

  19. one killer monsoon hail storm and they are all destroyed !!!! Work Smarter Not harder !!!

  20. The site CRIT Government is suing for is not even on the CRIT Reservation. It is totally out of there jurisdiction. It is not the BLM’s fault or Riverside County Board of supervisors fault for what they are being sued for. The former Tribal Council were being recalled by the current tribal council now in power who are filing this lawsuit. The CRIT tribal Chairman Dennis Patch wasn’t even in office yet when the Deal was being made. He was busy orchestrating the Recalls of the former council members when the Indians missed out coming to the tables with BLM, the Solar company, and the Riverside county Government. The Dennis Patch council now weren’t even elected in yet. Now they are trying to blame these California and Federal Govt.’s for there own slothfulness. There reason using religious reasons to try and stall progress and Crying around about there ancestors who are buried out there and there artifacts. It is so hypocritical because they don’t even care and could care less what happens to there fellow tribal members now. The CRIT Government won’t even help there own people out now so why are they crying around, trying to make a issue out of a bunch of dead ancestors. They won’t even help out there own fellow tribal members now. In the end of this mess the Dennis Patch CRIT Govt. created. The tribes will end up with nothing out of this whole deal in the end and these lawsuits don’t make any sense. The Motive here is Money and Greed and nothing Religious or traditional ways.

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