County of Imperial Campo Verde Solar Project - Introduction

K Belden
2012-05-14
County of Imperial

CHAPTER 1.0 INTRODUCTION

 

1.1                        PURPOSE OF THE DOCUMENT

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires State and local public agencies to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prior to approving any project that may have a significant effect on the environment. According to CEQA, a “project” is defined as the whole of an action that has the potential to result in a direct physical change or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment (State CEQA Guidelines Section 15378[a]). The Campo Verde Solar Project is in Imperial County and meets the definition of a “project” as defined by CEQA.

The County of Imperial is the lead agency for the preparation of this EIR under CEQA and is responsible for conducting the environmental review and certifying the EIR. Likewise, consistent with the requirements of CEQA, the County will use the EIR as a decision-making tool to assist with its determination whether to approve, modify, or deny the project. The County also has discretionary authority to issue a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the project.

The Campo Verde Solar Project EIR (State Clearinghouse Number [SCH. No.] 2011111049) is a public document for a renewable energy project, specifically a solar generation facility. This Draft EIR describes the existing environment and evaluates the project-specific and cumulative impacts of the proposed project and alternatives in accordance with the provisions set forth in CEQA and the CEQA Guidelines. This EIR will be used to address potentially significant environmental issues and recommend adequate and feasible mitigation measures, where possible, that could reduce or eliminate potentially significant environmental impacts.

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1.2                        PROJECT BACKGROUND

In 2002, California established a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring electric utilities in the State to increase procurement of eligible renewable energy resources to achieve a target of 20 percent of their annual retail sales by the year 2010. In 2008, by Executive Order (S-14-08), then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger increased that target to 33 percent by the year 2020. In 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) X1-2 into law. The Bill requires all California utilities, including independently owned utilities (IOUs), energy service providers, and community choice aggregators (CCAs), to generate electricity from renewable sources over a three-stage compliance period (refer to subsection 1.6.1, item “A. Renewables Portfolio Standard Program”).

One form of renewable energy is solar energy as harnessed through the use of photovoltaic (PV) technology. PV power systems convert sunlight into electricity. The process begins with individual PV cells that combine to form PV modules. The modules are sealed and connected to each other with wires to form a PV array. The PV arrays convert solar radiation into direct current (DC) electricity. The direct current from the PV array is collected at an inverter and converted to alternating current (AC). AC electricity is consistent with the current flowing through the electrical grid.

The proposed project is a solar generation facility using PV technology proposed by Campo Verde Solar, LLC (hereafter referred to as “Applicant”). One hundred percent of the electricity generated by the proposed project will be eligible for use by California electric utilities to satisfy procurement obligations under the State’s RPS program.

 

On March 24, 2011, the Applicant submitted an application for a CUP to the Imperial County Department of Planning and Development Services (ICPDS). The CUP application was submitted to allow construction and operation of a solar PV electric generation facility and associated transmission line in western Imperial County near the Imperial Valley Substation.

On September 12, 2011, the Applicant submitted an Application for Transportation and Utility Systems and Facilities on Federal Lands (Standard Form 299, or “SF-299”) to the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The SF-299 application requested a linear Right-of-Way (ROW) to construct and operate the gen-tie and associated facilities on land managed by the BLM.

A Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Campo Verde Solar Draft Environmental Impact Report was issued by the ICPDS on November 15, 2011.

On February 7, 2012, the Applicant submitted a Variance Application to the ICPDS. The Variance Application was submitted to address gen-tie structures that may exceed the A-2 and A-3 zoning height limitation of 120 feet. If approved, the Variance would permit a maximum height of the gen-tie Line structures of 145 feet.

1.3                        PROJECT OVERVIEW

The proposed project consists of two primary components: 1) solar generation equipment and associated facilities on privately owned land (the “solar generation facility”); and, 2) 230-kilovolt (kV) aboveground, electric transmission line(s) and associated facilities (the “gen-tie”) located  on both private land and public land managed by the BLM. The gen-tie will connect the solar generation facility with the Imperial Valley Substation. BLM is conducting a separate environmental review of the proposed right-of-way (ROW) grant required for the gen-tie line under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). The proposed permanent BLM ROW width is 160 feet. The solar generation facility and gen-tie are collectively referred to as the “proposed project” or “project.” The area encompassing the solar generation facility and the gen-tie is referred to as the “project area.” The solar generation facility portion of the project (exclusive of the gen-tie segment on BLM land) is referred to as the “project site” or “solar generation facility site.”

1.3.1                 PROJECT LOCATION

The proposed project site is in unincorporated Imperial County approximately 7 miles southwest of the community of El Centro, California. The project site is located generally south of Interstate 8 (I-8), west of Drew Road, and north and east of the Westside Main Canal.

1.4                        OBJECTIVES, PURPOSE AND NEED FOR THE PROPOSED PROJECT

Pursuant to CEQA the following objectives have been identified for the proposed project. Section 15124 of the CEQA Guidelines requires that the EIR include a statement of objectives sought by the proposed project. These objectives identify the underlying purpose of the project and provide a basis for identification of alternatives evaluated in the EIR. A clearly written statement of objectives allows the lead agency to develop a reasonable range of alternatives to evaluate in the EIR and aids the decision-makers in preparing findings or a statement of overriding considerations, if necessary.

 

Demand for new forms of renewable electric energy continues to grow based on three factors. First, total electricity demand continues to grow as a result of population growth, economic growth and new applications offset only, in part, by energy efficiency programs. The 2010 United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook (“reference case”) forecast is for a 30 percent increase in total demand (from 3,873 billion kilowatt hours to 5,021 billion kilowatt hours, annually), between the years 2008 and 2035. Second, new generation facilities are required to not only meet this demand, but to replace the output of aging generation facilities which are to be retired during this period. Third, driven by federal incentives, regional greenhouse gas reduction targets, state renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) requirements, and potential legislation, an increasingly greater portion of new generation will need to be supplied in the form of renewable energy. The EIA forecast for the period from 2008 to 2035 is for 41 percent of growth in generation to come from non-hydro renewables.

This national trend is particularly evident in the West, the fastest growing region in the United States. Many Western states have adopted renewable energy standards and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals.

California is a national leader in requiring a significant proportion of electricity to come from renewable sources. The 2010 requirement that 20 percent of electricity sales come from renewable energy was increased to 33 percent by 2020. With California’s 33 percent mandate, combined with other mandated RPS requirements and regional sales growth, the total renewable energy sales for the US portion of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council region has been estimated at close to 150,000 Gigawatt hours (Gwh) by 2020 (not including Idaho, Utah and Wyoming). The proposed project will help California meet its statutory and regulatory goals for increasing renewable power generation and use.

The gen-tie component of the proposed project would provide the needed transmission capacity to connect the Campo Verde Solar Project with the Imperial Valley Substation. Renewable energy generated by the project would be conveyed to areas of demand.

The Campo Verde Solar Project qualifies as an Eligible Renewable Energy Resource as defined by the California Public Utilities Code and would assist the state in meeting current and planned goals for renewable energy development and use. The California Energy Commission (CEC) certified the Campo Verde Solar Project as an eligible renewable energy resource under the RPS and assigned it CEC-RPS identification (ID) number 60652C.

1.4.1                 OBJECTIVES

The proposed Campo Verde Solar Project has the following objectives:

  • Meet the terms and requirements of the Project’s Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and Large Generator Interconnection Agreement.
  • Deploy a technology that has been commercially proven and that is safe, readily available, efficient, and environmentally responsible.
  • Generate electricity at a cost that is competitive on the renewable market.
  • Provide a new source of renewable energy to assist the State of California in achieving the RPS.

 

   Provide local construction jobs for a variety of trades, reducing unemployment in the construction sector.

  • Locate the project in Imperial County in close proximity to the existing California Independent System Operator (CAISO) electric transmission system at a location which has available capacity to deliver electricity to major load centers in California.
  • Locate the project in an area that ranks among the highest in solar resource potential in the nation.
  • Minimize the potential impact to the environment by:

−         Locating the project on disturbed land.

−         Maximizing the use of existing infrastructure (transmission lines, roads, and water sources).

−         Minimizing the potential impacts to threatened and endangered species by avoiding sensitive habitats and designated resource, reserves or protected areas.

−         Reducing the emission of GHGs from the generation of electricity by using renewable energy.

The Campo Verde Solar Project was developed to sell its electricity and all renewable and environmental attributes to an electric utility purchaser under a long-term contract to help meet California RPS goals. The Applicant has a long-term PPA (20 years) with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to purchase the initial output from the project.

The County’s objectives include the following:

   Encourage economic investment in renewable energy activities.

   Increase opportunities for construction employment, reducing unemployment in one of the labor sectors most affected by the recession.

   Diversify Imperial County’s economic base by developing environmentally-responsible non- agricultural activities.

   Increase tax revenue through sales, use and property taxes generated by renewable energy development within Imperial County.

   Reinforce Imperial County’s position as a leader in renewable energy production.    Expand the renewable energy sector in Imperial County’s economy.

1.4.2                 REVIEW & CERTIFICATION PROCESS

  1. NOTICE OF PREPARATION

Due to the potential for significant impacts to result from the proposed Campo Verde Solar Project, the County determined than an EIR would be necessary. The County prepared an Initial Study (Code of California Regulations [CCR] §15063b (1)(A)) and subsequently issued a Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the preparation of an EIR (SCH. No. 2011111049) for the Campo Verde Solar Project on November 15, 2011 (discussed further in subsection 1.7.1, below). The NOP was

 

distributed to city, county, state and federal agencies, other public agencies, and various interested private organizations and individuals to define the scope of the EIR. The NOP was also published in the Holtville Tribune on Sunday, November 13, 2011. The purpose of the NOP was to identify public agency and public concerns regarding the potential impacts of the proposed project, and the scope and content of environmental issues to be addressed in the EIR. Circulation of the NOP ended on December 16, 2011.

  1. DRAFT EIR

The Draft EIR includes a detailed description of the proposed project, description of the environmental setting, identification of project impacts, cumulative impacts, and mitigation measures for impacts found to be significant. An analysis of project alternatives is also provided as well as a discussion of cumulative impacts; and other CEQA required considerations. Upon completion of the Draft EIR, a Notice of Completion (NOC) will be filed with the State Office of Planning and Research by the County. The NOC signals the start of the public review period for the Draft EIR (CCR §15085).

  1. PUBLIC NOTICE/PUBLIC REVIEW

The Draft EIR public review and comment period should be no  less  than  30  days and no  longer than 60 days. In the case of the proposed project, the review period will be 50 days (45 day minimum per CEQA, plus five days per County of Imperial Guidelines).

On May 15, 2012 a NOC was filed with the State Clearinghouse for the Draft EIR, initiating the 50-day public review period of the Draft EIR document and associated technical appendices.  The public review period on the Draft EIR ends on July 3, 2012 after which time all comments received will be responded to (refer to item D, “Response to Comments/Final EIR,” below).

Concurrent with filing the NOC, the County is also required to provide notice to the public, agencies, organization and other interested parties of the availability of the Draft EIR for review and comment. A Notice of Availability (NOA) was published on May 13, 2012 in the Imperial Valley Press newspaper as well as posted at the County’s website and libraries. Public comment on the Draft EIR will be accepted in written form. Details on where to send questions or comments are provided in subsection 1.8, below.

  1. RESPONSE TO COMMENTS/FINAL EIR

A Final EIR (FEIR) will be prepared following the public review and comment period for the Draft EIR. The Final EIR will respond to written comments received during the public review and comment period and to oral comments made at any public hearings to take comments on the Draft EIR.

  1. CERTIFICATION OF THE EIR

The Final EIR will be independently reviewed and considered by the County. If the Final EIR is deemed “adequate and complete,” the County may certify the EIR at a public hearing. In general, the rule of adequacy holds that the EIR can be certified if it demonstrates a good faith effort at full disclosure of environmental information and provides sufficient analysis to allow decisions to be made regarding the project in terms of its environmental consequences.

 

Following review and consideration of the Final EIR, the County may take action to approve, conditionally approve, revise, or reject the project. Written findings would accompany a  decision to approve or conditionally approve the project (CCR §15091). Likewise a statement of overriding considerations would be prepared if necessary (CCR §15093). A Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP), as described below, would also be adopted for mitigation measures that have been incorporated into or imposed upon the project to reduce or avoid significant effects on the environment.

  1. MITIGATION MONITORING AND REPORTING PROGRAM

The County must adopt a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP) for mitigation measures that have been incorporated into or imposed upon the project to reduce or avoid significant effects on the environment (CCR §15097). This program will be designed to ensure that these measures are carried out during project implementation.

The specific reporting or monitoring program required by CEQA is not required to be included in the EIR. However, any mitigation measures adopted by the County as part of the certified Final EIR will be considered as conditions of approval for the project and will be included in the MMRP to ensure and verify compliance.

1.5                        AGENCY ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

1.5.1                 IMPERIAL COUNTY

Private land on which the solar generation facility is proposed is zoned A-2 - General Agriculture, A-2-R - General Agriculture, Rural Zone, and A-3 - Heavy Agriculture. The application for the proposed project requests approval of a CUP by Imperial County to allow the construction and operation of the proposed solar generation facility on a project site consisting of 27 legal parcels zoned for agriculture. The Imperial County Code of Ordinances Title 9, Division 5 (Zoning Areas Established), identifies permitted uses within various zones as well as uses requiring a CUP.

Imperial County Code Section 90508.0 addresses uses in the A-2 and A-2-R zone. The following uses are permitted subject to approval of a CUP from Imperial County: solar energy electrical generator, electrical power generating plant, major facilities relating to the generation and transmission of electrical energy, and resource extraction and energy development.

Section 90509.01 identifies the following permitted uses in the A-3 zone: “Transmission lines, including supporting towers, poles, microwave towers, utility substations.”

In addition to a CUP, the proposed project would require approval of a variance by Imperial County to allow the proposed transmission pole structures to potentially exceed the 120-foot height limit. No rezoning is required to implement the proposed project.

Pursuant to CEQA, the proposed project may require the following County authorizations:    Certification of the EIR;

   Adoption of a project MMRP;

   Approval of CEQA Findings pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15091;    Approval of project Site Plan

   Conditional Use Permit (CUP11-0007)

 

   Abandonment of Rights-of-Way

   Development Agreement/Public Benefit Agreement    Subdivision Map Approvals

   The project will require a lot line adjustment for the easement for the gen-tie line on private property.

   Public Water System Permit

   Private Sewage Disposal Permit

 

   Site Plan

   Variance (V12-0008)    Grading Permits

   Construction Traffic Control Plan

   Building Permits

   Septic System Permits    Occupancy Permits

   Encroachment Permits

1.5.2                 OTHER AGENCY REVIEWS AND/OR CONSULTATIONS

The project would require permits and approvals from various federal, state and local regulatory agencies. The agencies, potential permits and approvals are identified below.

  1. FEDERAL

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Approval of Grant of Right-of-Way Approval of Environmental Assessment UNITED STATES ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) possesses jurisdiction over waters of the United States and jurisdictional wetlands pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act. The ACOE regulates the discharge of dredge/fill material into such waters, including ditches and drains that could be jurisdictional. The Applicant has submitted a jurisdictional determination report to the ACOE to determine the scope of potential jurisdictional waters and, if required by the ACOE, will obtain permit coverage for any impacts to federal jurisdictional waters. .

UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is responsible for oversight of the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). USFWS is being consulted regarding the project’s potential to impact federally-listed endangered/threatened or

 

proposed species or their critical habitat. If the project may affect a listed species, the Applicant will obtain appropriate take authorization under the ESA, if necessary.

BLM AND CALIFORNIA STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE (SHPO)

The BLM will comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 5024 requires consultation with the State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) when a project may impact historical resources on state-owned land. The proposed project does not impact a historical resource on state-owned land and as such, consultation is not required.

BLM is in the process of initiating formal Section 106 process because the Class III cultural resources study for the gen-tie is in the process of being finalized.

The BLM will consult with the SHPO and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to evaluate the effect of the project on resources listed or eligible for listing under the National Register of Historic Places and California Register of History Places. Depending upon the results of this process, the agencies may enter into a Programmatic Agreement (PA), a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or other agreement to address and resolve any potential adverse effects.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) AND/OR FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA)

The military attended the BLM's pre-application meeting and did not identify any concerns about height or airspace hazards. No further consultation with Department of Defense is necessary and no Corridor Conflict Analysis is required. However, the Applicant prepared an Air Hazards Analysis using the FAA Notice Criteria Tool. The results from the screening tool indicate that notice to the FAA would not be required for the proposed gen-tie, or any of the alternatives (ENValue, 2012, p. 3).

  1. STATE

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) is responsible for overseeing the California Endangered Species Act, approving Streambed Alteration Agreements (Section 1602 of the California Fish and Game Code), and enforcing the California Native Plant Protection Act. The CDFG would take action associated with any activity where a listed candidate, threatened or endangered species under California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be present in the project area and a state agency is acting as lead agency for CEQA compliance. CDFG would also consider issuance of a Section 2081 incidental take permit for state-only listed species and a Section 2081.1 consistency determination for the effects on species that are both state and federally listed.

CDFG is in the process of reviewing the project for potential effects on State listed species and determining the extent of its jurisdiction under Section 1602 Streambed Alteration Agreement for impacts on drainages from construction, if applicable.

CDFG will review the mitigation agreement and mitigation plan for plants listed as rare, if applicable, as part of California Native Plant Protection Act requirements.

 

CALIFORNIA STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE

The California State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is responsible for coordinating with BLM regarding compliance with the NHPA Section 106 consultation process; issuance of cultural resources use permits; and field use authorization or an Archaeological Resources Protection Act Permit, if required.

CALIFORNIA REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD (RWQCB), COLORADO RIVER BASIN

REGION 7

The California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), Colorado River Basin Region 7 is responsible for regulating water quality. Construction of the project would be covered under General Permit for Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Construction Activity (NPDES No. CAS000002) (Construction General Permit Order 2010‐2014‐DWQ, effective February 14, 2011). The permit requires the applicant to file a public Notice of Intent (NOI) to discharge stormwater and to prepare and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (CALTRANS)

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has jurisdiction over all State highways and roads. No new utility crossings on Caltrans facilities (such as placement of electric line across, within, under or over state highway ROW) are proposed as part of the project.

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL (DTSC)

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) oversees toxic substances procedures and remediation. DTSC will review the Hazardous Materials Management Plan or Program, the Spill Containment, Countermeasure, and Control (SPCC) Plan and hazardous materials transportation plans, if applicable.

CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) oversees various aspects of environmental protection throughout the State. CalEPA will review the Hazardous Materials Management Plan, Environmental Health and Safety Plan, and Spill Containment, Countermeasure, and Control (SPCC) Plan.

CALIFORNIA NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION

The California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) strives for the preservation and protection of Native American human remains and associated grave goods. The NAHC has been consulted to conduct a Sacred Lands file search.

CALIFORNIA OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) is responsible for protecting workers and the public from safety hazards. CalOSHA will review the Hazardous Materials Management Plan or Program, if applicable.

 

  1. LOCAL

IMPERIAL COUNTY AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT

Imperial County Air Pollution Control District (ICAPCD) is responsible for enforcing air emission requirements in the County. The ICAPCD will review the proposed project for consistency with the ICAPCD CEQA Air Quality Handbook, the 1991 Air Quality Attainment Plan, and the State Implementation Plan for PM10 in the Imperial Valley. The project will obtain a Dust Control Permit to comply with Rule 801 of Imperial County’s Rules and Regulations for Construction and Earthmoving Activities.

IMPERIAL COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT

The Imperial County Fire Department would provide fire protection service to the project. The Department received a copy of the NOP, and was consulted during preparation of this EIR. The Department identified general requirements regarding fire suppression in the O&M Building, road access and array requirements (Estrada, 2012). The Department will review the project including the final design of the proposed fire system.

IMPERIAL COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE

The Imperial County Sheriff’s Office would provide law enforcement service to the project, as necessary. The Office received a copy of the NOP and will review the project, including the final design, for adequate emergency access. The Office was also contacted for input regarding ability to serve the project. The Sheriff noted that solar panel projects encounter a high volume of thefts which results in increased demand for the Sheriff’s Office to respond to the project site and conduct a theft investigation. Once the theft investigation is completed the solar panel(s) make, model, and serial numbers have to be entered into the California Department of Justice, Stolen Property Data Base and a theft report needs to be completed. This process can  be lengthy and time consuming depending on the circumstances of each case. To minimize or eliminate the thefts, the Sheriff’s Office recommends that solar projects include security features such as: an electronic surveillance security system, alarm system, perimeter security fencing with controlled access gates, regular security guard vehicle patrols, and solar panel engraving noting the company information. Implementation of these security safeguards is considered sufficient to mitigate law enforcement impacts to a less than significant level (Gutierrez, 2012).

IMPERIAL IRRIGATION DISTRICT

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) has infrastructure on and surrounding the project site including drains, canals and overhead infrastructure. IID will review the project and will use the Final EIR in its approval of encroachment permits for crossings of IID canals, permits for construction water and power, and contracts for project water use and power during operation. IID may also review and approve agreements to transfer or quitclaim easements and/or fee parcels, for drainage, restrict surface access, and to abandon delivery gates and service pipes.

 

1.6                        RELATIONSHIP   TO   STATUTES,   REGULATIONS   AND   OTHER PLANS

1.6.1                 STATE

  1. RENEWABLES PORTFOLIO STANDARD PROGRAM

This Renewables Portfolio Standard Program requires investor-owned utilities to obtain 33 percent of the power supplied to their customers to be generated from renewable sources by the year 2010. Senate Bill (SB) X1 2 established a three-stage compliance period: 20 percent by December 31, 2013, 25 percent by December 31, 2016, and 33 percent by December 31, 2020.

  1. CALIFORNIA GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTIONS ACT OF 2006, ASSEMBLY BILL (AB) 32

This California Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32 (Statutes 2006; Chapter 488; Health and Safety Code Sections 38500 et. seq) requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to enact standards that will reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Electricity production facilities are regulated by the CARB.

  1. TITLE 17 CALIFORNIA CODE OF REGULATIONS (CCR)

Title 17 CCR, Subchapter 10, Article 2, Sections 95100 et seq. are CARB regulations that implement mandatory GHG emissions reporting as part of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

  1. CALIFORNIA ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) is codified at Fish and Game Code Section 2050. That section prohibits "take" of any species listed as an endangered or threatened species. Take is defined in Section 86 of the Fish and Game Code as "hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill."

CESA allows for take incidental to otherwise lawful activity through take authorization issued by CDFG. CESA emphasizes early consultation to avoid potential impacts to rare, endangered, and threatened species. Early consultation is also helpful in developing appropriate mitigation to offset losses of listed species populations and their essential habitats. The Applicant has been in consultation with CDFG regarding any issues arising under CESA.

  1. CALIFORNIA LAKE AND STREAMBED PROGRAM

The Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) is responsible for conserving, protecting, and managing California’s fish, wildlife, and native plant resources. The California Lake and Streambed Program (Fish and Game Code Sections 1601 to 1603) requires an entity to notify CDFG prior to constructing any project that would divert, obstruct or change the natural flow, bed, channel, or bank of any river, stream, or lake. CDFG is required to propose reasonable project changes and/or mitigation to protect the resource in cases where an existing fish or wildlife resource may be substantially adversely affected. Changes or mitigations are formalized in a Streambed Alteration Agreement that becomes part of the plans, specifications, and bid documents for the project. The Applicant has been in discussion with CDFG regarding all aspects of the project.

 

1.6.2                 LOCAL

  1. IMPERIAL COUNTY GENERAL PLAN AND LAND USE ORDINANCE

The Imperial County General Plan provides guidance on future growth in the County. Any development within the jurisdiction of the County must be consistent with the General Plan and the Land Use Ordinance (Title 9, Division 2). The BLM-managed lands surrounding the gen-tie portion of the project are not subject to the requirements of the General Plan because the BLM is a Federal agency. However, the BLM regulations require that resource management plans be consistent with local governments’ officially approved resource related plans (Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Sec. 202(c) (9)).

  1. IMPERIAL COUNTY AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT

Imperial County Air Pollution Control District is responsible for enforcing rules and regulations regarding air emissions to protect public health. These regulations apply to various activities including construction, farming, and operational activities associated with various land uses.

1.7                        PUBLIC    PARTICIPATION   OPPORTUNITIES/COMMENTS   AND COORDINATION

Several opportunities for agency input and public involvement have occurred as part of the environmental review process and will continue to occur going forward. The Applicant held a  BLM pre-application meeting on October 12, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. in the BLM El Centro Field Office. Representatives from various agencies including the BLM, Imperial County, Border Patrol, California Department of Fish and Game, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Navy/DoD, and the Applicant’s team were present. The Applicant specifically extended an invitation for Native American tribes to attend the meeting. However, no tribes were in attendance.

Imperial County conducted a scoping process to fulfill the intent and requirements of CEQA Guidelines Section 15082 (described in detail under subsection 1.7.2, below), including a scoping meeting held on November 22, 2011 at the Board of Supervisors meeting room to gather input from the public.

Lastly, the Applicant held an Open House in El Centro to allow stakeholders to meet the project sponsor and learn about the Campo Verde Solar Project. This Open House took place on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m at the SDG&E Renewable Office.

1.7.1                 NOTICE OF PREPARATION

The Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Campo Verde Solar Project EIR was issued by the Imperial County Department of Planning and Development Services on November 15, 2011. Six letters were received in response to the NOP from various agencies and individuals. A list of the letter writers and summary of the areas of controversy or issue raised in these letters is summarized in Table 1.0-1. The NOP and written comments received during the public review period for the NOP are included on the attached CD of Technical Appendices as Appendix A of this EIR.

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

Scott Morgan, Director

Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, State Clearinghouse and Planning Unit

 Responsible       agencies comment on NOP.

requested

to

 

 No cultural resources identified as part of Native American Heritage Commission Sacred Lands File Search

 

 Absence of identified resources does not preclude their existence

Dave Singleton, Program Analyst Native American Heritage Commission

 On-going consultation between Native American tribes, lead agency, project proponents and contractors recommended

 

 Provided list of Native American contacts in Imperial County

 

The above issues are addressed in Section 4.7, Cultural Resources.

 

 

Jacob M. Armstrong, Chief Development Review Branch Caltrans

Document any glint and glare impacts that could affect motorists on I-8. (This issue is discussed in Section 4.1, Aesthetics).

 No new utility crossings of Caltrans facilities would occur.

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Vargas, Environmental Specialist Imperial Irrigation District

 Concerns over crossings of IID irrigation canals (The potential environmental impacts caused by the project crossing IID canals are considered as applicable in the various sections of the EIR).

 Project prohibited from using IID banks for access (The potential environmental impacts caused by the project crossing IID canals are considered as applicable in the various sections of this EIR).

 Concerns about “piecemealing” of solar projects (The Campo Verde Solar Project is not part of the LCRIF filed by SDG&E. The facilities identified in the LCRIF are to the south and east of the Imperial Valley Substation. Campo Verde Solar is proceeding with interconnection to the SDG&E system independently of any other projects. Any potential environmental impacts associated with the interconnection

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Vargas, Environmental Specialist Imperial Irrigation District

are analyzed as project-specific impacts in this EIR. The potential environmental impacts of other solar projects in the Imperial Valley, including those in the LCRIF, are analyzed as applicable as part of the cumulative projects list as required by CEQA Guidelines §15130. The proposed project will not require additional permits related  to the LCRIF. The scope of this EIR is limited to the project components described in Chapter 2.0. Thus, only the potential environmental impacts from the proposed Campo Verde Solar Project construction and operation are analyzed in this EIR).

 Draft EIR should address cumulative impacts of non-agricultural water use and associated reduction of inflow conveyed to the Salton Sea (This issue is addressed in Section 4.11, Hydrology and Water Quality).

 Draft EIR should address impacts to IID drains; Increased runoff and fewer IID drains to accommodate (Potential impacts to IID drains will be addressed in Section 4.11, Hydrology and Water Quality. The site will be designed to comply with applicable standards for stormwater runoff and retention. First Solar is in  discussion  with IID Water Engineering staff to address these issues. First Solar will obtain required permits and approvals for stormwater runoff and retention, including those required by IID. The EIR includes an assessment of the project’s potential hydrologic impacts, including any impacts to IID’s facilities).

 Requirement of IID encroachment permit to use surface water drain pipe connects and receive drainage service (First Solar is in the process of coordinating encroachment permits with IID. Any potential environmental impacts from granting such permits or using IID’s rights-of-way are

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

Donald Vargas, Environmental Specialist Imperial Irrigation District

analyzed in the EIR. The project will apply for all required permits from Colorado River Basin RWQCB).

 New, relocated, modified or reconstructed IID facilities must be addressed as part of the CEQA analysis (First Solar and IID have identified IID facilities and improvements required to support the project. These are included in Chapter 2.0 and potential impacts and mitigation measures, if necessary, are identified in the EIR).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and Heather Skains, Residents at 1280 Drew Road

 Impacts to scenic views (A detailed visual assessment of the project, including visual simulations, is provided in Section 4.1, Aesthetics).

 Erosion and whether landscaping and grass will be used to stabilize soils (Concerns regarding erosion are addressed in Section 4.6, Geology and Soils and Section 4.11, Hydrology and Water Quality).

 Concerns regarding dust suppressant (Possible dust palliatives may include: DustGuard  by  Terra  Novo;  EarthGuard   by Terra Novo; Gorilla-Snot® (economy grade version of  Soiltac®);  Soil-Sement;  Soil Tech products:  Chlor-Tex,  Ecco-Tex, and PlasTex. Material safety data can be made available upon request).

 Chemicals for weed control (Periodic application of herbicides, if necessary, are not anticipated to result in exposure levels worse than currently experienced in association with the currently ongoing agriculture in the area).

 Runoff and potential flooding (This issue is addressed in Section 4.10, Hydrology and Water Quality).

 Change in temperature as a result of the solar panels (The “heat island” effect is a term used to describe elevated

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and Heather Skains, Residents at 1280 Drew Road

temperatures in metropolitan areas resulting from large expanses of asphalt, structures that store heat during the day, and mechanical systems that generate “waste heat”. Solar PV modules are designed to convert the sun’s light into electricity by absorbing as much light as possible. First Solar has collected temperature data at its Sarnia Solar Power Plant in Ontario, Canada, which confirmed that there were no statistically significant temperature differences within the solar field and the surrounding area. No  increases in temperature are anticipated to result from the proposed project).

 Construction noise (This issue is fully discussed in Section 4.8, Noise).

 Impacts to Burrowing Owls (A detailed burrowing owl assessment was conducted and the results are discussed in Section 4.12, Biological Resources).

 Construction traffic and associated greenhouse gas emissions (A detailed traffic study was prepared and the results are discussed in Section 4.3, Transportation and Circulation).

 Property value being negatively impacted by the project (Numerous studies conclude that the potential for energy generation  and transmission line projects to have an effect on property value is difficult to quantify due to the individuality of properties and their respective locations, as well as differences in the personal preferences of individual buyers, and the weight of other factors that contribute to a person’s decision to purchase a property. Studies indicate that other property‐specific factors such as neighborhood features, square footage, size of lot, and irrigation potential are substantially more likely than

the presence of energy infrastructure to be

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and Heather Skains, Residents at 1280 Drew Road

major determinants of the sales price of property (Kroll and Priestley, 1992). Studies on this topic have found no conclusive evidence that views of wind facilities or distance to homes had any consistent, measurable, and statistically significant influence on property values. Studies have generally concluded that over time, potential adverse effects to property value tend to diminish to a point of being negligible within five years. Residents adjacent to the project once in operation could potentially have property values affected. However, there is no way to quantify the impact of the project for residents that would be surrounded by the project).

 Displacement of farmworker employment (A Fiscal Impact Analysis is being prepared for the proposed project separately from the EIR).

 Concerns regarding fire hazards and toxicity of solar panels (The project will develop a Fire Protection Plan and is coordinating  with the Imperial County Fire Department to ensure the final design of the project meets all fire safely requirements. PV modules are primarily made of glass and are not flammable or combustible. Ground- mounted solar PV arrays proposed as part of the project are mounted on racking systems that are typically made of steel or aluminum. The clips are generally made of aluminum and a small rubber sleeve. Due to the lack of combustible materials used in project facilities, the risk of a fire is extremely low.

First Solar’s PV modules undergo rigorous electrical safety testing and all electrical system wiring will be installed according to required code. If a wiring problem were to occur causing an electrical short, it would

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and Heather Skains, Residents at 1280 Drew Road

likely cause the module to stop producing electricity. In the thousands of installations that have been deployed, containing millions of modules, First Solar is not aware of a single fire being caused by a PV module.

During the manufacturing process, the semiconductor material, comprised primarily of the stable compound cadmium telluride (CdTe), is bonded to a sheet of glass using a proprietary Vapor Transport Deposition process. The use of an industrial laminate material and a second sheet of glass sequesters the  semiconductor material between two sheets of glass.

Numerous independent studies have evaluated the environmental, health, and safety aspects of CdTe PV modules. These studies consistently conclude that during normal operations, CdTe PV modules do not present an environmental risk (French MEEDAT 2009). Specifically, it has been demonstrated that there are no cadmium emissions to air, water or soil during standard operation of CdTe PV systems.

Conditions that could cause a significant amount of CdTe to be released from the modules during a fire are unlikely to occur  in ground-mount projects due to the lack of fuel on the site to support a sustained wildfire. Grass fires are the most likely fire exposure for ground-mounted PV systems and there would be no grass on the project site during operation. As a result, fires are unlikely to expose PV modules to prolonged temperatures high enough to volatilize CdTe (which has an extremely high melting point of 1,041 degrees Celsius). Moreover, even if a grass fire could reach that temperature, the actual loss of CdTe from a module would     be     insignificant    (approximately

0.04%).  CdTe  has  an  extremely  low vapor

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and Heather Skains, Residents at 1280 Drew Road

pressure and a high melting point, higher than the temperature at which glass softens. As a result, CdTe diffuses into the glass matrix when exposed to fire rather than being emitted in significant quantities.

The risk of fire caused by lightning strikes is remote. Lightning strikes are part of nature and the frequency or intensity of lightning strikes will not be affected by the project. The potential for fire from lightning or any other source is extremely low because of the lack of flammable materials and the potential for CdTe emissions from modules exposed to fire are equally very low).

 Earthquake damage to panels (The design of the PV modules encapsulates the thin layer of CdTe making release during an earthquake unlikely. The risk of release is further diminished by durability of the PV modules. As discussed above, the CdTe is bound to the top sheet of glass by vapor deposition, coated with an industrial laminate material, followed by a second sheet of glass. Furthermore, the laminate layer strengthens the modules and makes them break similar to safety glass, with a grid-like shattering as opposed to  breakages that would expose large areas of the semiconductor. This breakage pattern significantly minimizes the potential that CdTe could be exposed to the environment. Methods used to inspect, gather, and contain broken PV modules would also minimize the potential release of the semiconductor                                         material.             Routine inspections of PV modules and power output monitoring reduce the likelihood that a broken PV module may remain undetected in the field.)

 Project affect on emergency plan (No area roadways would be altered or in any way inhibited from allowing access to/from the

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

area. No emergency facilities would be affected by the project.)

 

Concerns regarding change of views from agricultural land to solar panels (Two visual simulations were prepared to analyze views along Drew Road. This issue is discussed in Section 4.1, Aesthetics).

 

Concerns regarding health issues (Fire hazards and risk of exposure to semiconductor material in the PV panels were previously discussed. Refer to discussion of these issues in the response to Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and Heather

Skain, above).

 

Salvador Garcia and Sarah Khan Garcia 1210 Drew Road

 Heat from panels affecting nearby homes (Change in temperature as a result of the solar panels is addressed for comments raised by Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and

Heather Skain, above).

 

 Traffic on area roadway associated with building and maintenance (This issue is discussed in Section 4.3, Transportation and Circulation).

 

 Added security for project (Security is provided     to     protect     equipment    from

tampering and theft).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salvador Garcia and Sarah Khan Garcia 1210 Drew Road

 Affects of project on water supply available for household use (The project is not proposing any changes to IID’s water delivery system. In the vicinity of the residences near the intersection of Drew Road and West Graham Road, the canal in question appears to provide water to lands south of West Graham Road as well as to lands west of Drew Road that are not part of the proposed project. The Applicant is unaware of the details of the agreement between IID and the residences for providing water to them).

 Where is solar power going? Imperial Valley or SDG&E (The energy generated by this project will be delivered to the Imperial Valley Substation under the terms of its

 

TABLE 1.0-1 SUMMARY OF NOP COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

Power Purchase Agreement with SGD&E. The project will have no effect on local utility bills. Please refer to response to the third bullet, above).

 

1.7.2                 SCOPING MEETING

A public scoping meeting was held for the proposed project to solicit input on the scope and content of the EIR. CEQA Guidelines Section 15082(c)(2) addresses parties to be included in a scoping meeting. The initial scoping meeting conducted by Imperial County took place on November 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm at the Board of Supervisors meeting room to gather input from the public. Oral comments were received from seven individuals at the meeting. The individuals and their comments are summarized in Table 1.0-2.

TABLE 1.0-2

SUMMARY OF SCOPING MEETING ORAL COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

Carol Childers

1905 West Wixom Road

 Questions regarding other  neighboring solar projects (These comments were not relevant to the proposed project. The individual was referred to environmental review to be conducted for the referenced projects).

 Expressed support for proposed project

 

 

Rocky Vandergrift 1651 Westside Road

 Concerned about proposed project’s location (The impacts from the project on nearby properties are discussed in the sections of the EIR describing the various resources. Visual impacts are described in Section 4.1, Aesthetics).

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Skains 1280 Drew Road

Concerns regarding temperature increases associated with wind blowing across solar panels (The issue of temperature increases was previously addressed. Please refer to in Table 1.0-2, Douglas Wayne Skains, Jr. and Heather Skains comments).

 Concerns                   regarding                   visual changes/alteration of views (Visual simulations have been prepared and are discussed in Section 4.1, Aesthetics).

 Transmission line noise (Overhead electrical

 

TABLE 1.0-2

SUMMARY OF SCOPING MEETING ORAL COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

line noise is referred to as the Corona affect and is associated with the electrical ionization of the air that occurs near the surface of the energized conductor and suspension hardware due to very high electric field strength. This audible power line noise is generated from electric Corona discharge, which is usually experienced as a random crackling or hissing sound. Noise from transmission lines is normally associated with only high voltage lines and addressed in Section 4.8, Noise).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna Tisdale

Morningstar Ranch, Wildomar

 Against converting agricultural lands to solar fields (Agricultural conversion is addressed in Section 4.9, Agricultural Resources).

 Requested cumulative map for all projects in the valley (A map of cumulative solar projects in the Imperial Valley is provided as Figure 3.0-2 in Chapter 3.0 of this EIR).

 Requested study on stray voltage from solar projects (Per CEQA Guidelines §15151, Standards for Adequacy of an EIR: “An EIR should be prepared with a sufficient degree of analysis to provide decision makers with information which enables them to make a decision which intelligently takes account of environmental consequences. An evaluation of the environmental effects of a proposed project need not be exhaustive, but the sufficiency of an EIR is to be reviewed in the light of what is reasonably feasible.”)

 Groundbreaking nature projects – any examples of similar sized projects impacts on people (Refer to CEQA Guidelines

§15151, Standards for Adequacy of an EIR described in prior bullet).

 Quantification of project noise and emissions quantification (Noise and Air Quality studies have been prepared for the project. The findings are discussed in Section

 

TABLE 1.0-2

SUMMARY OF SCOPING MEETING ORAL COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna Tisdale

Morningstar Ranch, Wildomar

4.4, Air Quality and Section 4.8, Noise).

 Concerned about cumulative impacts (Cumulative impacts are discussed in Sections 4.1 through 4.12 and summarized in Chapter 5.0, Cumulative Impacts Summary).

 Economic impacts (A Fiscal Impact Analysis is being prepared for the proposed project separately from the EIR).

 Impacts on farmland (This issue is discussed in Section 4.9, Agricultural Resources).

 Consideration of alternatives (Potential alternatives to the proposed project are discussed in Chapter 6.0, Alternatives).

 Concerned about tax dollars used for solar projects that convert prime farmland (No tax dollars are used to fund the proposed project).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Allen

19 Crestview, Brawley

Aesthetic impacts if project is abandoned (The project has a long-term contract to provide power. After the contract is completed, the project will be decommissioned as described in the subsection 2.14, item F of Chapter2.0, Project Description. All PV panels will be recycled in accordance with First Solar’s pre- funded recycling program).

 Views impacted by solar (Visual simulations have been prepared and are discussed in Section 4.1, Aesthetics).

 Concerns expressed by other countries where solar has been implemented (Refer to CEQA Guidelines §15151, Standards for Adequacy of an EIR discussed in response to Donna Tisdale comments).

 Electrified fencing, no employees on site (No electrified fencing is proposed as part of the project. Four to 10 workers would be on- site during operations).

 Health concerns – exposure of humans and

 

TABLE 1.0-2

SUMMARY OF SCOPING MEETING ORAL COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Allen

19 Crestview, Brawley

animals (Hazards and potential health concerns are discussed in Section 4.10, Hazards and Hazardous Materials. When the gen-tie is brought on-line and starts to transmit electricity, electromagnetic fields [EMFs] would be generated in proximity to the line. Currently, there is no agreement among scientists regarding the potential health risk related to EMFs. In addition, there are no people living or working in the proximity of any of the gen-tie lines. However, in response to a situation of scientific uncertainty and possible public concerns regarding EMFs, an EMF Management Plan would be developed that specifies, where needed and feasible, measures to reduce exposure from the gen- tie.)

 Currently, there is no agreement among scientists regarding the potential health risk related to EMFs).

 Conversion of agricultural land (This issue is discussed in Section 4.9, Agricultural Resources).

 Conversion of agricultural land from 10 to 40 years not considered temporary by the Department of Conservation (The Agricultural Reclamation Plan is described as part of decommissioning in subsection 2.1.4, item F in Chapter2.0, Project Description).

 Solar considered an industrial use (This is addressed in Section 4.2, Land Use).

 Analyze impacts to surrounding lands and agricultural industry (This is addressed in Section 4.2, Land Use and Section 4.9, Agricultural Resources. Potential economic impacts to the agriculture industry will be addressed in the Fiscal Impact Analysis).

 Air quality construction impacts quantification (Construction emissions are

 

TABLE 1.0-2

SUMMARY OF SCOPING MEETING ORAL COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Allen

19 Crestview, Brawley

discussed in Section 4.4, Air Quality).

 Analysis of impacts to Burrowing owl (Potential impacts to Burrowing Owl are discussed in Section 4.12, Biological Resources).

 Analysis of impacts to cultural resources (Section 4.9, Cultural Resources, address  this issue).

 Proposed use is not allowed under General Plan As discussed in the Initial Study for this Project, the project parcels are currently zoned A-2 (General Agriculture), A-2-R (General Agricultural Rural Zone) and A-3 (Heavy Agriculture) and designated by the General Plan as "Agriculture." Solar energy facilities are allowed uses within these zones subject to a Conditional Use Permit. The Applicant is not proposing a change in the Land Use Designation or zoning of the project parcels. Furthermore, the A-2 and A- 3 zones allow for the development of solar energy farms. Thus, the project does not conflict with existing zoning for agriculture.

 Impacts of high traffic volumes on area roadways (Project traffic impacts are discussed in Section 4.3, Transportation and Circulation).

 Cumulative impacts of locating transmission lines in Imperial County on resident health (Health risks from transmission lines are discussed in Section 4.9, Hazards and Hazardous Materials).

 

 

 

 

Brent Boutwell 1444 Drew Road

 Concerns about taxpayer funding (The proposed solar project result in a net increase in tax revenue compared to the existing agricultural use) with no taxpayer funding).

 Long-term impacts of solar as an industrial use on recreational opportunities (Minimal recreational use on local farmlands as private landowners control these properties.

 

TABLE 1.0-2

SUMMARY OF SCOPING MEETING ORAL COMMENTS

 

Agency/Individual

Issue Noted or Area of Controversy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brent Boutwell 1444 Drew Road

Recreation on public lands would not be affected by the proposed project).

 Suggest              locating              solar              on desert/government land (Solar projects are proposed on both public and private lands throughout southern California. Public lands in this immediate area are within the Yuha Desert Management Area for the flat-tailed horned lizard which limits the acres of these lands that can be impacted).

 Farmland taken out of production reverts to its natural state; difficult to bring farmland back after taken out of production for long periods (This land would be actively managed and would not return to a natural state. Because of the presence of local irrigation infrastructure and the previous leveling conducted on these parcels, returning this land to agriculture would be simpler that when it was originally developed for agriculture).

 

 

Tim Kelley

Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation

Possibility of clustering solar projects near Imperial Valley Substation to reduce impacts to neighboring farmland and preserve agricultural land (This project is located as close to the Imperial Valley Substation as possible).

 

The County also sent an NOP to responsible agencies (e.g., Imperial County Sheriff’s Office) to provide input on the project during the 30-day comment period (November 15 thru December 16, 2011). Notification letters were sent to Native American Tribes by the BLM in October 2011. Another letter was sent with the cultural resources report and the Environmental Assessment in April, 2012.

1.7.3                 AIRPORT LAND USE COMMISSION MEETING

The proposed project was presented and discussed at the County’s Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) Meeting held on February 15, 2012. The ALUC reviewed the proposed application, including the variance for transmission tower height described in subsection 1.2, above. The Commission found the proposed project consistent with the 1996 Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUCP) with no conditions.

 

1.8                        AVAILABILITY OF REPORTS

This Draft EIR, appendices, and documents incorporated by reference are available for public review at the Imperial County Planning and Development Services Department, 801 Main Street, El Centro, California, 92243. Copies are also available for review at the City of El Centro Public Library, 539 State Street, El Centro, California. Documents at these locations may be reviewed during regular business hours. This document is available for review online at the Imperial County Planning and Development Services website: http://www.icpds.com.

All comments on the Draft EIR should be directed to:

David Black, Planner IV

Imperial County Planning and Development Services Department 801 Main Street

El Centro, California 92243

Comments received during the public scoping meeting were reviewed and addressed in this Draft EIR. The Draft EIR will be reviewed by the Imperial County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors as a part of the procedure to adopt the EIR. Additional information on this process may be obtained by contacting the Imperial County Planning and Development Services Department at (760) 482-4236.

1.9                        STRUCTURE OF THIS EIR

1.9.1                 DRAFT EIR

The structure of this Draft EIR is identified in the Table of Contents. The Draft EIR is organized into nine Chapters and the Executive Summary.

Executive Summary. This chapter provides a summary of the proposed project, including a summary of project impacts, mitigation measures, and project alternatives.

Chapter 1.0 - Introduction. This chapter provides a brief introduction of the proposed project; objectives and purpose and need; relationship to statutes, regulations and other plans; public participation opportunities; availability of reports; and, comments received on the Draft EIR.

Chapter 2.0 - Project Description. This chapter provides a detailed explanation of the proposed project and its various components. It also identifies alternatives under consideration, the intended uses of the EIR and authorizing actions. This section includes the project location and legal description, project objectives, project characteristics and details of the construction work.

Chapter 3.0 - Introduction to the Environmental Analysis and Assumptions Used. This chapter provides an introduction to the environmental impacts analyses and general assumptions used in the project-specific and cumulative analyses contained in the ensuing sections.

Chapter 4.0 – Environmental Analysis. This chapter provides a brief overview of the twelve ensuing sections and orients the reader to the order of the analysis.

Section 4.1 - Aesthetics. This section examines the potential change in visual character measured against the existing setting and visual conditions of the project area. Project visibility, scale, additional light and glare, and community character are considered relative to the existing agricultural character of the area.

 

Section 4.2 - Land Use. This section focuses on the potential impacts on, and conflicts with, land use that may result from the project, and evaluates the consistency of the project with the County of Imperial General Plan, Zoning, and any other applicable plans or documents.

Section 4.3 - Transportation and Circulation. This section identifies existing roadway and intersection traffic volumes and levels of service. The analysis examines potential impacts on the area roadway network, including roadway segments and intersections as a result of project construction, and operation and maintenance.

Section 4.4 - Air Quality. This section describes existing air quality in the region. It also addresses the requirements of the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and analyzes local and regional air quality impacts associated with project implementation including short- term construction impact (grading, etc.), as well as long-term operational emissions.

Section 4.5 - Climate Change and Greenhouse Gases. This section describes the existing setting and regulatory conditions of the County of Imperial and surrounding area in terms of greenhouse gases and climate change. Potential increases in greenhouse gas emissions or factors that would affect climate change as a result of implementation of the proposed project are discussed.

Section 4.6 - Geology and Soils. This section describes the current setting of the project seismically and geologically. Engineering constraints and general soil suitability for the proposed land uses are discussed.

Section 4.7 - Cultural Resources. This section describes the setting of the project site with regard to cultural and historic resources. The analysis examines the presence or absence of cultural resources, including Native American sacred lands, and assesses their significance and potential for damage as a result of the proposed project.

Section 4.8 – Noise. This section describes the existing noise setting of the project site.  Potential noise impacts resulting from construction, and operations and maintenance of the facility and associated gen-tie are discussed.

Section 4.9 - Agricultural Resources. This section describes the agricultural setting of  the County and the site. The analysis focuses on potential impacts of the conversion of farmland on the project site as well as potential for conversion of adjacent farmland. The analysis also identifies any land use compatibility conflicts associated with the proposed project adjacent to farmland.

Section 4.10 - Hazardous and Hazardous Materials. This section examines the potential presence of residual pesticides or stored chemicals related to current and historical agricultural operations. Potential impacts and mitigation measures are identified.

Section 4.11 - Hydrology and Water Quality. This section describes the current drainage of the project site and assesses potential impacts of the proposed project on hydrology, storm drainage, and water quantity. The analysis identifies existing drainage patterns and estimates storm drainage runoff that would be generated by the conversion of the site from agricultural to a solar generation facility.

Section 4.12 - Biological Resources. This section describes the existing biological resources on and in the vicinity of the project site. Potential impacts to plants and wildlife in the affected area including listed, proposed, candidate threatened and endangered species are examined.

 

Chapter 5.0 – Cumulative Impacts Summary. This chapter summarizes the cumulative impacts for each resource area identified in Section 4.1 through 4.12.

Chapter 6.0 – Alternatives. This chapter qualitatively analyzes impacts associated with alternatives to the proposed project relative to impacts resulting from the proposed project. A summary matrix of impacts for each issue area is included to facilitate comparison of each alternative relative to the proposed project (better, similar, worse).

Chapter 7.0 - Other CEQA Required Considerations. This chapter provides an analysis of any significant irreversible environmental changes, growth inducing impacts, and unavoidable significant environmental impacts. It also identifies effects found not to be significant (i.e. all issues determined to be less than significant under CEQA).

Chapter 8.0 - EIR Preparers. This chapter lists all the individuals involved in the preparation of the EIR.

Chapter 9.0 – References. This chapter lists the data references used in preparing the EIR as well as the individuals and agencies consulted and cited in the text.

1.9.2                 TECHNICAL APPENDICES

The technical reports for agricultural resources; air quality; biological resources; cultural resources; geology/soils; greenhouse gas emissions; hazards and hazardous materials; hydrology and water quality; noise; and, transportation/circulation are provided on the attached CD found on the back cover of this Draft EIR. These reports are referenced within the relevant environmental analysis sections of this document. Incorporation by reference is permitted by Section 15150 of the CEQA Guidelines. Other documents, reference sources, and individuals cited in the preparation of this Draft EIR are identified in Chapter 9.0, References. The baseline physical conditions as analyzed in these reports are the conditions that existed at the time of the issuance of the NOP for the EIR (CEQA Guideline Section 15125 (a)).

1.10                   ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED

The issues evaluated in this EIR include the physical, biological, cultural, and other resources that have the potential to be affected by activities related to the proposed project. The issues were identified through the preparation of an Initial Study:

 

   Aesthetics

   Cultural Resources

   Land Use

   Noise

   Transportation and Circulation

   Agricultural Resources

   Air Quality

   Hazards and Hazardous Materials

   Climate Change and Greenhouse Gases

   Hydrology and Water Quality

   Geology and Soils

   Biological Resources

 

1.11                   ISSUES SCOPED OUT FROM FURTHER ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

The Initial Study for the proposed Campo Verde Solar Project prepared by the County of  Imperial concluded that the project would not cause significant impacts related to various topics addressed in the CEQA Environmental Checklist (included in Appendix A of this EIR). Therefore, those topics are not addressed in this EIR. The reasons for concluding that no significant impacts would occur related to those topics are disclosed in the Initial Study, which was distributed with

 

the NOP November 15 through December 16, 2011. CEQA Environmental Checklist topics not addressed in this EIR, and the rationale for their exclusion, are identified below:

Aesthetics

   Substantially damage scenic resources, including, but limited to, trees, rock outcroppings, and historic buildings within a state scenic highway?

The project site consists of agricultural parcels of land that have been cultivated and disturbed. As a result, development of the project site is not anticipated to substantially damage scenic resources, including, but limited to, trees, rock outcroppings, and historic buildings. Moreover, the project site is not located adjacent to a scenic highway. A segment of I-8 between the San Diego County line and its junction with SR 98 is slated for Scenic Highway Designation status in the future. However, this segment of I-8 is over 16 miles southwest of the western boundary of the project site. Therefore, no impact is anticipated and impacts to resources within a state scenic highway will not be discussed in the EIR.

Agriculture and Forestry Resources

   Conflict with existing zoning for agricultural use, or a Williamson Act contract?

The land encompassed by the project parcels is currently zoned A-2 (General Agriculture), A-2-R (General Agricultural Rural Zone) and A-3 (Heavy Agriculture) and designated by the General Plan as "Agriculture." Solar energy facilities are allowed uses within these zones subject to a CUP. . Thus, the project does not conflict with existing zoning for agriculture. The original configuration of the project site included an additional four parcels encompassing  approximately 286 acres which are subject to the Williamson Act. After discussions with the County and other stakeholders, these parcels were removed from the project. Therefore, conversion of land under a Williamson Act Contract is not an issue and is not discussed in the EIR.

   Conflict with existing zoning for, or cause rezoning of, forest land (as defined in Public Resources Code section 12220(g), timberland (as defined by Public Resources Code section 4526), or timberland zoned Timberland Production (as defined by Government Code section 511 04(g))?

Based on the Imperial County General Plan, Conservation and Open Space Element, mixed chaparral, pinyon-juniper habitats, and the montane hardwood-conifer forest are located in restricted areas of the County. Mixed chaparral and pinyon-juniper habitats are located in the extreme southwestern corner of Imperial County; montane hardwood-conifer forest is in the extreme northwestern corner of Imperial County. Thus, there are no existing forest lands, timberlands, or timberland zoned Timberland Production either on the project site or in the immediate vicinity that would conflict with existing zoning or cause rezoning. Therefore, no impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

   Result in the loss of forest land or conversion of forest land to non-forest use?

There are no existing forest lands either on-site or in the immediate vicinity of the project site. The proposed project would not result in the loss of forest land or conversion of forest land to non-forest use. Therefore, no impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

 

Biological Resources

   Interfere substantially with the movement of any resident or migratory fish or wildlife species or with established native resident or migratory wildlife corridors, or impede the use of native wildlife nursery sites?

The proposed solar facility includes the installation of a 7-foot tall chain link perimeter security fence which would inhibit medium- and large- sized mammals from moving through the site. Small mammals would not be inhibited from moving through the solar facility.

Geology and Soils

   Rupture of a known earthquake fault, as delineated on the most recent Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Map issued by the State Geologist for the area or based on other substantial evidence of a known fault? Refer to Division of Mines and Geology Special Publication 42.

The project site is not located within a State of California, Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone. Thus, no impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

Hazards and Hazardous Materials

   Be located on a site, which is included on a list of hazardous materials sites compiled pursuant to Government Code Section 65962.5 and, as a result, would it create a significant hazard to the public or the environment?

The project site is not listed as a hazardous materials site pursuant to Government Code, Section 65962.5. No impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

   For a project located within an airport land use plan or, where such a plan has not been adopted, within two miles of a public airport or public use airport, would the project result in a safety hazard for people residing or working in the project area?

   For a project within the vicinity of a private airstrip, would the project result in a safety hazard for people residing or working in the project area?

The project site is not located within two miles of a public airport or a private airstrip. Thus, no impact is identified for these issues and they are not discussed in the EIR.

   Impair implementation of or physically interfere with an adopted emergency response plan or emergency evacuation plan?

As identified in the Seismic and Public Safety Element of the County of Imperial General Plan, the "Imperial County Emergency Plan" addressed Imperial County's planned response to extraordinary emergency situations associated with natural disasters, technological incidents, and nuclear defense operations. The proposed circulation plan for the project site will be required to provide emergency access points and safe vehicular travel. In addition, local building codes would be followed to minimize flood, seismic, and fire hazard. Thus, the proposed project would not impair the implementation or physically interfere with any adopted emergency response plans or emergency evacuation plans. No impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

 

   Expose people or structures to a significant risk of loss, injury or death involving  wildland fires, including where wildlands are adjacent to urbanized areas or where residences are intermixed with wildlands?

The project site is not characterized as an area of urban/wildland interface. According to the Imperial County Natural Hazard Disclosure (Fire) Map prepared by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF, 2000) the project site does not fall into an area characterized as either: (1) a wildland area that may contain substantial forest fire risk and hazard; or (2) very high fire hazard severity zone. Thus, the project site would not expose people or structures to significant risk of loss injury or death involving wildland fire. No impact is identified for this issue area and it is not discussed in the EIR.

Hydrology and Water Quality

   Substantially deplete groundwater supplies or interfere substantially with groundwater recharge such that there would be a net deficit in aquifer volume or a lowering of the local groundwater table level (e.g., the production rate of pre-existing nearby wells would drop to a level which would not support existing land uses or planned uses for which permits have been granted)?

The proposed project does not propose the use of groundwater. Water will continue to percolate through the ground, as a majority of the surfaces on the project site will remain pervious. No impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

   Place housing within a 100-year flood hazard area as mapped on a Flood Hazard Boundary or Flood Insurance Rate Map or other flood hazard delineation map?

   Place within a 100-year flood hazard area structures which would impede or redirect the flood flows?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Map, the majority of the project site is located in Zone X, which is an area determined to be outside of the 0.2 percent annual chance of a flood. A portion of the project site is located in Zone A, which is an area subject to 1 percent annual chance of a flood. However, the project does not propose the placement of housing or structures within a 100-year flood hazard area. Thus, no impact is identified for these issues and they are not discussed in the EIR.

   Expose people or structures to a significant risk of loss injury or death involving flooding, including flooding as a result of the failure of a levee or dam?

   No dams or levees are in the vicinity of the project site. Thus, no impact is identified relative to the failure of a levee or dam.

   Inundation by seiche, tsunami, or mudflow?

No bays or lakes are located within a two-mile radius of the project site. Furthermore, the project site is over 100-miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the project site is relatively flat and level. Therefore, there is no potential for the project site to be inundated by seiches, tsunamis, or mudflows. Thus, no impact is identified for these issues and they are not discussed in the EIR.

 

Land Use

   Physically divide an established community?

The proposed project is located in a rural portion of the County dominated by agriculture. As such, the proposed project does not physically divide any established community. Thus, no impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

Mineral Resources

   Result in the loss of availability of a known mineral resource that would be of value to the region and the residents of the state?

   Result in the loss of availability of a locally-important mineral resource recovery site delineated on a local general plan, specific plan or other land use plan?

The project site is used for agriculture. According to the Conservation and Open Space Element of the County of Imperial General Plan, no known mineral resources occur within the project site nor does the project site contain mapped mineral resources. IID has retained the mineral rights for geothermal resources under much of the project site and the Applicant has agreed to provide IID access for future resource evaluation at defined locations throughout the site. As such, the proposed project would not adversely affect the availability of any known mineral resources within the project site. Thus, no impact is identified for these issues and they are not discussed in the EIR.

Noise

   Exposure of persons to or generation of excessive groundborne vibration or groundborne noise levels?

The proposed project is a solar facility development. Operation of the facility would not create excessive groundborne vibration or noise levels. In addition, grading associated with project construction is unlikely to generate groundborne vibration or noise levels through blasting or other construction related activity, as the project is characterized by flat topography. Therefore, no impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

 For a project located within an airport land use plan or where such a plan has not been adopted, within two miles of a public airport or public use airport, would the project expose people residing or working in the project area to excessive noise levels?

 For a project within the vicinity of a private airstrip, would the project expose people residing or working in the project area to excessive noise levels?

The project site is not located within two miles of a public airport or a private airstrip. Thus, the project site would not be exposed to excessive aircraft noise. No impacts have been identified for these issues and they are not discussed in the EIR.

Population and Housing

 Induce substantial population growth in an area, either directly (for example, by proposing new homes and businesses) or indirectly (for example through extension of roads or other infrastructure)?

 

The project, as a solar generation facility, does not propose the development of housing on the project site. The project would require approximately 4 to 8 full-time personnel for operations and maintenance of the solar facility and one security guard. Thus, the proposed project would not result in substantial population growth as the number of employees required to operate and maintain the facility is minimal. The project would provide electricity to off-set a portion of current electricity generated by fossil-fuel sources. Thus the project would not induce substantial population growth. No impact would occur for this issue and it is not discussed in  the EIR.

 

 Displace substantial numbers of existing housing, necessitating the construction of replacement housing elsewhere?

 Displace substantial numbers of people, necessitating the construction of replacement housing elsewhere?

The proposed project site is currently used for agriculture and there are no farmhouses on the project parcels. As a result, development of the proposed solar generation facility would not displace substantial numbers of existing housing or people requiring construction of replacement housing elsewhere. No impact would occur for these issues and they are not discussed in the EIR.

Public Services

   Would the project result in substantial adverse physical impacts associated with the provision of new or physically altered governmental facilities, need for new or physically altered governmental facilities, the construction of which could cause significant environmental impacts, in order to maintain acceptable service ratios, response times or other performance objectives for fire, police, schools, parks, or other public facilities?

The proposed solar facility would not result in a substantial increase in population because it neither includes a residential component nor would it generate the need for new housing to accommodate workforce population. Based on the nature of the project as a solar facility, no increase in schools, parks, or other public facilities are anticipated. As such, the proposed project would not have an adverse physical effect on the environment because the project does not require new or significantly altered services or facilities to be constructed. Therefore, no impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed in the EIR.

Fire Protection

The project site is within the jurisdiction of the Imperial County Fire Department (ICFD). The proposed project will pose a very low fire risk. All vegetation will be removed from the site and the solar generation facility would not be constructed of flammable materials. The project includes an on-site O&M building as well as electrical equipment (inverters and transformers) throughout the solar generation facility site. Inverters and transformers would be located within pre-fabricated enclosed structures.

The Applicant met with staff from the ICFD on April 10, 2012 to discuss fire requirements for the proposed project and site design. The project proposes roadways between the arrays in both the north/south and east/west directions. These internal roadways will connect to the  perimeter access road surrounding the block of arrays. All roads will be a minimum of 20 feet

 

wide. ICFD determined that 70 foot by 90 foot turnaround areas would not be required because the project includes both north/south and east/west internal circulation (Cable, 2012).

ICFD’s “General Layout for Road Access” also shows that the 20 foot alley spacing must be “+/- 300 feet to 500 feet” when the roads are laid out in only one direction. After reviewing the road spacing in each direction on the project site plan, it was also agreed that the project roadway separations in one direction (north/south or east/west) could be wider than 500 feet as long as the spacing in the other direction was no more than 500 feet maximum (Cable, 2012).

The Applicant prepared exhibits demonstrating that fire equipment could navigate 90 degree turns from north/south to east/west roads in the array area. Six of the eight movements can be made with a Wildland Type III fire pumper. The only movements that would be restricted are the southbound to eastbound and westbound to northbound turns. The other 6 movements  can use the extra space provided by the PCS shelter "cut out" to make the turning movements (Cable, 2012).

The Applicant discussed row spacing of the modules at the proposed project in based on spacing at similar projects that the ICFD had visited. Based on discussions, the unobstructed 6-foot row spacing between modules is understood to be approved by ICFD. Project roadways will be constructed in compliance with ICFD requirements that will be determined based  on  the capital and engineering design decisions (Cable, 2012).

The project will include the construction of an Operations and Maintenance Building (O&M Building) that is estimated to be approximately 3,000 square feet. The exact size of the building will be determined during final design. Based on an estimated 3,000 square foot building size, a 10,000 gallon water storage tank dedicated for fire department use will be installed near the O&M Building according to ICFD standards.  The final size of the water storage tank will be  based on the size, volume, materials and use of the building which will be determined at the final design stage. If the final building is different in size, height, use, or construction materials than what has been estimated for the project, the size of the tank will be determined by ICFD based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards (Cable, 2012).

The final site plan would be designed in accordance with ICFD requirements for access. Thus, the project would not impact the ICFD’s ability to provide emergency access to the site nor would the project hinder access nearby properties. Thus, impacts to fire protection are considered less than significant and are not discussed further in the EIR.

Police Protection

Police protection to the project site would be under the jurisdiction of the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office. The project site incorporates a variety of security features to protect the site including a chain-link security fence approximately 7 feet high (approximately 6 feet high with one-foot consisting of three strands of barbed-wire on the top). Site security will be provided with a small guard station provided at the gated access points. Security cameras may be deployed throughout the site and monitored at the guard station and remotely by a security service at night. Lights, triggered by motion sensors and powered by station power will also be installed at each entry gate and at each Power Conversion Station (PCS). Thus, impacts to police protection are considered less than significant and are not discussed further in the EIR.

 

Recreation

   Would the project increase the use of the existing neighborhood and regional parks or other recreational facilities such that substantial physical deterioration of the facility would occur or be accelerated?

   Does the project include recreational facilities or require the construction or expansion of recreational facilities which might have an adverse effect on the environment?

The proposed project is a solar generation facility and would not create a demand for recreation or parks in the County. No impact is identified for these issues and they are not discussed in the EIR.

Transportation/Traffic

 Result in a change in air traffic patterns, including either an increase in traffic levels or a change in location that results in substantial safety risks?

The proposed project would not result in changes to existing air traffic patterns through an increase in traffic levels or change in location. Thus, no impact is identified for this issue and it not discussed further in the EIR.

   Substantially increase hazards due to a design feature (e.g., sharp curves or dangerous intersections) or incompatible uses (e.g., farm equipment)?

The proposed project would not change the existing surrounding circulation network. Thus, no impact with regard to an increase in hazards due to a design feature or incompatible uses is identified for this issue and it is not discussed further in the EIR.

 Conflicts with adopted policies, plans, programs, regarding public transit, bicycle, or pedestrian facilities, or otherwise decrease the performance or safety of such facilities?

The proposed project would not conflict with any adopted policies, plans, or programs regarding public transit, bicycle, or pedestrian facilities, or otherwise decrease the performance or safety of such facilities. Thus, no impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed further in the EIR.

Utilities and Service Systems

Wastewater Treatment

   Exceed wastewater treatment requirements of the applicable Regional Water Quality Control Board?

   Result in a determination by the wastewater treatment provider which serves or may serve the project that it has adequate capacity to serve the project's projected demand in addition to the provider's existing commitments?

The project would include an on-site O&M building with a septic system, which requires a permit from the Imperial County Public Health Department. During construction, portable toilets and a septic tank for temporary construction offices will be used to provide sanitary facilities. Thus, a less than significant impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed further in the EIR.

 

Water Treatment

   Require or result in the construction of new water or water treatment facilities or expansion of existing facilities, the construction of which could cause significant environmental effects?

   Have sufficient water supplies available to serve the project from existing entitlements and resources, or are new or expanded entitlements needed?

The proposed project is anticipated to result in a minimal increase in water demand/use during construction and operation. This water will be obtained under an agreement with IID. During construction, water will be used to facilitate soil compaction and to control fugitive dust on exposed soils. During operation, the project will use water for reapplication of the soil binding agent if necessary. In addition, the project may use water for periodic washing of the solar panels (Note: The Applicant does not expect to wash the panels and anticipates that rainfall would be sufficient to keep the panels clean. However, for the purposes of providing a worst- case analysis of water demand and water truck trips, occasional panel washing was assumed). An agricultural farm currently uses substantially more water than the proposed solar facility would need during construction and operation. Thus, a less than significant impact is identified for this issue and it is not discussed further in the EIR.

Water Supply

Under Senate Bill (SB) 610, a water supply assessment (WSA) must be furnished to local governments for inclusion in any environmental documentation for certain projects (as defined in the California Water Code Section 10912) subject to CEQA. Due to increased water demands, SB 610 seeks to improve the link between information on water availability and certain land use decisions made by cities and counties. SB 610 requires any project subject to CEQA to provide a WSA if it meets one of the seven definitions of “a project” as identified Water Code Section 10912. Until recently, solar projects similar to Campo Verde were subject to SB 610 and required the preparation of a WSA. In October of 2011, Governor Brown signed SB 267 into law to facilitate timely approvals for proposed photovoltaic and wind energy generation facilities. Under SB 267, such facilities that have an annual water demand of 75 acre-feet or less are expressly exempted from the requirement to prepare a water supply assessment. The proposed project is expected to use approximately 1,500 acre-feet of water during the 12 to 24 month construction period. The source of construction water for the project will be from the Imperial Irrigation District (IID). Water will be taken from the IID canals located adjacent to and throughout the site and trucked throughout the site as needed. During operation, the project would use 20-acre feet or less per year. Based on the useful life of the project (expected to be up to 40 years), the average annual water demand anticipated for the project, taking into account construction and operations, is well below the 75 acre-feet threshold and a WSA is not required to be prepared for the project.

IID serves as the regional water supplier to the Imperial Unit which encompasses agricultural areas as well as the seven incorporated cities of Brawley, Calexico, Calipatria, El Centro,  Holtville, Imperial and Westmorland. IID imports raw Colorado River water and delivers it untreated to agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users within its Service Area which includes the project site. IID has an annual apportionment of 3.1 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year. Due to the dependability of IID’s water rights, Colorado River flows, and storage facilities for Colorado River water, it is unlikely that the water supply of IID would ever

 

be affected, even in dry years or under drought conditions. Industrial water would be supplied to the project under an industrial service water agreement with the IID.

Approximately 1,822 acres of the 1,990 acre site are important farmlands. Approximately 80 percent of the site (1,822 acres x .80 = 11,660 acres) has been in alfalfa with the remaining 20 percent (1,822 acres x .20 = 364 acres) in Bermuda and Sudan grass. Water consumption for alfalfa averages 7 to 8 acre feet per year and 6 to 7 acre feet per year for grasses. Based on these rates, water consumption associated with the current agriculture on the site would range from approximately 12,390 (11,660 acres x 7 acre feet per year + 364 acres x 6 acre feet) to 14,210 (11,660 acres x 8 acre feet per year + 364 acres x 7 acre feet) acre feet per year. These numbers estimates and are not based on actual water demand records for the site.

Another method of calculating historic water demand uses an average annual acre-foot per acre quantity for agricultural water consumption within the Imperial Irrigation District (IID). The Imperial Irrigation District 2009 Annual Water Report identified an average annual acre-foot per acre quantity of 4.63 acre-feet per acre (2009 Water Delivered for Agriculture ÷ 2009 Acres of Crops = 2,295,779 acre-feet ÷ 495,350 acres = 4.63 acre-feet per acre) (IID, 2009, p. 26 and 29). This would equate to an annual water demand for on-site agriculture of approximately 8,435 acre feet (1,822 acres x 4.63 acre feet per acre). A change in the project site’s land use from agriculture to a solar generation facility would result in an annual consumption of approximately 20-acre feet per year based on a conservative scenario. This is a decrease of approximately 99.8 percent compared to the historical annual water usage for the project area. Stated another way, the site would require 0.01 acre-feet per acre of water compared to the historical 4.63 acre-feet per acre for agriculture. This is substantially less than is currently needed to support existing agricultural operations on the site.

As water supply is available from IID, and project demand is projected far below existing quantities used for agricultural irrigation on this site, no impact would occur regarding water supply during both construction and operation and maintenance of the project. The Applicant is in the process of securing agreements with IID to access canal water and acquire easements for canal crossings.

Stormwater Facilities

   Require or result in the construction of new storm water drainage facilities or expansion of existing facilities, the construction of which could cause significant environmental effects?

The project site is relatively flat and will be drained by sheet flow to on- and off-site drainages as it is currently configured. No new drainage facilities are proposed. This impact is considered less than significant, but will be acknowledged in the EIR.

Solid Waste

   Be served by a landfill with sufficient permitted capacity to accommodate the project's solid waste disposal needs?

   Comply with federal, state, and local statutes and regulations related to solid waste?

During operations of the proposed project, waste generation will be minor. The Applicant has indicated that solid wastes will be disposed of using a locally-licensed waste hauling service. Thus, a less than significant impact is identified for this issue.

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