BLM seeks comments on project

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is holding a meeting tonight to gather public input on its plan to identify ideal locations for solar or wind power projects on BLM land.

The meeting on the BLM's Restoration Design Energy Project is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tonight at the Hampton Inn, 1791 Sycamore Ave. A formal presentation of the draft plan is at 7 p.m. Members of the public will be able to make comments and meet with BLM staff after the presentation.

According to the department's website, the BLM has been working on the plan since 2010. It released a draft environmental impact statement in February.

The idea is to identify BLM lands that have been previously disturbed, developed or where the effects of the development of solar or wind projects on important resources would be minimal.

Around 59 sites in 11 Arizona counties have been identified as possible locations, including former landfills, brownfields (sites that have been previously developed for commercial use), mines, isolated BLM parcels and Central Arizona Project canal rights of way. The draft also addresses the issue of protecting water sources and water quality through various project design requirements.

The maps on the BLM website show four possible project locations in Mohave County, including the Detrital Wash area, the Mokaac gravel pit, the Silver Creek landfill and Snowflake Mine. The Mokaac gravel pit is located in the Arizona Strip in the northern part of Mohave County. The Silver Creek landfill is located east of the Bullhead Parkway. Snowflake Mine is also located in the Arizona Strip area. The maps and a copy of the draft environmental impact statement are available online at http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/energy/arra_solar.html.

The final plan will only apply to BLM-managed lands, however, the draft environmental impact statement address alternative energy use on all lands in Arizona and could be used as a resource for other developers.

Also, any company wanting to develop a project on BLM land, whether it is included in the impact plan or not, will still have to go through an approval process with the department.

For those unable to make the meeting, the BLM will be taking comments by email, fax and mail through May 16. Comments can be emailed to az_arra_rdep@blm.gov or faxed to Attn: Lane Cowger (602) 417-9454 or mailed to BLM Arizona State Office, Attn: Restoration Design Energy Project, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004-4427.

The final impact statement is planned for release later this year.