[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 231 (Friday, November 30, 2012)]
[Pages 71446-71447]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28929]



Bureau of Land Management

[LLCAD070000, L91310000, E10000]

Notice of Availability of the Final Environmental Impact 
Statement for the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation 
Area, Imperial County, CA, and the Proposed California Desert 
Conservation Plan Amendment

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, as amended, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 
1976, as amended, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared a 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the West Chocolate 
Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation Area (REEA) and a California 
Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) Proposed Plan Amendment, and by this 
notice is announcing its availability.

DATES: The BLM's planning regulations state that any person who meets 
the conditions as described in the regulations may protest the BLM's 
proposed plan amendment. A person who meets the conditions and files a 
protest must file the protest within 30 days of the date that the 
Environmental Protection Agency publishes its Notice of Availability in 
the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy 
Evaluation Area Final EIS/Proposed Plan Amendment have been sent to 
affected Federal, State, local government agencies, tribal governments 
and other stakeholders. Copies are available for public inspection at 
the El Centro Field Office at 1661 S. 4th Street, El Centro, CA; 
California Desert District Office at 22835 Calle San Juan de Los Lagos, 
Moreno Valley, CA; and the Palm Springs--South Coast Field Office at 
1201 Bird Center Drive, Palm Springs, CA. Interested persons may also 
review the Final EIS/Proposed Plan Amendment at http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro/nepa/wcm.html. All protests must be in writing and 
mailed to one of the following addresses:

               Regular mail                        Overnight mail
BLM Director (210), Attention: Brenda       BLM Director (210),
 Williams, P.O. Box 71383, Washington, DC    Attention: Brenda Williams,
 20024-1383.                                 20 M Street SE., Room
                                             2134LM, Washington, DC

Environmental Coordinator, telephone 916-978-4427; address 2800 Cottage 
Way, Suite w-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825; email wcm_comments@blm.gov. 
Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call 
the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to 
contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is 
available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question 
with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal 
business hours.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Final EIS/Proposed Plan Amendment 
analyzes the potential environmental impacts of making available 
approximately 18,765 acres of BLM-managed surface lands in the West 
Chocolate Mountains REEA for testing and developing solar and wind 
energy facilities and for leasing approximately 20,027 acres of Federal 
mineral estate near Niland, California, for geothermal energy testing 
and development. The Final EIS also analyzes the potential 
environmental impacts of approving a pending geothermal lease 
application in the REEA.
    The purpose of the proposed action is to facilitate appropriate 
development of geothermal, solar, and wind energy in the REEA and make 
land use plan decisions regarding the potential location, development, 
and management of those resources to balance competing uses and 
continue to achieve the resource condition goals for all resources in 
the planning area. The analysis includes consideration of the possible 
environmental consequences associated with a reasonably foreseeable 
development scenario, as well as possible conditions upon or 
restrictions for development that may be established to protect certain 
resource values.
    The Final EIS/Proposed Plan Amendment analyzed six alternatives. 
The preferred alternative is Alternative 6--Geothermal Development 
Emphasis with Moderate Solar Development and No Wind Development. Under 
this alternative, the CDCA Plan would be amended to identify areas in 
the West Chocolate REEA as suitable for geothermal leasing and 
development and solar energy development, subject to constraints 
related to the presence of sensitive resources. Standard stipulations 
would be required for leasing and development, as well as a special 
stipulation for groundwater usage that would require preparation of a 
Water Supply Assessment under State law SB-610. Proposed renewable 
energy development that would require high water usage would not be 
authorized. The CDCA Plan would be amended to identify the West 
Chocolate REEA as unsuitable for wind energy development due to 
conflicts with the Chocolate Mountains Aerial Gunnery Range fly zone. 
Under the preferred alternative, overall development also would be 
managed with lands east of the Coachella Canal subject to a disturbance 
cap of 10 percent to preserve wildlife habitat, and the west side of 
the Coachella Canal identified as a Solar Energy Zone (SEZ). No 
projects would be authorized at this time. The principal issues 
identified during scoping and

[[Page 71447]]

public review included Native American concerns; potential land use 
conflicts including recreation; cumulative impacts considering 
existing, proposed, and potential geothermal projects in the area; and 
potential impacts on cultural resources, wildlife, visual resources, 
and surface and groundwater resources. The Final EIS addresses other 
issues such as geology, mining, vegetation, threatened or endangered 
species, air quality, noise, transportation, human health and safety, 
and social and economic issues, as well as issues raised during the 
scoping process.
    Comments on the Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment/Draft EIS 
received from the public and internal BLM review were considered and 
incorporated as appropriate into the Final EIS/Proposed Plan Amendment. 
Public comments resulted in the addition of clarifying text, but did 
not significantly change proposed land use plan decisions.
    Instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM 
regarding the Final EIS/Proposed Plan Amendment may be found in the 
``Dear Reader'' letter of the Final EIS and CDCA Plan Amendment for the 
West Chocolate Mountains REEA and at 43 CFR 1610.5-2. Email and faxed 
protests will not be accepted as valid protests unless the protesting 
party also provides the original letter by either regular or overnight 
mail postmarked by the close of the protest period. Under these 
conditions, the BLM will consider the email or faxed protest as an 
advance copy and it will receive full consideration. If you wish to 
provide the BLM with such advance notification, please direct faxed 
protests to the attention of the BLM protest coordinator at 202-245-
0028, and emails to Brenda_Hudgens-Williams@blm.gov.
    All protests, including the follow-up letter to emails or faxes, 
must be in writing and mailed to the appropriate address, as set forth 
in the ADDRESSES section above.
    Before including your phone number, email address, or other 
personal identifying information in your protest, you should be aware 
that your entire protest--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your protest to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Authority: 40 CFR 1506.6, 40 CFR 1506.10, 43 CFR 1610.2; 43 CFR 

Cynthia Staszak,
Associate Deputy State Director.
[FR Doc. 2012-28929 Filed 11-29-12; 8:45 am]