Spring Valley Wind Energy Facility
Western Watersheds Project & Center for Biological Diversity v. BLM; 3:11-CV-53 (DCt); 11-15799 (9th Cir.)
Western Watersheds Project
Center for Biological Diversity
Mexican tree-tailed bat
Two conservation groups and three American Indian tribes filed suit today to protect a mountain valley adjacent to Great Basin National Park in Nevada from a poorly-sited industrial wind energy project approved by BLM with minimal environmental review. The Spring Valley Wind Energy Project is a mere 4 miles from one of the largest bat caves in the Great Basin, home to up to one million Mexican free-tailed bats during their fall migration. Bats are uniquely vulnerable to death from wind turbines from a phenomenon known as “barotrauma.” The project site is also home to rare and imperiled wildlife such as the greater sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, and golden eagles. The project area is also a sacred site to Western Shoshone tribes.
Advocates is representing Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity in this case. We filed the case in conjunction with the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, and the Ely Shoshone Tribe, who are represented by EchoHawk Law Offices of Pocatello.
This case challenged a poorly-sited wind facility consisting of 75 wind turbines (each over 400 feet tall) as well as over 25 miles of new roads on BLM public land in Spring Valley, Nevada (east of Ely). The facility near Great Basin National Park would be only 4 miles from a regionally-significant bat roost known as the Rose Guano Cave. This cave houses up to 1 million Brazilian free-tailed bats during their fall migration. Bats are highly vulnerable to mortality from wind turbines known as “barotrauma.” Essentially, the change in pressure that comes from spinning turbines can cause nearby bats’ lungs to explode. The facility is proposed in sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat. And the facility would be directly adjacent to the Swamp Cedar Area of Critical Environmental Concern, an area BLM designated for its unique vegetation, which is also the site of an Indian massacre. Despite these conflicts, BLM “fast-tracked” this project by preparing an Environmental Assessment, rather than the required Environmental Impact Statement. After over a year of litigation, we reached an agreement with BLM and the wind developer whereby the developer will monitor bat and bird fatalities for several more years than had been planned; the monitoring data will be sent directly to our clients, who will be able to track mortality levels; the developer will fund a study of Rose Guano Cave; and BLM will employ more “shut-downs” of the wind turbines to protect birds and bats if fatalities are higher than expected.