Phase I of Final Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Now Publicly Available

Following a public comment period and an extensive nine-month revision effort, the first phase of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is finalized and available to the public. The initial draft of the DRECP, which was circulated last December, drew criticism from interests affected by the plan — renewable energy advocates, conservationist groups and county governments all expressed displeasure with aspects of the draft. This backlash led to the adoption of a number of changes in the recently released final version.

According to The Desert Sun, several controversial land area designations were modified after review of the close to 12,000 public comments that were submitted in response to the December 2014 draft. Notable designation changes include:

  • In Riverside County, the Palen Dunes, McCoy Wash and microphyll woodlands have all been removed as lands permitting development and are all labeled as conservation areas.
  • In San Bernardino County, the Searles Lake area is now classified as a development zone open for renewable energy sites.
  • The status of an additional 3.9 million acres now included in the National Landscape Conservation System was clarified as being permanently closed to renewable energy development

The other major deviation from the draft to the final version was the decision to split the planning process into two separate segments regarding the designations of federal land and private land. This first phase only dealt with classifying federal land included in the DRECP. Because county governments hold most of the power in determining how private land will be designated, their decisions will play a major role in the second phase of planning. Questions remain as to the DRECP’s viability because the draft was premised on nearly 1.6 million acres being available for renewable energy development — the final version of phase one allocated just 388,000 acres of federal land to such development.

Phase I of the DRECP can be viewed in its entirety here.