Solar Farm Permit Challenged

Environmentalists have sued to block a solar power farm in the Panoche Valley south of Los Banos claiming the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers failed to take into account damage to several critically imperiled species.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court Friday challenges Panoche Valley Solar proposal to develop a 247-megawatt solar facility covering 1,529 acres with photovoltaic panels. In all, the project would affect more than 26,000 acres of sensitive habitat, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint by the Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club claims the government failed to take into account the valley is one of only three core areas left in California needed for the survival of the San Joaquin kit fox, endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard and giant kangaroo rat.

The suit alleges violation of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act in the valley, which is 30 miles south of Los Banos and 60 miles west of Fresno in a grassland valley dotted with small family-owned organic farms.

The lawsuit challenges the biological opinion and incidental take statement (killing of animals incidental to construction).  It also challenges a wetlands dredge and fill permit issued by the Corps.

The lawsuit asks the court to set aside the biological opinion and permits granted for the solar farm.

Case: Defenders of Wildlife v. US Fish and Wildlife Service, No. 16-cv-1993


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