Solar Project at Joshua Tree Airport Put on Hold

JOSHUA TREE — The NextEra corporation is stopping, at least for now, construction of the solar farm planned in the old Roy Williams airport, a company official confirmed this week.

“We are not proceeding with immediate construction of the project,” Steven Stengel, a representative of NextEra, said.

Joshua Basin Water District General Manager Curt Sauer first announced the company’s turnaround at a board meeting on Wednesday.

Sauer said the project manager mentioned the hold on the project about three weeks ago.

“They decided that they will not pursue this project anymore at this time,” Sauer said in a phone interview. “They may decide to pursue it later, though,” he added.

The project, a utility-scale solar farm 2.3 miles from Joshua Tree National Park, has been under fire from some Joshua Tree residents for more than a year.

After the San Bernardino County Planning Commission approved a permit application from NextEra, a group of residents appealed the decision to the county board of supervisors.

The supervisors upheld the permit on Aug. 16, 2016.

Afterward, a group of locals and environmental groups sued the county and the corporation, saying standards for environmental protections had not been followed. David Fick, a Joshua Tree resident involved in the lawsuit, said litigation is ongoing with NextEra and its subsidiary, Joshua Tree Solar Farm LLC.

A lawsuit was also filed against the county by the SoCal Environmental Justice Alliance over the project, Fick said in August.

County court records show the group petitioned for a judicial order against Joshua Tree Solar Farm and San Bernardino County in May. They alleged the county and the company failed to prepare an environmental impact report or analyze all potentially significant effects of the project.

NextEra also wrangled with Joshua Basin Water District over water service. The water board at first voted against providing water for the project. Sauer made an agreement with the company, requiring it pay for a delivery of State Water Project water to replace the local water the project will use.

Sauer said the water that the company purchased from the state is still expected to replenish the aquifer in the spring.

The company bought 84 acre-feet from the state, which would last 40 years.

A construction crew hasn’t been on the property for some time. “There hasn’t been activity on-site since the middle of November,” Fick said.

Solar Project at Joshua Tree Airport Put on Hold, Leah Sanson, Hi-Desert Star, March 17, 2017.

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