The California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) has declared the Ocotillo Wind Project area in Imperial Valley a sacred Native American site. The determination came yesterday afternoon following hours of testimony from Southern California tribes, impacted community members, conservation organizations, and representatives from Imperial County and the project developer, Pattern Energy. The lead agency on the utility-scale wind energy development, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), failed to appear at the hearing to defend its record.
Among those submitting testimony on behalf of the tribes were representatives from U.S. Congressmen Juan Vargas and Duncan Hunter, and California State Senator Joel Anderson.
Following hours of testimony, the Commission voted unanimously to declare the Ocotillo Wind Project area a sacred Native American site afforded protections under section 5097.9 of the California Public Resources Code, and asked for assistance on enforcement options from the California Attorney Generals office.
The Commission determined that the BLM failed to engage in federally required meaningful consultation with affected tribes, and that the BLMs development partner, Pattern Energy, failed to mitigate significant negative impacts on documented historic Native American cultural resources.
The Ocotillo Wind development project is located in the sensitive Ocotillo Desert in western Imperial County and includes 112 massive turbines, each with a blade sweep larger than a football field, and a height of 450 feet, which is taller than most skyscrapers in downtown San Diego. The BLMs own archeologists declared the project area a cultural resources mega site. Hundreds of significant Native American cultural resource sites have been documented, including cremation sites, petroglyphs, geoglyphs, ancient villages and prehistoric trails.
Viejas Tribal Chairman Anthony R. Pico commended the Commission for its careful deliberation and objective assessment of evidence submitted by all involved parties. It is gratifying to finally get a fair and objective hearing, after years of having Native American concerns dismissed by the BLM and their development partner, Pattern Energy. While we support renewable energy, Ocotillo Wind is clearly the wrong project in the wrong location. We express our gratitude to Commission members for recognizing this travesty and we hope that their ruling helps prevent similar situations from occurring on future development sites.
About the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians is a sovereign Nation whose people have inhabited Southern California and northern Mexico for tens of thousands of years. For more information on the history and current government of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians visit www.viejasbandofkumeyaay.org.