[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 120 (Friday, June 25, 2021)]
[Pages 33728-33729]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-13578]



Bureau of Indian Affairs


Environmental Impact Statement for the Yahthumb Solar Project on 
the Moapa River Indian Reservation, Clark County, Nevada

AGENCY: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), as lead agency in 
cooperation with the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians (Moapa Band), Bureau 
of Land Management (BLM), and other agencies, intend to prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will evaluate the development 
of the Yahthumb Solar Project (Project) on the Moapa River Indian 
Reservation (Reservation). This notice announces the beginning of the 
scoping process to solicit public comments and identify potential 
issues related to the EIS. The BIA requests comments concerning the 
scope of the analysis, and identification of relevant information, 
studies, and analyses. It also announces that two public scoping 
meetings will be held virtually to identify potential issues, 
alternatives, and mitigation to be considered in the EIS.

DATES: All comments must be received July 26, 2021. The draft EIS is 
scheduled for December 2021 and the final EIS is scheduled for May 2022 
with a Record of Decision in June 2022. The dates of the public scoping 
meetings will be included in notices to be posted in the Las Vegas Sun, 
Las Vegas Review-Journal, and Moapa Valley Progress 15 days before the 

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Mr. Chip Lewis, BIA Western 
Regional Office, 2600 North Central Avenue, 4th Floor Mailroom, 
Phoenix, Arizona 85004. Comments may also be sent via email to 
[email protected] or on the Projects website at 
www.YahthumbSolarProjectEIS.com. Please see the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section of this notice for directions on submitting 
comments. The public meetings can be joined online through the Projects 
website at www.YahthumbSolarProjectEIS.com.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chip Lewis, BIA; telephone: (602) 379-
6750; email: [email protected]. Individuals who use telecommunication 
devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay 
Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern 
Time, Monday through Friday.


I. Proposed Federal Action

A. Purpose and Need for the Proposed Action

    The proposed Federal action, taken under 25 U.S.C. 415, is BIA's 
approval of the solar energy ground lease and related agreements 
entered into by the Moapa Band with Yahthumb Solar Project, LLC 
(Applicant). The agreements provide for construction, operation and 
maintenance (O&M), and decommissioning of a 138-megawatt (MW) 
alternating current (MWac) solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity 
generation facility located entirely on the Reservation and 
specifically on lands held in trust by the United States for the Moapa 
    In addition, a transmission generation interconnection (gen-tie) 
line would be constructed to interconnect the Project to the regional 
electrical grid. Portions of this line would cross lands managed by BLM 
within a designated utility corridor on the Reservation and BLM land. 
The BIA and BLM would approve rights-of-way (ROWs) authorizing the 
construction and operation of the transmission line.
    The purposes of the proposed Project are, among other things, to: 
(1) Help to provide a long-term, diverse, and viable economic revenue 
base and job opportunities for the Moapa Band; (2) meet the terms of 
the existing Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the output of the 
Project; (3) help Nevada and neighboring States to meet their State 
renewable energy needs; and (4) allow the Moapa Band, in partnership 
with the Applicant, to optimize the use of the lease site while 
maximizing the potential economic benefit to the Tribe.

B. Preliminary Proposed Action and Alternatives

    The Applicant plans to develop the Yahthumb Solar Project on the 
Reservation in Clark County, Nevada. The solar project would generate 
138 MWs of solar energy generation, using PV technology, and would 
incorporate a battery energy storage system (BESS).
    The proposed Yahthumb solar generating facility would be 
constructed on up to 1,400 acres within a lease study area of 
approximately 1,695 acres of Tribal trust land on the Reservation set 
aside by the Moapa Band for the Project. The solar field and associated 
facilities would be in parts of Sections 29, 30, 31, and 32 in Township 
15 South, Range 65 East; Section 1 in Township 16 South, Range 64 East; 
and Section 6 in Township 16 South, Range 65, East Mount Diablo Base 
    Major components of the solar site would include multiple blocks of 
solar PV panels mounted on single-axis tracking systems, associated 
inverter and transformer equipment, collection lines, BESS, a Project 
substation, and O&M facilities. Construction of the Project is expected 
to take approximately 14 months.
    A gen-tie line approximately 8.5 to 10 miles long would 
interconnect the Project to the regional electrical grid at the 
existing Reid-Gardner Substation. This line would be built on the 
Reservation within a designated utility corridor that is managed by 
BLM, on BLM-managed Federal land, and on private land near the existing 
    Primary access to the Yahthumb site would be provided via 
Interstate-15 to the existing Ute Road on the Reservation that would be 
upgraded as needed. Secondary access would be provided via an existing 
road within the designated utility corridor that would also be upgraded 
as needed. The water supply for the Project would be leased from the 
Moapa Band, drawn from the Band's existing water rights, and delivered 
to the site via a temporary water pipeline or by truck. Water will be 
needed during construction for dust control and a minimal amount will 
be needed during operations for administrative and sanitary water use 
and panel washings.
    The Applicant is expected to operate the energy facility for up to 
56 and a half years under the terms of the solar lease with the Moapa 
Band. The Project is being built to meet the power purchase agreement 
(PPA) for its output.

[[Page 33729]]

    The EIS will focus on the Proposed Action as described above at the 
location on the Reservation selected by the Moapa Band. It will 
evaluate the Proposed Action and the No Action Alternative. Additional 
viable alternatives may be identified in response to issues raised 
during the scoping process.

C. Summary of Expected Impacts

    Potential impacts to be addressed in the EIS analysis may include, 
but would not be limited to, impacts on water resources, biological 
resources, threatened and endangered species, cultural resources, 
Native American religious concerns, aesthetics, and traffic. In 
addition to those resource topics identified above, Federal, State, and 
local agencies, along with other stakeholders that may be interested or 
affected by the BIA's decision on the proposed Projects, are invited to 
participate in the scoping process to identify additional issues to be 

D. Anticipated Permits and Authorizations

    In addition to the land lease and ROWs to be approved by BIA and 
the ROWs to be approved by BLM, the Project would also require other 
permits and authorizations. These could include a Utility Environmental 
Protection Act (UEPA) permit from the Public Utilities Commission of 
Nevada and/or dust control and special use permits from Clark County.

II. EIS Preparation

A. Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    BIA will prepare the EIS in cooperation with the Moapa Band, BLM, 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(USFWS), and possibly the National Park Service (NPS), Nevada 
Department of Wildlife (NDOW), and Nevada Department of Transportation 
(NDOT). The resulting EIS will aim to (1) provide agency decision 
makers, the Moapa Band, and the general public with a comprehensive 
understanding of the impacts of the proposed development of the solar 
field on the Reservation; (2) describe the impacts of increased 
development on the Reservation; and (3) identify and propose mitigation 
measures that would minimize or prevent significant adverse impacts.

B. Schedule for the Decision-Making Process

    The EIS will provide a framework for BIA and BLM to make 
determinations and to decide whether to take the aforementioned Federal 
actions. The Records of Decision (RODs) to be issued by the BIA and BLM 
are currently scheduled for June 2022.

C. Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The BIA and the BLM decisions, if approved, would assist in 
addressing the management objectives in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 
(Title II, Section 211) and Secretarial Order 3285A1 (March 11, 2009) 
that established the development of environmentally responsible 
renewable energy as a priority for the Department of the Interior.
    Because the BIA has a jurisdictional trust responsibility over 
Indian lands and the BLM has land management responsibilities under 
FLPMA, the Project is a major Federal action and must comply with the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.). Because most of the Projects would be located on tribal trust 
lands, the BIA is the lead federal agency. The BIA and BLM will use 
this EIS to make their respective decisions and the other cooperating 
parties will use this information to support their analyses and 
decisions, as needed.

III. Public Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the EIS.

A. Public Scoping Meetings

    Two public scoping meetings will be conducted virtually to further 
describe the Projects and identify potential issues and alternatives to 
be considered in the EIS. The public meetings can be joined online 
through the Projects website at www.YahthumbSolarProjectEIS.com. Those 
unable to live stream the presentation would be able to access the 
meeting presentation on the project website and could join by 
telephone. Additionally, the live presentation will be recorded and 
made accessible for viewing throughout the scoping period. During the 
virtual meetings, a short presentation will be provided and team 
members will be available to discuss and answer questions. The 
PowerPoint presentation will be posted to the Project website and 
printed copies will be made available at the BLM Las Vegas Field Office 
and the Moapa River Indian Reservation Tribal Hall prior to the 
meetings. The dates of the public scoping meetings will be included in 
notices to be posted in the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 
and Moapa Valley Progress 15 days before the meetings.

B. Directions for Preparing Comments

    Please include your name, return address, and the caption ``EIS, 
Yahthumb Solar Project,'' on the first page of any written comments. It 
is important that reviewers provide their comments in such manner that 
they are useful to the agency's preparation of the EIS. Therefore, 
please clearly articulate your concerns and contentions. Interested 
parties are invited to identify potential alternatives, issues to be 
analyzed, mitigation measures, and other information to be considered 
in the EIS.

C. Directions for Submitting Comments

    Please submit comments by the date listed in the DATES section of 
this notice to the address listed in the ADDRESSES section of this 
notice. You may also submit comments at the public scoping meetings.

D. Public Comment Availability

    Written comments, including names and addresses of respondents, 
will be available for public review at the BIA Western Regional Office, 
at the mailing address shown in the ADDRESSES section during regular 
business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except 
holidays. Before including your address, telephone number, email 
address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you 
should be aware that your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--may be made publicly available at any time. 
While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal 
identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we 
will be able to do so.

IV. Authority

    This notice is published in accordance with section 1503.1 of the 
Council on Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR 1500 et seq.) and 
the Department of the Interior Regulations (43 CFR part 46) 
implementing the procedural requirements of the National Environmental 
Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and in accordance with the 
exercise of authority delegated to the Principal Deputy Assistant 
Secretary--Indian Affairs by part 209 of the Department Manual.

Bryan Newland,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2021-13578 Filed 6-24-21; 8:45 am]