- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal officials recommended Friday that a proposed solar project in Southern California be downsized by about a quarter to address concerns about the potential impact on bighorn sheep and to make sure the project won’t be seen from most of the neighboring Mojave National Preserve.

The recommendation is part of an environmental impact statement that helps the Soda Mountain Solar Project clear an important hurdle. The public has 30 days to weigh in once the recommendation is published in the Federal Register.

Opponents reacted with disappointment. They maintained that the reduction in the size of the plant does not decrease the impact on wildlife to an acceptable level. The National Parks Conservation Association was one of the groups hoping the Interior Department would deny the project in its entirety because it’s located so close to the preserve and because they fear it will harm habitat for bighorn sheep and the desert tortoise.

“No one thinks this is a wise decision for the Mojave Desert or those of us who live and work here,” said David Lamfrom, an associate director for the organization.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it’s recommending reducing the size of the project by more than 600 acres. If approved, the solar plant would still generate enough electricity to power more than 79,000 homes.

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