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Visual Resources Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures to avoid or reduce visual impacts from geothermal energy development.

The following are examples of mitigation measures that could be applied to reduce visual impacts from site- and project-specific conditions. Impacts to visual resources are related to the project footprint (e.g., land disturbance), amount and types of equipment, machinery, and vehicles, standing structures, and project emissions (e.g., fugitive dust, air releases). Many impacts can be reduced or avoided when considered during the siting and design phase.

Develop a final set of mitigation measures for any project in consultation with the appropriate federal resource management agencies and stakeholders. Conduct these consultations early in the project development process and preferably prior to final project siting and design.

Siting and Design Mitigation Measures

Siting and design considerations that mitigate impacts include:

  • In cases where no previous development exists and/or where development will be of a density likely to have a large visual impact, consider using computer simulation and visualization techniques to address potential impacts early in the process.
  • Involve the public in decision making regarding visual site design elements for proposed geothermal energy projects. Possible approaches include conducting public forums; offering tours; using computer simulation and visualization techniques in public presentations; and conducting surveys regarding public perceptions and attitudes about geothermal energy development.
  • Site projects outside of the viewsheds of publicly accessible vantage points or, if this cannot be avoided, as far away as possible.
  • Integrate project design with the surrounding landscape by incorporate the following design elements:
    • Avoid placing facilities (e.g., well pads or aboveground pipeline segments) on ridgelines, summits, or other locations such that they will be silhouetted against the sky from important viewing locations.
    • Design, construct, and paint conspicuous structures to blend with the character of the surrounding environment.
    • Design the site so that security lights are unnecessary. Where they are necessary, extinguish security lights except when activated by motion detectors.
    • Use non-reflective or low-reflective materials, coatings, or paints whenever possible.
    • Construct low-profile structures whenever possible to reduce visibility.
    • Select and design materials and surface treatments to repeat or blend with landscape elements.
    • Site projects to take advantage of both topography and vegetation as screening devices to restrict views of projects from visually sensitive areas.
    • Site facilities away from and not adjacent to prominent landscape features (e.g., knobs or water features).
    • To the extent possible, collocate facilities to use existing rights-of-way, existing and shared access and maintenance roads, and other infrastructure to reduce visibility.
    • Site linear features to follow the edges of clearings (where they will be less conspicuous) rather than passing through the center of clearings.
    • Use appropriately colored materials for structures or appropriate stains and coatings to blend with the project's backdrop, and paint grouped structures the same color to reduce visual complexity and color contrast.
    • Avoid installing gravel and pavement where possible to reduce color and texture contrasts with existing landscape.
    • Bury utility cables in or adjacent to the road where feasible.
    • Revegetate with native vegetation and establish a composition consistent with the form, line, color, and texture of the surrounding undisturbed landscape.
    • Prohibit commercial messages, advertisements, and graffiti on plant structures.
  • Consider aesthetic offsets as a mitigative option in situations where visual impacts are unavoidable, or where alternative mitigation options are only partially effective or uneconomical.
  • Use existing roads and disturbed areas to the maximum extent feasible to avoid additional surface disturbance. Locate access roads to follow natural topography and avoid or minimize side hill cuts wherever possible. Design roads with eventual reclamation in mind.
  • Consider site-specific landscaping in selected areas to provide screening for year-round residents whose property abuts the project.
  • Consider aesthetic offsets as a mitigative option in situations where visual impacts are unavoidable, or where alternative mitigation options are only partially effective or uneconomical.

Project Phase-Specific Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures specific to a particular phase of a geothermal energy project include:

Construction Practices

  • Minimize disturbance and control erosion by avoiding steep slopes and by minimizing the amount of construction and ground clearing needed for roads, staging areas, and crane pads or locating them outside the viewsheds of publicly accessible vantage points and visually sensitive areas.
  • Employ dust suppression techniques in arid environments to minimize impacts of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, construction, and wind on exposed surface soils.
  • Use efficient lighting so that the minimum amount of lighting required for safety and security is provided and so that upward light scattering is minimized.
  • Restore disturbed surfaces as closely as possible to their original contour and revegetate as soon as possible after disturbances.

Production Controls and Guidelines

  • Maintain the project site during operation. Inoperative equipment and poor housekeeping, in general, creates a poor image of the activity in the eyes of the public.
  • Depending on the situation, consider minimizing the amount of vehicular traffic and human activity.

Decommissioning/Site Reclamation

  • Develop and implement a decommissioning plan that includes the removal of all wells, power plant and ancillary structures, and calls for site reclamation.
  • Return access roads and well pads to as near natural contours as feasible. Revegetate all disturbed areas with plant species appropriate to the site.