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Water Resources Mitigation Measures

Mitigation measures to avoid or reduce water resource impacts from solar energy development.

The following are examples of mitigation measures that could be applied to reduce water resource impacts of a project depending upon site- and project-specific conditions. Impacts to water resources are related to the project footprint (e.g., land disturbance, erosion, changes in runoff patterns, and hydrological alterations), project emissions (e.g., sediment runoff and water releases), and resource use (e.g., water extraction). 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:

  • Identify and avoid unstable slopes and local factors that can cause slope instability (groundwater conditions, precipitation, seismic activity, slope angles, and geologic structure).
  • Research local hydrogeology. Identify areas of groundwater discharge and recharge and their potential relationships with surface water bodies and groundwater quality. Avoid creating hydrologic conduits between two aquifers.
  • Identify sustainable yields of groundwater and nearby surface water bodies.
  • Limit the withdrawal of water at the facility so it does not exceed the sustainable yield.
  • Develop a contingency plan to prevent potential groundwater and surface water contamination.
  • Develop a stormwater management plan to ensure compliance with regulations and prevent off-site migration of contaminated stormwater or increased soil erosion.
  • Minimize the planned amount of land to be disturbed as much as possible. Use existing roads, borrow pits, and quarries.
  • Avoid streams, wetlands, and drainages where possible. Locate access roads to minimize stream crossings and to minimize impacts where crossings cannot be avoided.
  • Where access roads would cross a dry wash, the road gradient should be 0% to avoid diverting surface waters from the channel.
  • Use special construction techniques in areas of steep slopes, erodible soils, and stream crossings.
  • Construct drainage ditches only where necessary.. Use appropriate structures at culvert outlets to prevent erosion.
  • Do not alter or restrict existing drainage systems, especially in sensitive areas such as erodible soils or steep slopes. Cross water bodies at right angles to the channel and/or at points of minimum impact.

General Mitigation Measures

General mitigation practices and principles that could apply to any or all phases of a solar energy project include:

  • Apply erosion controls relative to possible soil erosion from vehicular traffic and during construction activities (e.g., jute netting, silt fences, and check dams). Regularly monitor rights-of-way (ROWs), access roads, and other project areas for indications of erosion.
  • Use dust suppression techniques to minimize impacts of vehicular traffic and wind on roads and exposed soils.
  • Reclaim or apply protective covering (e.g., vegetative cover) on disturbed soils as quickly as possible.
  • Clean and maintain catch basins, drainage ditches, and culverts regularly.
  • Refuel in a designated fueling area that includes a temporary berm to limit the spread of any spill.
  • Use drip pans during refueling to contain accidental releases and under fuel pump and valve mechanisms of any bulk fueling vehicles parked at the project site.
  • Limit herbicide/pesticide use to nonpersistent, immobile herbicides/pesticides.
  • Keep all equipment and vehicles within the limits of the previously disturbed areas.

Project Phase-Specific Mitigation Measures

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

Construction Practices

  • Save topsoil removed during construction and use to reclaim disturbed areas upon completion of construction activities whenever possible.
  • Avoid creating excessive slopes during excavation and blasting operations.
  • Closely monitor construction near aquifer recharge areas to reduce potential contamination of the aquifer.
  • Obtain borrow material from authorized and permitted sites.
  • Dispose of excess excavation materials in approved areas to control erosion and minimize leaching of hazardous materials.

Decommissioning/Site Reclamation

  • Develop and implement a decommissioning plan that includes the removal of all aboveground facilities and full reclamation of the site.
  • Reestablish the original grade and drainage pattern to the extent practicable.
  • Restore the banks of water bodies to their natural condition.
  • Backfill any foundations and trenches, preferably with excess excavation material generated during construction.