Published on March 8, 2008
Protecting Medicine Lake Highlands in the Modoc National Park: Protecting Medicine Lake Highlands in the Modoc National Park Mark LeBeau, Pit River Indian Nation World Parks Congress 2003 Durban, South Africa Factual Summary: A Chronology of Eventsby the Native Coalition For Medicine Lake Highlands Defense: Factual Summary: A Chronology of Events by the Native Coalition For Medicine Lake Highlands Defense 1982-88 - Geothermal leases awarded by Bureau of Land Mgnt. for the "Glass Mountain Known Geothermal Resource Area" on 134,000 acres in the Medicine Lake Highlands, without consultations with the Tribes, lacking the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 Process and minimal review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Leases give full rights to explore, develop and commercially produce geothermal power. 1982 - Royball-Evans Study of Cultural Uses of the Medicine Lake Highlands by the Pit River Tribe Upriver Bands, indicating prime cultural significance of the Medicine Lake Highlands. 1995 - Geothermal exploration projects approved by US Forest Service and BLM without consultations with Tribes and no NHPA Section 106 Process. Slide5: 1996 - First consultation with the Pit River Tribe. Pit River Tribal Council passes Resolution No. 96-08-25 on August 19, 1996 expressing opposition to geothermal development in the Medicine Lake Highlands, and requesting a Cultural Management Plan for the Highlands. Ethnographic study begins 1997-1999 - Forest Service and BLM issue Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on two geothermal developments - Calpine's Fourmile Hill and CalEnergy's Telephone Flat. The Fourmile Hill Project as proposed involves a 49.9 megawatt geothermal power plant, well field, and 24-mile, 230 kilovolt (300 megawatt) transmission line. The Telephone Flat Project would produce 49 megawatts of power and is comprised of similar facilities. Comments by the Pit River Tribe, Native Coalition, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center,1 and a coalition of environmental groups2 and the public weigh in at 90% against geothermal development. EISs disclose adverse effects and disproportionate impacts to Native American traditional cultural resources and values, but minimize environmental impacts. Slide6: May 1998 - BLM grants retroactive 40-year extension on the leases without providing public notice or review and without consultations in spite of strong Native American and citizen opposition to the projects. 1999 - Exploratory drilling certified by Siskiyou County; Native Americans again request Cultural Management Plan before any development is considered. May-June 1999 - Multi-agency consultation with Pit River Tribe and Native Coalition, followed by trip to Washington DC to meet with higher level officials. Slide7: 1999 - Medicine Lake Caldera designated as a Traditional Cultural District because of its spiritual and cultural significance to the Tribes in July 1999, with direction by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places to evaluate areas outside the District, including the Fourmile Hill project area, for their importance to Native American culture. May 2000 - Memorandum of Agreement on the Fourmile Hill Geothermal Project (concluding the NHPA Section 106 process) with Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Forest Service and BLM, providing for development of a Cultural Management Plan for the entire Medicine Lake Highlands within 6 months. Tribes do not sign MOA as concurring parties. Slide8: May 2000 - Decision issued by the Forest Service and BLM to approve Fourmile Hill Project (1/4 mile outside Medicine Lake Caldera), subject to a 5-year moratorium that prohibited further developments while the agencies could monitor the impacts. At the same time, the agencies issues a decision to deny the Telephone Flat Project (within the Caldera and hence within the Traditional Cultural District Summer 2000 - Appeals filed against the Fourmile Hill Project decision to Regional Forester and Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). Forest Service appeal denied August 2000. IBLA issues Stay Order putting development on hold until appeals are resolved. Slide9: December 2000 - Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) agrees to purchase power from Fourmile Hill project for distribution in the Northwest (mostly outside of California). May 2001 - Before the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy, Calpine discloses its goals to develop up to 1000 megawatts in the Highlands, including 100 megawatts in the Mount Hoffman Roadless Area, the highest and one of the most significant sacred sites in the Highlands. June 2001 - Five-Year Moratorium on further development lifted. October 2001 - Calpine purchases CalEnergy's leases and is now sole holder of 66 square miles of leases covering the Medicine Lake Highlands. Slide10: November 2001 - First meeting with the Tribes on Cultural Management Plan. January 2002 - California Energy Commission re-approves a conditional award of "green energy" subsidies for nearly $50 million for Calpine's Fourmile Hill and Telephone Flat projects, despite denial of the Telephone Flat Project, despite Fourmile Hill's failure to meet CEC requirements, and despite the fact that most of the power would be sold by BPA outside of California. February 2002 - IBLA decision to deny appeals on Fourmile Hill development project. Slide11: April 2002 - Conditional settlement agreement on a Takings Claim between Calpine Corporation and Department of Justice, calling for reopening the decision on Telephone Flat project, with the final decision to be made by the Secretary of the Interior and the Chief of the Forest Service. If the decision is not reversed by November 1st (later changed to November 15th) the claim will be reactivated. June 17, 2002 - Earthjustice files lawsuit on the Fourmile Hill decision in the Eastern District Court on behalf of Pit River Tribe, Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands Defense and Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center. Judge David Levy has been assigned to the case. Slide12: July-August 2002 - BLM holds consultations with Tribes on reopening the Telephone Flat project on July 16th. BLM decides to terminate NHPA section 106 consultations on August 22nd. September 16, 2002 - Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to hold formal Field Visit and Public Hearing in preparation for final section 106 comments on the Telephone Flat decision. It is expected that the Advisory Council will again recommend denial of this project as it did in May 2000. September 27, 2002 - Advisory Council on Historic Preservation issues comments upholding original decision to deny the Telephone Flat Project. Slide13: November 15, 2002 - Expected decision date on reconsideration of the Telephone Flat Project by the Department of the Interior and US Forest Service. PLEASE DO YOUR PART BY CONTRIBUTING TO THE SAVE MEDICINE LAKE HIGHLANDS PROJECT.