February 23, 2021
Presence Of Threatened California Tiger Salamander Next To Aramis Project Site Highlights Major Flaws In Project’s Environmental Impact Report

Multiple California tiger salamander sightings near the proposed Aramis solar project in North Livermore Valley reinforce that the area is home to threatened species and raise additional concerns about the project’s environmental impacts.
In one recent example, wildlife biologist Karen Swaim identified a juvenile California tiger salamander heading in a westward direction on North Livermore Avenue near its terminus at Manning Road and next to the main parcel for the proposed Aramis industrial solar plant. The sighting occurred during a nighttime rainstorm on February 11, 2021. 
California tiger salamander at night on North Livermore Avenue next to Aramis project site on February 11, 2021.
California tiger salamander near Bel Roma Road, which runs parallel to North Livermore Avenue, on February 21, 2021.  

“Due to the many documented occurrences of the California tiger salamander in every direction near the Aramis project site, and 15 confirmed breeding sites within the dispersal area of the salamander and the Aramis project, it has always been clear that the California tiger salamander was highly likely to be present at the site,” Swaim stated. “The detection of a juvenile California tiger salamander within 25 feet of and headed toward the site conclusively demonstrates its presence. This would be no surprise to anyone who has any understanding of the local conditions and understanding of the species ecology. I'd call it a no-brainer.”

“The Aramis project proponents have tried to pass the site off as some disturbed wasteland they will enhance for wildlife. That's a ludicrous assertion,” Swain explained. “It is grazing land for cattle, a land use that is highly compatible with the California tiger salamander. In fact, cattle are a major habitat management tool for this species. We should thank ranchers for the California tiger salamander remaining in such abundance in the North Livermore Valley."
Cattle grazing on Crosby Family Trust property (Jan. 2021). This is the largest parcel in the Aramis project, consisting of 269 acres.         
The Aramis project site looking to south. In left foreground are fields north of Manning Road used for growing oat hay to feed horses and cattle. Eighty acres will be used for the Aramis project. The Crosby Family Trust property is to the south of Manning Road and west of North Livermore Avenue extending to the east past Cayetano Creek. The dark field in the lower right of the photo is not part of the Aramis project site. The field was recently plowed for the growing of oat hay.

"Even land in hay production can often provide upland habitat of value for California tiger salamander as it is not a barrier to dispersal and migration and often still supports healthy rodent populations, as does the proposed solar field north of Manning Avenue," Swaim added. "The presence of California tiger salamander in lands in hay production is well documented."

“Habitat destruction is the primary threat to the California tiger salamander,” Swaim stated. “For the species to survive we must vigorously safeguard their habitat. North Livermore Valley, with its ground-squirrel and gopher burrows, intact rangeland grazed by cattle and nearby nature preserves with vernal pools, is an ideal habitat for the California tiger salamander as well as the burrowing owl and golden eagle, to name just a few of the species that the Aramis project will negatively impact.”
The Aramis Project’s environmental impact report (EIR) found that the conversion of over 350 acres of grassland and cropland into a solar generation facility would not significantly impact the threatened California tiger salamander because there was “only a low potential” for the amphibian to be present at the site.
Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, however, determined that there were numerous deficiencies in the Aramis EIR, including its finding that the solar plant would not significantly impact the California tiger salamander. Moreover, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service observed that cattle grazing on the type of land present at the Aramis project site “is a highly compatible land use” and enhances the habitat for the California tiger salamander.  
About the California Tiger Salamander
Designated a threatened species by federal and state environmental agencies, California tiger salamanders spend most of their lives underground. Once fall and winter rains begin, adult California tiger salamanders emerge from underground to migrate to vernal pools to breed and lay their eggs. These pools fill with water in the winter and often dry out by summer. 
Adults may migrate long distances, over a mile, to breed. After metamorphosis, juvenile California tiger salamanders may roam up to two miles away from their natal pools through grasslands to find underground burrows.
Is it necessary to destroy agricultural land in Alameda County to bring solar power to county residents?
The answer is no. East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) has contracted to receive 112 megawatts of electricity from the Rosamond Central solar project in Kern County, California. The plant (in photo to left) began commercial operations in January 2021.

“This marks the first new utility-scale solar project built to serve EBCE customers with clean, affordable, renewable energy,” said EBCE CEO Nick Chaset. “EBCE’s 112 megawatts from this project lays the foundation of our portfolio of projects that will serve our electricity customers throughout Alameda County.”

Many of the solar plants in Kern County have been constructed on previously disturbed or degraded land.
Every public agency independent of Alameda County and multiple environmental organizations have concluded that the Aramis plant will likely harm or kill multiple threatened species through the loss and conversion of the land to an industrial use.
Click here to read the comment letters.
Contact County Officials Today
Next week, March 4, 2021, the Board of Supervisors will review the Aramis Project. Please click the green button above to contact the Alameda County Supervisors and staff today. Please add a subject line, such as Reject the Aramis Solar Power Plant, and your name and city of residence to the end of your message.

Here is suggested text you can cut and paste into your email message:


Dear Board of Supervisors and County Officials:

I respectfully request that you reject the Aramis solar project for the following reasons:

1) The Aramis project will destroy North Livermore Valley's scenic beauty. No method exists to hide or obscure the visual assault on the valley from the Aramis project's 270,000+ eight-foot tall solar panels, new electrical substation, scores of lithium-ion battery stations, and overhead electrical transmission lines, some on towers reaching ten stories high.

These facts are not in dispute. The Final Environmental Impact Report found that the Aramis project will have “a substantial adverse effect on a scenic vista." Even with landscaping, the report concluded that the adverse aesthetic impact remains “significant and unavoidable.”
2) The Aramis project will obliterate hundreds of acres of habitat for numerous special status species including the California tiger salamander, California red-legged frog and Western burrowing owl. The agricultural land also serves as a wildlife corridor among nature preserves in and surrounding North Livermore Valley that are critical to maintaining the biodiversity of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. 

3) The Aramis project violates Measure D. Under voter-approved Measure D, the agricultural lands of Alameda County, including North Livermore, are to be preserved, enhanced and protected from “excessive, badly located and harmful development.” Commercial electricity power generation and the industrial storage of electrical energy are not agricultural uses of the land. 

4) Other, environmentally superior, ways exist to generate greater renewable energy. Alameda County can generate much greater renewable energy than the Aramis project while preserving its agricultural land by promoting the installation of solar panels on rooftops of home and businesses, over parking lots and next to freeways. 

5) Alameda County should do what Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties have already done: determine which areas of the county are appropriate for industrial solar facilities and only allow solar plants in those areas that pose the least conflict with open space, agricultural land, natural habitat and scenic resources.

Alameda County started working on a solar policy a decade ago, and then suspended the work in 2013. Only after considerable public pressure did the county finally restart the work last Fall. The county should complete a solar policy before reviewing the Aramis project. It is clear that North Livermore Valley is not the location where the county should first allow the destruction of agricultural land to construct utility scale solar facilities.
In conclusion, North Livermore Valley is designated as an agricultural district and should remain one.
The Beauty of Our Valley
Just a short drive or bike ride from the City of Livermore and north of Highway 580, the North Livermore Valley has been zoned for agricultural and rural residential uses since the 1950s.

For nearly the same period Alameda County has recognized North Livermore Avenue in its General Plan as a scenic corridor and sought to preserve the area’s outstanding scenic quality. 

Aramis Project Site Video
North Livermore Valley combines a rare protected scenic corridor with agricultural land and numerous threatened species.

This short video was taken at the Aramis project site in Feb. 2021. The fields and views shown in the video will no longer exist if the project is approved.
About Save North Livermore Valley

We started as a group of farm and ranch families and other members of the North Livermore Valley Rural Community. We have been joined by over 300 concerned residents in the City of Livermore and Tri-Valley area united for the purpose of preserving the open space, agricultural land and wildlife habitat of North Livermore Valley for future generations.