The County of San Bernardino has a big problem with how the Calico Solar Project, a proposed 850 MW facility proposed in the Mojave Desert, would import water to the site. The Calico Solar project, if built as conceived, would sit on about 8,230 acres of mostly public land in the San Bernardino County desert, about 37 miles east of Barstow. The California Energy Commission conducted evidentiary hearings on the project over several days this week. The first phase of the solar thermal project would include the placement of up to 11,000 solar discs, known as \u201cSunCatchers,\u201d in the area, arranged in groups of 60. The second and final phase would consist mainly of another 23,000 SunCatchers--generating about 575 MW--being placed in the area, also in groups of 60, with each disc consisting of a 25 kW solar power generating system. The County of San Bernardino, however, is questioning the project\u2019s agreement to receive water supplied by a railroad company for the purpose of washing the 40-foot high solar mirrors. Stirling Energy is proposing to buy offsite groundwater from the BNSF railroad and have the groundwater pumped from a currently idle well about 64 miles east of the project site. Under the plan, groundwater would be sent to a railroad tanker car and moved via rail to the project site under a water purchase agreement between BNSF and Calico Solar. \u201cBNSF is not a licensed water purveyor and does not have a water district authority, nor a district boundary,\u201d said Carrie Hyke, San Bernardino County principal planner. Additionally, Hyke said that the entire process requires analysis to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, and that the export of large volumes of water via rail would require a conditional use permit from the county. \u201cSeveral approvals would be necessary including an updated well permit and water purveyor permit from the county Environmental Health Division, and possibly approval from the County Local Agency Formation Commission to create a district boundary,\u201d Hyke explained. \u201cCalico Solar should be required to comply with all county requirements prior to utilizing a proposed water source,\u201d she said. In addition to the water issues, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted a new analysis that says if Calico Solar is built, the project would likely have an adverse affect on the Desert Tortoise population in the area, between 31 and 51 percent of which consist of small juveniles. \u201cBased on the best available data, approximately 93 Desert Tortoises and 6,215 acres of occupied tortoise habitat may be affected by the proposed project,\u201d according to the biological assessment that was detailed during this week\u2019s evidentiary hearings. \u201cPotentially adverse affects would occur in the form of behavioral harassment, potential direct or indirect injury or mortality, and reduction of occupied habitat \u2026 due to habitat disturbance,\u201d the Fish and Wildlife assessment states. The Calico Solar project includes construction and operation of an on-site substation, and would require the construction of about two miles of double-circuit 230 kV transmission line to move its electricity to Southern California Edison transmission facilities. Stirling has already entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Edison, an agreement that\u2019s expected to help the utility meet its mandate to purchase at least 20 percent of its electric power from renewable resources. During the evidentiary hearings this week, BLM and Energy Commission staffers said that the environmental benefits to the region would include a reduction in both greenhouse gases and toxic air contaminants compared to other sources of energy, like biomass or natural gas. Other benefits would include an increase in the region\u2019s electricity reliability and also permanent jobs in the area.