Native American objects threaten completion of the Genesis solar facility near the Colorado River.
To avoid a lawsuit that could cripple the project, the two sides should negotiate a solution — and officials should begin talks with other tribes about projects planned for their areas.
Developers in the Mojave Desert last month were so keen on going forward with their project that they didn’t consult with Native Americans about the ancient objects that might lie underground or conduct the required archaeological work in a thorough way. This has happened before: It happened most recently in downtown Los Angeles last year at the site of one of the area’s oldest burial grounds. Now it’s happening again 200 miles east, in the desert.
But there’s a key difference between the two. In the case of La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the new cultural center honoring Mexican and Mexican American history in L.A., there was little legitimate reason to rush the job once remains from a 19th century cemetery were discovered. In the desert near Blythe, similar discoveries — charred bones, grinding stones and charcoal, possible indicators of an early cremation site — threaten the vast Genesis solar project that has been fast-tracked by the U.S. government to generate needed energy.
Maybe a little too fast-tracked.
Government and company officials did an inadequate job of addressing the concerns of the local Native American tribe, and a less-than-thorough survey before the fact failed to detect any evidence that this was a site of archaeological significance. Once winds uncovered the first items, Genesis officials called those a minor scattering.
Such scenarios have played out many times in California and elsewhere. This time, using laws aimed at protecting Native American heritage, the Indians are threatening to sue. And though it is uncertain if they’ll win, they could delay Genesis to the point of being financially unfeasible.