Friends of Black Rock Join Suit to Address Geothermal Drilling Proposals in Gerlach

Friends of Black Rock High Rock (FBRHR), a two-decade legacy non-profit dedicated to conservation, education and recreation, has joined Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Gerlach residents and property owners in a lawsuit launched by Burning Man Project.

From our start 20-plus years ago we have been a user and community-based non-profit. Our board members are (and have always been) burners, outdoor enthusiasts, environmental scientists, overlanders, dark skies supporters, conservationists and, importantly, residents of Gerlach and the greater Black Rock community.

We are deeply invested in the health, wealth, and well-being of the town of Gerlach and the Black Rock Desert High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area (Black Rock NCA). 

In 2023, with the help of Washoe County and Nevada Division of Tourism we are launching e-bike tours, conservation-based recreational excursions, and heritage tourism. We are training staff to provide certified guide opportunities to Gerlach residents so they may take advantage of environmental tourism, an 887-billion-dollar industry. We will be working with the community to create historical districts, walking tours, and a Gerlach Interpretive Trail to provide everyone the opportunity to experience the sublime beauty of the Black Rock Desert in safety.

Not much of this will happen in the shadow of a large-scale industry development (Ormat Technologies, In) quite literally, right outside our community’s back door. 

To be immensely clear: we are proud supporters of green energy and are grateful and sustaining partners with the Bureau of Land Management Black Rock Field Office. We believe that geothermal energy is one of the important efforts we MUST make to address catastrophic climate change. But not at the cost of the quality of life and the negative economic impacts that will inevitably occur when Ormat Technologies moves forward with a power plant on the edge of a community and the entrance to the Black Rock NCA.

What do we hope to achieve by challenging the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision and joining co-plaintiffs Friends of Nevada Wilderness, property owner David Jamieson and Gerlach resident Andy Moore? 

An Environmental Impact Statement that fully addresses the potential impact to surface and groundwater, the damage to public and private lands, and the economic impacts to tourism. 

We believe that the parceling of the Ormat project into smaller projects (explorations) allowed BLM to avoid taking a hard look at the full impact of the originally submitted (in 2020) large 24 megawatt geothermal facilities that included an electric substation and 21 wells over 44 acres. Construction of this plant, inevitably, will be larger than Gerlach, and span five miles along the Granite Range will permanently alter the landscape, the quality of life and the character of our community. 

In the words of our board member and Gerlach resident Dave Cooper, retired BLM National Conservation Area Manager: 

“Some of the exploration well sites are just a few hundred feet from homes and property. The 2,724 Ormat Area of Interest (AOI) contains habitat for mule deer, antelope, predators, eagle nesting habitat and bighorn sheep lambing.”

For more context please read Dave Cooper’s summary letter of dissent to the Ormat Project HERE. To see a map of the Ormat’s Area of Interest click HERE. Follow Friends of Nevada Wilderness statements HERE. Interested in reaching out to Washoe County Commissioners and Managers about this project? Find a list HERE

Below we have a few pictures of the beauty and charm that represents the community. The pictures directly overlook the proposed drilling exploration area.

View from proposed well field with an existing capped well along county road 34 just a few hundred feet from historic Great Boiling springs and occupied private land. Less than 1/2 mile from Gerlach.
The BLM Black Rock Station visitor center with interpretive panels is immediately adjacent to proposed industrial development on the other side of the road.