The Bureau of Land Management offered over 400,000 hectares (one million acres) for geothermal exploration and development in 1975, and figure is expected to double this year. The Energy Research and Development Administration hopes for 10-15,000 megawatts of geothermal energy by 1985, which would require, leasing over 16.3 million hectares (37 million acres) of land, at least half of which is federal land. Since there is an 8 to 8-1/2 year time laf between initial exploration and full field development, there would have to be a ten-fold increase in the amount of federal land leased within the next three years. Seventy percent of geothermal potential, 22.3 million hectares (55 million acres), is on federal lands in the west. The implication for the Service are enormous and the problems immediate.
Geothermal resource are so widespread they are found to some extent in most biomes and ecosystems in the western United States. In most cases exploitation and production of geothermal resources can be made compatible with fish and wildlife management without damage, if probable impacts are clearly understood and provided for before damage has unwittingly been allowed to occur. Planning for site suitability and concern with specific operating techniques are crucial factors. There will be opportunities for enhancement: during exploration and testing many shallow groundwater bodies may be penetrated which might be developed for wildlife use. Construction equipment and materials needed for enhancement projects will be available in areas heretofore considered remote projects will be available in areas heretofore considered remote by land managers. A comprehensive knowledge of geothermal development is necessary to avoid dangers and seize opportunities.
This handbook is intended to serve as a working tool in the field. It anticipated where geothermal resource development will occur in the western United States in the near future. A set of environmental assessment procedures are presented which will allow the Service to provide input to the federal leasing process. As an impact information source by which to judge the appropriateness of a specific activity at a specific site, a discussion of activities-impacts is provided on a phase by phase basis. Mitigation and possible enhancement techniques are also presented so that the impacts of the development can be dealt with and the fish and wildlife situation improved.
The Service can achieve its objective only if biological input is made throughout the entire process of geothermal development, from exploration to testing to full field operation. A discussion of geothermal leasing procedures emphasizes the timing and nature of Service participation in current interagency lease processing, and there is a provision for the utilization of new knowledge, techniques, and responses as experience is accumulated.