Return to Case Digest Archives
skip general nav links ACHP home About ACHP


National Historic

Working with
Section 106

Federal, State, & Tribal Programs

Training & Education


 skip specific nav links
Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Spring 2002 arrow California: Development of the Medicine Lake Highlands
California: Development of the Medicine Lake Highlands

Agencies: Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service
In this case, proposed geothermal projects could have a substantial impact on historic sites and districts that Indian tribes use for physical healing, prayer, spirit quests and other traditional purposes. It illustrates the importance of identifying and considering the effects of undertakings on traditional cultural properties early in project planning, before commitments are made to allow development.

Northern California’s Medicine Lake Highlands is a traditional cultural property (TCP) eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It features an interrelated series of locations and natural features that local Indian groups consider integral to their spiritual beliefs and traditional practices. In the 1980s, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made a decision to lease the area for geothermal development, but did not go through the Section 106 review process.

Medicine Lake Highlands, California


Medicine Lake Highlands, CA
(staff photo)





In 1996 and 1997, two energy companies submitted Plans of Operation to BLM for the construction and operation of well fields, power plant facilities, and transmission lines in the area.

The Pit River Tribe, the Native Coalition, and individual members from other tribes objected to the proposed projects, citing the extent to which proposed and future geothermal development would affect the location’s spiritual power as well as traditional practitioners’ access to important sites. In addition, important archeological properties could be affected by construction of a transmission line.

In May 2000, BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (FS) issued a Record of Decision that denied approval for one of the proposed projects, the Telephone Flat Geothermal Development, because the location of the wells and power plants within the volcanic depression at this site would create significant noise and visual impacts to recreation visitors, homeowners, and Native Americans.

However, in April 2002, the Department of Interior entered into a settlement agreement with the former leaseholder, CalEnergy, agreeing to reconsider the Record of Decision. Section 106 consultation must be re-initiated by BLM and FS because the proposed development was determined to adversely affect the Medicine Lake Highlands TCPs. ACHP will participate in consultation over the proposed development and has asked BLM to host a meeting of all involved parties.

The second pending project in the area, the Fourmile Hill Geothermal Development, was authorized, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation executed a Memorandum of Agreement for the project. While the effects of the Fourmile Hill project will be adverse, they are predicted to be less severe than the Telephone Flat project, because it will be located outside the boundary of the Medicine Lake Highlands TCP district.

Through the Fourmile Hill agreement, the agencies are working with the Pit River and Klamath/Modoc Indian tribes and the Shasta Nation to develop a Historic Properties Management Plan for the Medicine Lake Highlands. Within five years, FS will assess the need to amend its land and resource management plans to better protect the traditional cultural values of the area. The agreement also provides for minimizing auditory and visual effects of the project and carefully monitoring project effects on traditional use of properties and the natural environment.

Under the terms of the agreement, the project sponsor will reimburse the tribes and the Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands Defense for their work in implementing the agreement and will post a surety bond sufficient to cover costs associated with site reclamation. In addition, BLM and FS’s Record of Decision required establishment of a citizen oversight panel and a five-year moratorium on further development of the geothermal leases in the Medicine Lake Highlands, pending further analysis of impacts. However, in June 2001 the BLM lifted the moratorium in light of the President’s National Energy Policy.

The projects are only two of up to 10 anticipated developments for which leases have been issued. Because of tribal concerns with cumulative effects, the Fourmile Hill agreement strongly emphasizes the development of a long-term program to protect TCPs and consideration of revising management direction for this area. BLM’s decision to lease this area for geothermal development in the 1980s without going through Section 106 review limited its options in considering the proposed Plans of Operation, such as selecting an alternative site.

Staff contact: Carol Gleichman

Posted June 4, 2002

Return to Top