Letter to the editor: Industrializing southern Inyo

Renewable Energy Development Areas - from Independence to Lone Pine only.

Renewable Energy Development Areas – from Independence to Lone Pine only.

Industrializing the heart of Owens Valley

by Daniel Pritchett

Over the last several months there has been a remarkable display of opposition to DWP’s proposed industrialscale solar facility near Manzanar (aka SOVSR). Reflecting this strong opposition, last month Owens Valley Paiutes, members of the Manzanar Committee, and the Owens Valley Committee formed an alliance and descended upon LA to discuss the project with political leaders.

In the process an LA political consulting firm offered its services pro bono to help. More discussions will happen soon. Meanwhile, what happened back in Owens Valley? The Inyo County Planning Department released a staff report which defined three alternatives for “Renewable Energy Development Areas” (REDA) in Inyo County.

All three alternatives define a large REDA in the heart of Owens Valley from Independence to Lone Pine. This REDA would give the (zoning) green light not only to SOVSR, but to its clone, the Northland project, proposed to be built along the northern edge of SOVSR. It’s hard not to see the elongated shape of the proposed REDA as a giant middle finger flipped by Planning Department staff at those who love Owens Valley.

The staff report lists a large number of criteria for “inclusion” of land in REDAs and a smaller number for “exclusion”. Among the exclusion criteria are “cultural and historic resources”, “scenic resources”, and “Manzanar historic landscape viewshed”. Apparently the Planning Department couldn’t figure out that the proposed REDA has numerous cultural and historic resources, is in the middle of a world-class scenic resource, and includes large parts of the historic Manzanar landscape viewshed.

County Supervisors and Commissioners typically acquiesce to staff recommendations. However, the General Plan Amendment which would include the Owens Valley REDA is not yet a done deal. There will be a workshop for the Planning Commission on February 26 at which public comments may be given. This is probably the best opportunity to modify the Amendment with its disastrous REDAs. If you value the scenic, historic, and cultural landscape in the heart of Owens Valley please attend, and ask the Planning Commission to reject staff recommendations for the Owens Valley REDA found in all three alternatives. The staff report (all 385 pages) with the recommendations is on the Planning Department website.

Daniel Pritchett

Bishop, CA

10 Responses to Letter to the editor: Industrializing southern Inyo

  1. betsyp February 22, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Benett, thank you. Can letters be sent in lieu of actually being present?

    • Benett Kessler February 22, 2014 at 8:45 am #

      Yes. They will take letters up through that meeting. Also there is a long environmental review process that would follow with chances for public comment.

  2. betsyp February 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    Can someone provide details about when and where the Feb 26 meeting will be held? Thank you.

    • Benett Kessler February 22, 2014 at 8:33 am #

      10am in the Board Room in Independence in the Administrative Center.

  3. April Zrelak February 18, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    There are many disturbing items in this report. For example, Planning wants compensation for burden to County services if large-scale energy plants ARE built, and compensation (from whom?) if these same plants ARE NOT built. This is not taking a position, it is revenue enhancement at any cost. It appears an attempt to stifle or frighten any opposition to development under CEQA challenges: “The County shall consider seeking compensation for the loss of revenues from potential renewable energy facilities that are not developed due to possible impacts on military readiness, special status species, and aesthetics, and/or other barriers to development of appropriate renewable energy facilities. Methods of compensation include but are not limited to Payment-in-lieu of Taxes (PILT) or similar programs.”

    Additionally, the map Daniel provided does not include some other areas mapped in the BLM’s DRECP that cover the entire east side of Lone Pine from Narrow Gauge RR Rd. to Hwy 136 and to Owens River, then south along Hwy 395. These are not in the REDA, but Planning is recommending these sites for development, too: “Encourage renewable energy development on BLM Variance Areas and DRECP Development Focus Areas…” I recall the public input in the Independence meeting was distinctly in opposition to these areas for development.

    You need to go to this meeting and discourage the adoption of this report and recommendations as written. Talk to your Supervisors, who probably know very little about the report to date. Your voices have been documented, but not incorporated into the proposed General Plan changes. The people making these decisions work for you. Their employees do not make policy, only recommendations.

  4. Eastern Sierra Local February 18, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    I think it’s great that Inyo County is taking the lead on creating pre-planning development areas for renewable energy. This is exactly what this country and County needs to do to lessen our dependence upon foreign oil. Great work Inyo Planning!

    In regards to Mr. Prichett’s comment : “Apparently the Planning Department couldn’t figure out that the proposed REDA has numerous cultural and historic resources, is in the middle of a world-class scenic resource, and includes large parts of the historic Manzanar landscape viewshed.”

    He’s definitely NOT an archaeologist and has no idea on whether anything in those locations are actually “eligible” for historic Section 106 classification; that can only be conducted by a qualified archaeologist which he isn’t.

    “World- Class scenic resource?”- that’s his opinion; I know many people who come here and aren’t impressed of the “scenic resource.” Which I’ve never heard of a designation of the Owens Valley as a “scenic resource?” That comment makes no sense.

    And last but not least…Manzanar: which is designated a national historic landmark; but that designation DOESN’T apply to the surrounding area and the “viewshed.” The “view” around Manzanar IS NOT the reason for it’s historic designation; but Manzanar itself. There are many historic landmarks in the middle of urban areas such as Sutter’s Mill in Sacramento; most of the California Missions, and Old Town San Diego. There’s no requirement and no “cultural significance” to the area surrounding Manzanar.

    It’s readily apparent that Mr. Daniel Prichett has no idea how “planning” in California occurs. What the County is doing is creating a zoning layer that authorizes solar projects to be built in that area. Individual projects must undergo environmental clearance on a project-per-project basis.

    As usual, Mr. Prichett continues to show his adversary towards Inyo County and LADWP based upon specious arguments and flawed assumptions.

    • Ken Warner February 18, 2014 at 11:49 am #

      ESL: solid reasoning and arguments. But once again, it seems like simple truth confuses and outrages a certain community of less capable thinkers.

    • Mongo the Historian February 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      ES Local,
      Sutters Mill is in Coloma adjacent to a State Park.
      Sutters Fort is in the middle of Sacto’ City.

      Owens Valley is designated as a Scenic Byway, therefore it is a scenic resource.

      Either way the question remains; is The Scenic Byway worth preserving, or are other options more cost benefit effective to society? The scenic area is of interest to society while the solar project being in OV may be more corporately and land holder profit motivated.

  5. Ken Warner February 17, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    The Ivanpah plant cost US$2.2 billion to build and stretches over 3,500 acres (more than 1,400 hectares). ISEGS is the largest solar power plant of its kind, accounting for nearly 30 percent of solar power generated in the US. It uses 173,500 heliostats (computer-controlled mirrors) that follow the sun’s trajectory and reflect its light towards three solar receiving water boiler towers. The boilers superheat steam to temperatures of up to 550° C (over 1,000° F), which drives standard turbines to generate electricity.

    The electricity produced by Units 1 and 3 at Ivanpah, accounting for 259 MW, is being sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under two “long-term power purchase agreements..” The remaining 133 MW generated by Unit 2 is being sold to Southern California Edison with similar terms.


  6. Philip Anaya February 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    It appears that the Inyo County Planning Department has located an REDA on top of the Lower Owens River Project. Mitigation on top of a Mitgation . While reviewing the Agenda packet at this link

    for the Feb 26 Planning Department, I am wondering how Inyo County could even consider Industrial Scale PV Development, energy for export, that is not in any way beneficial to the Eastern Sierra. The issues remains that the current capacity and even soon to be upgraded Barren Ridge /Haskell Canyon section of the Inyo-Rinaldi Transmission Line have alternative renewable projects on the Queue List for the interconnection that exceed the that capacity.
    The so called “Current growing interest in the renewable energy development in the County” really has to do with the protection of the Valley, the viewsheds , tourism economic impacts , Manzanar, the protection of the environment and the existing zoning of the proposed REDA conservation and agriculture and there’s a lot more. more . The Owens Valley could certainly benefit from PV development but it should serve the needs of our communities. Projects that are located in local areas benefiting local enterprises are commercial ventures. Projects such as the Manzanar Rewards and Northland Power are “Industrial Projects” and their location and development should not be allowed or even considered in the Owens Valley no matter what . There are enough Transmission Lines running through the Valley and for many folks we hardly see them. That will not be the case if we start laying out plans and footprints for the industrialization of the Owens Valley. Are there not going to be some places left where the millions of years of geologic and natural history of the Planet can prevail , where a person might have walk , have a view of the wonders of the creation and evolution of this very special place. Sad sorry heartless , Inyo County, if you let this happen. Unbelievable, inexplicable if you make it happen .


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