View of possible before and after SOVSR. Westward view from Inyo Mountains.  Photo by Bill Helmer

View of possible before and after SOVSR. Westward view from Inyo Mountains. Photo by Bill Helmer

A public showdown will unfold Tuesday when the Inyo Board of Supervisors offer their comments on the Draft Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment and its solar and wind development areas. The agenda lists this item at 1:30pm and says that the Board’s input will lead to revision of the plan that will become the project description of the environmental process that follows. The showdown part will come from citizens who have so far strongly disagreed with the Planning Department’s Draft Plan.

The item has drawn standing room only crowds and relentless testimony against industrial-scale solar development in the Owens Valley. Opposition has lined up as to how and where the Planning Department has recommended the location of 14 large development areas.

Dozens of environmentally-minded people who might usually stand strongly in favor of solar development, see it as a destructive force in the open miles of the Owens Valley, with ruination of scenery and habitats. On the other hand, many do recognize the need to have some sort of plan that will point companies in the direction Inyo County wants development, if at all.

A great number of the critics say the proposed development areas will lead to industrialization of scenic views. Others have criticized the language in the Plan Amendment as weak and vulnerable to industry devastation at the very time that utilities need to meet state-mandated renewable energy goals.

The issue has galvanized citizens into organized action. Several of them have scheduled a press conference for noon on Tuesday to lay out citizen goals. A press release says residents will support a plan which “eliminates current Renewable Energy Development Areas from the plan, focusing instead on efforts which protect our county’s wild and cultural resources and tourist based economy, and develop locally controlled renewable energy located within Inyo County communities, which serve the energy needs of Inyo County.”

Mary Roper, President of the Owens Valley Committee, is quoted in the press release as saying that the Committee applauds Inyo County’s own small solar installations near the Courthouse and the Jail. Roper said, “While we support such appropriate small-scale and roof top solar energy production, we are opposed to the industrialization of untrammeled Inyo County landscapes with large solar and wind installations.” Roper calls on the Board of Supervisors to “deeply modify” the General Plan Amendment before moving ahead with the environmental process.

Targeted for specific dissent is the LADWP’s solar plan across from Manzanar. The press release says that those present will “call on the City of Los Angeles to immediately cease and desist plans for the South Owens Valley Solar Ranch, abide by the Land Management Agreement they signed in 2010, which prohibits industrial development, and stop looking to Inyo County for their resource needs, concentrating instead on local sourcing.”

Alan Bacock, Big Pine Tribe Water Coordinator, said the concerns are that the General Plan Amendment and DWP’s solar plan will meet short term goals while “leaving long term consequences for future generations to deal with.”

More on Tuesday at the Inyo Board meeting at 1:30pm.


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