When Los Angeles Department of Water and Power official, MichaelWebster, travelled to Independence to explain the City’s Solar Ranch project, he heard some angry and some frank comments against LADWP’s plans. The LA Times quoted Supervisor Jeff Griffiths as saying that the skills of the opposition are “unprecedented” and may be a rebirth of “historic empowerment in terms of the County’s relationship with the City of Los Angeles.”
For several weeks, citizens have packed the Board room with overflow in the lobby. The same was true on Tuesday when citizens passionately made their points. Ben Holgate of Independence stood up first and with a loud and angry voice said he was “disappointed in the sales job” he felt Webster had given the people. He criticized DWP for euphemistically calling their mega-solar project a “Ranch” and warned Webster not to go down the path of more resource extraction. Holgate firmly kept speaking even after the timer bell rang. Supervisor Chair Rick Pucci tried to stop him. He left only when he was done.
Jane McDonald told Webster she hoped he understood that the Solar Ranch would fundamentally change the relationship between LA and Inyo. She said we’ve had a trade-off. LA takes the water and Inyo gets undeveloped open spaces. McDonald said the large-scale solar project is a “betrayal of that relationship. You’re crossing a line in the sand,” she said. “All of us are standing together against this project.” She compared the paltry ten jobs DWP has offered to “thousands of jobs in the tourist industry.” McDonald raised curiosity when she said “people are meeting with powerful officials in LA.”
Tom Budlong from southern California said he remains suspicious that environmental documents do not spell out restoration of the solar site when it’s done and lacks mitigation plans for air quality and other impacts.
Citizens tended to direct their comments to Mr. Webster who was sitting in the audience behind them even though County Counsel Marge Kemp-Williams asked
them to speak to the Board of Supervisors.
Eileen Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity pointed to a new study on bird mortality and solar sites. Ann Capadanno of Independence pointed to the Scenic By-Way designation and the major bird migration path. She said, “I shutter to think of the damage.” Ilene Mandelbaum of Lee Vining said when LADWP realized they had to protect the public trust of Mono Lake, they found other water through conservation and reclamation. She called for aggressive power conservation to reduce demand.
Andy Selters pointed to the fear that DWP’s solar project would only be the first of many. Nancy Masters said the Owens Valley Committee is opposed to the
project because it conflicts with the Long Term Water Agreement and the Lower Owens River Project. She raised the specter of conservation easements on LA land in the Owens Valley which would halt any development. She called for a “re-visit to this idea.” Fifteen people spoke. All against DWP’s plan.