Inyo Supervisors talk transmission corridor through Owens Valley

By Deb Murphy

High desert colors come out in mid-fall—Owens Valley is golden and bronze with splashes of rusty-red. At least that’s what we see. But sometimes it seems as if utilities only see solar panels from Olancha to Bishop and massive transmission towers carrying power through, not to, Inyo County.

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors got its first look at the corridors identified in Region 1, the south end of the county, at its October 18 meeting. The majority of Inyo lies in Region 5 which will be reviewed in November 2018.

According to meeting documents, the process of identifying corridors in 11 western states started in 2005 with the passage of the Energy Policy Act. During the public comment period, Lone Pine resident Earl Wilson, a walking encyclopedia on area land use issues, said “it’s been going on since the 1980s. They’re (federal agencies) are working 50 years ahead.”

Wilson didn’t want towers west of U.S. Highway 395; Supervisor Dan Totheroh didn’t want towers—period.

Corridor 18-23 was the object of scrutiny Tuesday, Twenty eight miles of its 239-mile length snake into Region 1, the balance is in Region 5.

The corridor follows 395 but veers west south of Lone Pine setting off alarms for Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley. “If the overall plan includes the Alabama Hills,” he said, “I don’t like it.”

The mapping only calls out highways, reservations and federal lands, making it unclear exactly where the corridor lies. There also appears to be a big gap before 18-23 picks up again possibly near Aberdeen, leaving Cathreen Richards, senior planner, and the Supervisors unsure of why. Richards assumed boundaries between regions 1 and 5 were based on Bureau of Land Management regional office boundaries.

Whatever the reason, it appears the two regions intersect in the Alabama Hills, waiting for its National Scenic Area designation since 2008.

Can we ask for somebody to come here and explain” some of the confusing terminology, asked Board Chair Jeff Griffiths.

The Board approved a comment letter focusing on the fact the review process basically ignored the County’s Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment.

In reference to the designation for the Alabama Hills, Kingsley and Griffiths will be heading to Washington, DC in mid-November. “I think we can take advantage of this lame duck session to move this (designation) forward,” Kingsley said. Griffiths indicated the duo could also begin to lay the groundwork for the Board’s pro-active approach to public lands in the valley.

In other action, the Board reviewed the Environmental Assessment for the Bishop Paiute Hotel and Business Incubator and Casino expansion projects, approving a letter expressing appreciation for air quality and aesthetic considerations. The Board’s primary concern was Transient Occupancy Taxes from the 60-room hotel, or more precisely, the lack thereof.

Native American transactions on reservation lands are not taxable. The Bishop reservation indicated it would not be collecting TOT. The County’s comment letter asked for a discussion leading to an agreement to collect TOT from non-Native clients at the proposed hotel to defray the cost of public services related to the complex…

 

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