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.