Bureaucratic processes sometimes leave out the voice of the people. In the case of the Inyo County Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment, citizens
have insisted they be heard. But will the changes they want actually take place? Next Tuesday, April 1st, the Inyo Supervisors will offer their comments on the Plan Amendment which is also the project description.
According to Planning Director Josh Hart, the Supervisors will not vote on the General Plan Amendment. He said they will provide comments on it. Then, planners will refine the Amendment which serves as the environmental project description. Hart said there will be many more public meetings as part of the CEQA process; but he did admit that the farther down the line the project goes, the more difficult it is to make significant changes.
Vice President of the Owens Valley Committee, Daniel Pritchett seemed to agree that now is the time to make changes when he said, “April 1st is a crucial time because it is when the contents of the final document will be decided, de facto. If the Board of Supervisors directs the staff,” he said, “to use the existing General Plan Amendment even with modifications as the basis for the Programmatic EIR, we know in advance the final document they will formally rubber stamp will be a disaster.”
The Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment spells out 14 industrial-sized solar development areas in the County. Hart said it’s very doable to take some of those away or change them. The 358-page staff report on this issue includes a list of 16 alternatives on how to proceed. Planners recommend continuing with the General Plan Amendment they have prepared. Public petitions with more than 1,000 signatures ask the Supervisors to reject that General Plan Amendment.
Will the Supervisors do that? Board Chairman Rick Pucci said, “The Board of Supervisors will give Josh some consensus of where to go if anywhere.” Pucci said the Board will not “adopt” the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment but will comment on what it should look like. Will the substantial public outcry against the Amendment have an effect on the Board? Pucci said, “Absolutely. The public comments have been very helpful to me.”
Asked what his specific recommendations will be, Chairman Pucci said he does not know yet. He’s considering many suggestions.
In addition to moving ahead with the Draft Plan Amendment, the Planning Staff Report also recommends renewable energy development on BLM Areas and other bureaucratically designated areas. The staff recommends both small-scale and distributed generation facilities. The staff does not recommend ceasing the current process, does not recommend the use of intensive or less intensive alternatives, and does not recommend changing the megawatts allowed in each proposed Renewable Energy Development Area. The staff also does not recommend only allowing small-scale renewable energy projects for private on-site use.