Citizens pound Planning Commission to stop industrial solar and wind plans


Photo by Charles James.

Photo by Charles James.

With passion and relentless opposition, an estimated 70 or more people objected to the Inyo County Planning Commission’s request for approval of a draft Renewable Energy Development General Plan Amendment. After more than three hours of virtually all public opposition, the Commission voted  to send the plan on to the Board of Supervisors amidst groans and shouts in opposition to that vote. One Commissioner, Bill Stoll, voted to hold workshops first.

The room was packed and initially some people sat out in the hall, so insistent were many to be heard. More than 30 people spoke. All but one objected to the some 14 proposed Renewable Energy Development Areas from Laws, to Independence to Deep Springs and Death Valley. The proposal supports industrial-scale solar and wind development in these areas. The plans will have to go through an environmental review process, but

Paul Freitheim suggested a solar canopy over the aqueduct.

Paul Freitheim suggested a solar canopy over the aqueduct. (Photos by Russ Monroe)

the public was in no mood to let it go any further than the Planning Commission.

Testimony ranged from heart felt and poetic words to accusations that the Planning Department had misrepresented the will of the people. Paul Freithiem showed slides of the beautiful valley that would be, as some said, marred with huge solar arrays. He proposed a solar panel canopy over the aqueduct to avoid impacts in the Valley. Bryan Kostors accused the plan of saying that the public supports these developments when in fact they do not. Several people brought up this same

Cindy Kamler said, "Moved wildlife is dead wildlife."

Cindy Kamler said, “Displaced wildlife is dead wildlife.”


Cindy Kamler of Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care said she was speaking for the animals. Said Kamler, “Displaced wildlife is dead wildlife.” All of the large solar arrays would clear cut square miles of habitat.

Mike Prather said the areas designated for potential projects would impact the entire Lower Owens River Project, designed to bring back river habitat and not for industrial development. In closing, Prather said, “The real issue is the City of Los Angeles.” It was LADWP that proposed a 1200 acre solar project south of Independence and across from Manzanar.

Hank Umemoto, an internee in Manzanar.

Hank Umemoto, an internee in Manzanar.

On that note, a half dozen Japanese-Americans objected to the County’s plans for widespread energy development. Hank Umemoto had been imprisoned in Manzanar in the 40s. He said LADWP turned the Owens Lake into a “Devil’s Playground”, which, he said, they now want to do next to Manzanar Historic Site. He and others talked about the desolation and despair of the original Manzanar camp and how development near it would destroy that memory that they have tried to preserve.

April Zrelak said the planners were trying to “hold the people hostage to an artificial deadline.” The proposed plans came out last week and include 358 pages of information. People asked for workshops and a chance to understand all of the details. Planning Director Josh Hart said that would happen during the environmental process. The Commission voted 4 to 1, with Bill Stoll voting no in favor of workshops, to accept the plan and send it on.

Now, the controversy goes to the Board of Supervisors with a good section of the public more outraged than before. You can check out public opinion letters on our website and at


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8 Responses to Citizens pound Planning Commission to stop industrial solar and wind plans

  1. Eastern Sierra Local February 27, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    While 70 people showing up for usually uneventful Planning Commission meetings is a sizable number and its good to have that many people wanting to involve themselves in the process; the other 20,000 people of Inyo County who didn’t show up either don’t care or want such a designation. It’s curious to note that even as reported one person did show up to voice support. This is population shows to me that there is quiet a vocal minority in Inyo County.

    • Benett Kessler February 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      The fact is, we don’t know how the people who did not attend the meeting feel.

  2. GWW February 27, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Thousands of folks who live here do support solar and the assumption that opponents of the solar farm are in the majority is a classic example of tactics that enviro advocates use to mislead and distract from the real issues. Most peole trust their LOCAL govt. to look out for their best interests in matters like this. They just want to go about their lives rather than have to fight the obstructionists who piece by piece are destroying the fabric of this great nation. Most don’t have the time to travel to meetings, so they trust their elected officials to act for them.

    Finally, the claim that you are being railroaded is deliberately misleading, because the best time to comment and select a no build alternative is during the Environmental review process and you all know that or should. NEPA was invented by enviros (so use it) and the concept of tolerance as forwarded by the liberal community is only intended for the conservative opposition! Creating drama to change govt. direction should not be tolerated, especially in this supposed new age of tolerance.
    Thank you to the Inyo County Planning Commision for not being railroaded into action, by the relatively few, especially when many of them admittedly don’t even live in Mono County.


    • bishop rocks February 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      A couple of important points:

      1. The projects are subject to CEQA, not NEPA
      2. The REGPA is proposed in Inyo County, not Mono County

      You all know that, or should.

  3. Charles James February 27, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    As “ugly” as this meeting became, it was a great example of just how messy a democracy can be when passions are inflamed. Our politics in general seem to reflect the extreme polarity on issues, almost any issue, that comes before the public. It can be very confusing and it was reflected in many of the comments made by the Planning Commissioners, who acknowledged a general lack of knowledge on solar energy and other renewable energy issues.

    Oscar Wilde wrote that “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people;” whereas Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Of course, in reality, democracy is many things to many people, often depending on what side of an issue you take.

    The Planning Committee did not so much “approve” the plan as chose to pass it up to the Board of Supervisors which is where this “hot potato” will land in a just a few weeks…and it’s likely that they aren’t looking forward to it! The sad reality is, no one is in a position to “win” this game no matter what the BOS decides. As with so many issues in the Owens Valley, the City of Los Angeles doesn’t just dominate our political and environmental landscape, they also hold most of the cards.

    As a sovereign government entity, LADWP is exempt from the County’s permit process and any real hope for those opposing the solar energy project near Manzanar on LADWP property will likely come from pressure on politicians in Los Angeles, some issue or issues in the CEQA report required for DWP to move forward, legal action, or successful lobbying of the State and Feds.

    Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady of the United Kingdom, was asked about the difference between Europe and America. She said this: “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” Competing philosophies, even within the environmental movement itself, are clearly in evidence on the advisability of renewable energy policy in the Owens Valley.

    Sometimes you pick a battle…and often it picks you. This battle is as much about the very different philosophies and the beliefs held by opponents and proponents on renewable energy, environmentalism, capitalism, and even political affiliation– and it is a battle that is far from over. In the end, will it be the stamina of the opponents or monied interests that will prevail? Passion is clearly on the side of the opponents.

  4. Norm Olson February 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    What part of NO we don’t want it do they not understand? Are these people elected?

  5. Rick Sayers March 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    DRECP needs to be stopped!!
    I am in the high desert of San Bernardino County not far from Joshua Tree National Park. There are currently over 30 renewable energy projects in our county building dept dept awaiting approval. Unless DRECP is stopped our entire pristine desert is going to be lined with solar panels all in the name of GREEN. We want solar panles on the roofs of homes, not in virgin desert lands.

    • Mongo The Idiot March 4, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      Right On Rick!
      Thanks for speaking up.
      Mongo I


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