Letter to the editor: Public opinion ignored

One of fourteen Renewable Energy Development Areas - proposed from Independence to Lone Pine.

One of fourteen Renewable Energy Development Areas – proposed from Independence to Lone Pine.

I witnessed today the most embarrassing policy meeting I’ve ever experienced, under any circumstances, while watching the Inyo County Planning Commission decide to move forward on the Renewable Energy Plan Amendment. My past is filled with days being honored to call the Owens Valley home; today; I am ashamed, thanks to the disastrous decision-making of the commission and the planning department.! ! During the meeting, I listened intently as community member after community member voiced their significant concerns with the REGPA documentation. Under this scrutiny, the document was shown to be rife with logical fallacies, structural holes, vast inconsistencies in language, and outright lies pertaining to supposed support of the document from the community at large.

The citizens of Inyo (and from Los Angeles, Torrence, Pasadena, and other locations) stood up together and voiced their strong opposition, supported by sound science, clear understanding, and with the added benefit of numerous ideas as to how the REGPA could be significantly improved. After hours of such public commentary, many in attendance were hopeful that their voices were heard and the document would undergo significant revision before moving forward.! ! It was a complete and utter shock, then, when the planning commission decided to whole- heartedly ignore all of this input and decide to move the REGPA forward to the Board of Supervisors, unchanged.

The planning commission members were fed half-truths, insufficient data, and at times complete lies by the planning director (as can be seen by comparing the document itself and any record of the comments made by the director during the meeting).! ! The next step for the REGPA, then, is to move to the Board of Directors. It should be noted by those that hold these public positions that on the 18th of March you will be asked by the planning director to approve a document that is politically unsound, filled with logic fallacies, employs vague and circuitous language, and included outright lies in its claims of “community support.” The supervisors should also know that if they choose to support the REGPA and its associated documentation, they are making a clear choice in direct opposition to the overall public consensus and political will of their constituency. ! ! It is my charge then, as a concerned citizen of Inyo County, to help protect our governmental and political processes from degradation and misuse. I hope that my fellow community members will join me, if the need arises, to publicly call into question the governing ability of our elected officials if they choose to accept unsound and invalid policy and disregard the voiced and publicly documented will of their own constituents.! !

I hope that we can come together as a community to do what is right for Inyo County. Today we witnessed what can happen when members of our local governmental agencies fail on all counts to do their jobs correctly and ignore the very people they represent. Thankfully, we still have time to make it right. I ask you all to join me in making that happen. Please view my letter to the planning commission and the Board of Supervisors by visiting www.deepestvalley.com and if you’d like your letter included on the site, please email a copy to act@deepestvalley.com. Thank you.  Bryan Kostors


28 Responses to Letter to the editor: Public opinion ignored

  1. Philip Anaya February 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Shock and dismay are not adequate responses to events of todays Planning Commission Meeting. Our Board of Supervisors are ultimately responsible for the operations of the County Departments including the Inyo County Planning Department. As I have written lately there are standards that reflect a Good Planning Process. I expect that the Head of a Planning Department would never fail to apply his judgment and wisdom to each and every project. I would expect the Director of Planning to be a man of truth, honor and would shield and defend ,conserve the lands into the future and have the fortitude and gumption to fight whoever would despoil landscapes in his trust. I would never hire anyone who would willingly change lives and livelihoods , change landscapes, change forever the current description of Inyo County of the Owens Valley contained in the General Plan Intro . I would expect The Director of Planning of Inyo County to defend that description. We do not have the Director of Planning, the man I would hire. Mr. Hart seems to be missing something . He does not demonstrate respect or love for this place if he wants to change it with this REGPA. Why is Mr. Hart the Planning Director in Inyo County if he wants the Owens Valley, Deep Springs all the REDA’s to look like Mojave and vicinity? Why did Mr. Hart even bother to have those limited meetings , refuse to extend the public input process, to not include the vital public input garnered in those meetings . What happened to trust in our Valley? What happened to Mr. Hart? Why and who in the Inyo County has allowed and maybe agreed to this process. Doesn’t Mr. Hart work for Inyo County? Whose his boss? He doesn’t work for the DWP or Northland Power does he? Oh, but isn’t Inyo County planning is doing the CEQA Documents for Northland Power at what expense? Is there a conflict of interest there with this current REGPA or is it just more bang for the buck . And I love that part of the REGPA where Inyo County expects to be compensated for projects rejected ,withdrawn? Who is going to pay that? Is Inyo County going to turn on it’s own constituents? Is Democracy dead? Someone is definitely out of their mind.
    Should I not be too worried? My Board of Supervisors is not going to allow our Inyo County to be sold off to International Corporate Developers who if allowed, will be exporting every mega watt to Los Angeles. My Board of Supervisors is going to reject this dysfunctional proposal on the merits of the flawed ,expedited ,coup of our Inyo County and our vast empty lands, our rivers, creeks and streams. Our Board of Supes isn’t going to sell us out and it is up to all of us to make sure that doesn’t happen . Write some letters ,make some calls ,email is real easy, make some noise and let them know what you want. Ask them to put this on the ballot if there is any question of what we the people want in our County.

    • RandyKeller February 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

      I have known the Planning Director, Mr. Hart, to be a dedicated and conscientious public servant. He is also an experienced and excellent planner. And I would say, he is doing the people of this County a fine service by bringing this amendment forward for public debate. It is his job to place land use policy before the public and the Board of Supervisors for consideration, public debate and decisions. Neither he nor the Planning Commission would be doing their jobs if they ended the debate because one viewpoint was more organized and vocal, and objected to a particular policy.

      There are two philosophies at play here for our valley. On the one hand, the people here have traditionally had the ability to make their livings by utilizing our natural resources – mining, power generation, ranching and other activities that lead to a working landscape. This is one vision that has served us well but that has been more and more restricted in the past few decades. An alternative vision is to preserve the valley just as it is now, make it a sort of park for the locals and tourists and resign ourselves to the belief that the only future for the valley is as a tourist destination and the only future for our citizens is as service providers for the masses.

      I do not intend to comment on whether solar facilities are the answer or are beneficial, but the vision that the valley should become a preserved park and that we should accept a constrained economy as servants to the tourists is a dangerous one; a form of servitude that has never been the culture of this place. Maybe that is our fate, and I am proud of having been a restaurant worker and manager in past lives, but I would not narrow everyone’s options to it.

      At any rate, that is the debate that I see, and I appreciate that Josh Hart is initiating it. I don’t know anyone I would trust more to do so. In my opinion, it disserves our community to disparage a dedicated and bright public servant for not only doing his job, but for bringing this important debate to the fore.

      • kwak February 27, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

        While I agree that an economy based upon service to tourists has some serious drawabacks, your assertions that ‘a from of servitude . . . has never been a part of this place’ sounds nice but isn’t very accurate, Most people trying to make ranches work in the OV sold out to the DWP, and either moved away or went to work at something probably related to tourism or Los Angeles (more likely both). Most ranches with enough land to be ranches lease land and water from LA. Mining was nice for a while, but its time has passed for all the predictable reasons. Since most of the land in the OV is federal or DWP, the yeoman farmer has little opportunity . . . and though a few miners might scrape out a living, Cerro Gordo is gone.

        When the first heroic farmers brought their cows to the OV, there were 3000 people living here, and doing a fine job of it. Unfortunately, those 3000 cows that got herded in destroyed what the 3000 residents relied upon for their living. The thousands of people who followed the first settlers were involved in extractive industries that they by and large ran badly, so they subsequently ran out. Selling to DWP was a great option for many, and they moved on.

        Your contrast of ‘a park’ with ‘a working landscape’ is a false dichotomy. Tell the packers and the mountain guides they don’t live in a ‘working landscape.’ And if you like mining, Mammoth Mountain is doing a fine job of mining silver from the pockets of skiers and people who just like resort towns. And they farm a lot of snow up there.

        LA took the gold, silver, water, and arable land long ago, leaving behind the beauty. Few other places in the US have this kind of preservation going for them. Although artificially arid, the OV looks much as it did long ago when the people who knew how to make the landscape work for them did so very successfully for a very long time. If LA removes the beauty of the place, then they’ll have succeeded in completing their colonization of this outpost, and there will be no reason for anyone to be here at all, which is of course how they’d prefer it.

        And removing the habit ‘for a few species’ doesn’t sound like a big deal to you . . . but maybe the species that will lose its habitat is, in fact, you. And your friends and family. Do you truly believe you can live anywhere else without suffering ‘servitude’?

        Perhaps the OV is artificially sustained in its current condition by money from the outside. No one but the Valley’s oldest residents knew how to make the place prosperous, sufficient and independent. Most of the dreams overlain on this place since about 1850 are a palimpsest of impossibility; nonetheless, a number of people have found ways to live here within the new limitations from outside forces that have crated, however artificially, a remnant of beauty undisturbed by large-scale industry and development. There are plenty of opportunities to move to places overrun by industry and development if that’s what you’d prefer . . . but there are not very many Owens Valleys to migrate to once this one’s gone.

  2. Waxlips February 27, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Don’t hold your breath thinking that the board of supervisors are going to vote on the side of the people. They were the ones who appointed the folks in the planning commission in the first place.

    The question now is how to make them it stop or go away, as there is no cure for stupidity.

  3. Tinner February 27, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Sounds like somebody got greased, Chicago style.

  4. Daris February 27, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    As I stated previously our supervisors go where ever they think the money (compensation) is not where the public comments, or Inyo County’s general plan should lead them. The voters have voiced their opinions in the last election but we may have to do it again if this bunch can’t listen to their constituents. “Remember the Owens Valley” and stand up and fight for it.
    Enough noise may wake them up. Call, write, email.

  5. Russ Monroe February 27, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Let’s All sing the new Inyo County tourist theme song!!!!!

    Ah, we’re going to Wasteland, Wasteland, used to be a beautiful sea
    But now it’s a Wasteland, Wasteland, made just for us by the DWP
    We’re going to Wasteland, Wasteland, where the admissions always free
    Because they built us a Wasteland, Wasteland, for all eternity
    Yes it will be a Wasteland, Wasteland, why don’t you want come and see?

  6. GWW February 27, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    Hello Bryan,

    You don’t seem to be very tolerant of others opinions and its a shame that instead of creating meaningful discussion, you resort to name calling and character assassination. Please cite what science claims that the farm will destroy anything other than a small percentage of the habitat of a few species?

    If the viewshed from Manzanar is so impacted then we must also remove all agricultural operations, because they have no place in this valley either. I suppose that the transmission lines that power all our homes should be done away with or atleast run underground to preserve the precious view at millions of dollars in cost to consumers like you. While we are at it let’s tear up 395 because it too is unsustainable. If you all were truly concerned about the environment you wouldn’t burn all the fuel you and yours burn to come to Manzanar and to County meetings when you could have participated from home through the upcoming comment period during the EIR?

    You say my arguments are ludicrous and unreasonable? Well if you were tolerant and able to genuinely consider the pros of the solar farm, you would realize that your arguments are exactly what you despise coming from the “other side”.
    The glaring difference is that your opposition hasn’t resorted to name calling!

    So 70 people got bussed in to protest; thousands of people who trust County govt. to protect their interests do support solar, they just don’t get on a pedestal and attack those who oppose solar.

    I hope you have the courage to print this on your blog too, because aren’t all opinions valid in this new age of tolerance?


    • Benett Kessler February 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

      Point of accuracy. Our understanding is that all but a small handful of the people at the meeting were locals.
      Benett Kessler

      • GWW February 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

        Sorry, one of the letters plainly states there were protestors from around LA but the specific cities listed escapes me.
        Come on Bennett, never heard of the busing that goes on to give the impression that they are in the majority? Happened throughout the Boxer/Mckeon Wilderness Bill battle and on a smaller scale the Forest Travel Mngmnt process.
        Doesn’t take much brain matter to realize the folks bussed in are NOT going to advertise that because their credibility rightly flies out the window!

        • Benett Kessler February 27, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

          We understand that all of the people who spoke, except for the Japanese-Americans, some of whom were from soCal, were locals. Your cliche is tiring. Also remember, many of these lands are federally owned. That means all people in the US own them. BK

        • bishop rocks February 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

          Did you happen to attend the meeting, GWW? Do you actually know how many people were from out of the area? Was it a majority? Or was it six Manzanar advocates and internees who have widely adverstised their opinon on the Solar Ranch?

          Who funded this left-wing extremist busing campaign, and to what benefit?

          And weren’t you unsure as to whether this was happening in Inyo or Mono county?

          Your arguments would hold more credibility if you were actually enaged and informed. I encourage you to attend the next meeting (p.s. it will be in Independence).

    • Rose Masters February 27, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

      Another point of accuracy: Japanese Americans at Manzanar farmed 440 acres of agricultural fields — including the still-active fields on the highway just north of the site. Moreover, Manzanar War Relocation Center encompassed a significant portion of the Manzanar town and orchards, originally founded as the Owens Valley Improvement Company in 1905. So significant numbers of apple and pear orchards remained in evidence at Manzanar during World War II, and some are still there today. Highway 395 also was directly in front of Manzanar during the 1940s and carries great historical significance because it was on this road Japanese Americans were bused to the camp from Lone Pine train depot, and it was on this road that they left to find new lives for themselves by Nov. 1945. GWW, I highly recommend you visit Manzanar and learn something more about its history before you post any more comments regarding historical accuracy.

  7. bishop rocks February 27, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    That’s actually more inflammatory than I intend.

    The truth of the matter is that many, many locals who are engaged in this very important issue regarding the future of our valley were engaged, and the Plan going to Board of Supervisors for a decision doesn’t incorporate concerns that were voiced, regardless as to whether or not you agree with them.

    Polarizing the issue as some ‘enviro’ conspiracy isn’t useful or productive when real public input is required at this time. If you disagree, then you can participate in the public process too.

  8. Bryan Kostors February 27, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    I would like to make an important note regarding my letter: I originally stated that the REGPA was voted to be moved to the Board of Supervisors unchanged. This is wrong – one of the REDA’s was removed from the plan by the planning commission and the planning director before the vote was taken.

  9. Desert Tortoise February 28, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    I have twice now placed comments on discussions of solar arrays in the Owens Valley that Ms. Kessler have censored. I am beginning to question her basic honesty.

    Counties in and of themselves do not have veto power over solar projects. Fast track legislation to speed the permitting and construction of solar projects places approval authority in the hands of the BLM and California Energy Commission. The state also has to approve the Draft Environmental Impact Report. Counties do not have any sort of veto power over this.

    Where counties have leverage is through the DEIR process. The project needs an agency to sponsor their DEIR. That could be the county, a city, or a public utility that intends to buy the power (LADWP is just one, there are a dozen publicly owned utilities in California that could theoretically buy this power).

    Projects will shop for an agency that gives them the best deal in exchange for supporting their DEIR at the state level, while counties will try to use the DEIR process and the planning process to extract the best deal they can for the county. Water banking projects are even more independent of county control. They get approved unless there are overwhelming reasons not to have a particular project.

    For those who doubt me, you might want to read up on how Aqua-Helio is gaming Kern County right now. Kern County would like to be a part of their DEIR so they can get some concessions, namely the ten thousand acre feet of water that Aqua-Helio wants to remove from the aquifer in Fremont Valley each year in exchange for other concessions to Aqua-Helio on their DEIR. Aqua-Helio, on the other hand, has made it clear that if they cannot get what they want from Kern County Planning Commission, they are ready to have the Antelope Valley East Kern Water Agency sponsor their DEIR, and sell their “excess” water to them instead of Kern County. If that happens, Kern County’s hands are tied. They have no legal authority to block the either the water banking or the solar installation by Aqua-Helio. Only state agencies have that power.

    • Benett Kessler February 28, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      My honesty is in tact, and here it is – You frequently respond off the track of the issue to drag on considerably about how much you know about a tangential detail. Such as this current comment. The subject at hand is Inyo County designating 14 large sites for industrial solar or wind development. I am weary of your remarks. How’s that for honest? Benett Kessler

      • Ken Warner February 28, 2014 at 10:08 am #


        I enjoy reading DT’s posts. They are informative and by giving details about things that are not directly related to a current discussion, his comments create and populate a larger context.

        Given the larger number of vapid and snide comments that have no bearing on anything that you publish, what could be the harm in publishing comments that have real information and content?

        • Joe February 28, 2014 at 11:19 am #

          If Ken and DT are not one and the same, they would make a nice couple. Both are self-appointed experts on every topic and seem to take offense at being called out on their own integrity.

          • Ken Warner February 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

            Once again the Comedy Insult Pseudonym tries to make a point and … nothing…

            If you spent less time trying to find a new pseudonym and more time actually thinking about the topic at hand — your posts still would be empty of content.

          • Benett Kessler February 28, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

            There are a number of pseudonyms on here who do have points and content.

          • Ken Warner February 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

            I do try to read a lot. That helps.

            As for integrity, I didn’t know I had any to sell….

          • Desert Tortoise February 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

            Joe, I volunteer on a city council committee and attend public meetings regarding projects like the Aqua-Helio “Fremont Valley Restoration Project” hosted by the Kern County Planning Commission. I also take the time to read the laws. Kern County has the same problems Inyo County has regarding solar power installations, along with water banking schemes and wind power projects. You go to the meetings and listen to the discussions and you learn that in reality, state laws to fast track these projects were very much written to prevent county and local governments from getting in the way of these projects. The state wants 33% of it’s power to come from renewable sources and is not about to let a few counties get in the way of achieving this goal. That is why Inyo County has no veto power over this process.

            These projects can go down in flames if they fail their DEIR or if the BLM finds desert tortoises, Mojave ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, important native artifacts, etc on the site, and even then those might not be show stoppers.

            You might not be able to see it but the county is doing the only thing they can do to manage this process.

          • Trouble February 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

            Joe, I don’t think D T or Ken owe you their qualifications to blog here. I’ve actually learn a lot and even changed my mind on several subjects they have addressed over the last few years.

          • Ken Warner February 28, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

            Thanks Trouble.

      • Mongo The Idiot February 28, 2014 at 10:40 am #

        I have fruit of the month club.

    • ted wyatt March 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

      I would like to have more of your thoughts on the Fremont Valley Preservation ? Project.
      You can email me directly at unclebuckx2@yahoo.com if you like. Thank You.

  10. DESCO February 28, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    A palimpsest /ˈpælɪmpsɛst/ is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped or washed off so that it can be used again.
    The term has come to be used in similar context in a variety of disciplines, notably architectural archaeology and geomorphology.


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