Manzanar Committee Renews Call to Protect Owens Valley from Large-Scale Renewable Energy Development

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The Manzanar Committee on Feb. 3 reiterated its opposition to any large-scale, industrial renewable energy development in the Owens Valley, especially that which would intrude upon the viewshed of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Further, the committee renewed its call on the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to protect Manzanar and the Owens Valley from such development in perpetuity in its final Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) for the county’s Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA).

The REGPA, which is in the hands of the Board of Supervisors for final approval of its PEIR, defines Solar Energy Development Areas (SEDA) where large-scale renewable energy generating facilities could be built in Inyo County.

With Manzanar and the Owens Valley already facing a serious threat from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch (SOVSR), a 1,200-acre solar energy generating facility that would be built adjacent to Manzanar, Inyo County appears to be favoring opening the door to additional industrial solar energy development in the vicinity.

Because LADWP is a governmental agency, Inyo County has no authority over it regarding the SOVSR. That would allow LADWP to build the SOVSR without the county having a say in the matter.

As such, the county’s plan could, conceivably, open the door to additional industrial solar energy facilities in the Owens Valley, completely destroying Manzanar’s viewshed.

Although county officials noted the impact that the Manzanar National Historic Site has on Inyo County in the draft PEIR, the document includes a glaring contradiction, according to Bruce Embrey, co-chair of the Manzanar Committee.

“Manzanar attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year,” he said. “Manzanar stands out. Its buildings and reconstructed guard tower are fully visible from U.S. Highway 395, unobstructed by any natural or artificial barriers.

“This, as we have noted previously, and the authors of the draft PEIR reference, provides visitors a ‘…sense of isolation that was part of the psychological warfare perpetuated by the U.S. government. While this is indisputable, the report effectively contradicts itself by stating, ‘…[the]focus of visitors of the national historic site is generally inward and on the facilities within the site rather than on the surrounding areas and visual landscape.’”

Embrey expressed the committee’s outrage. “Not only does this opinion or assertion bear no resemblance to reality, but it also doesn’t reflect, in any way, the oral or written comments received by Inyo County during the REGPA process. No one from the Manzanar Committee, the Manzanar NHS, or the general public stated that at any point in this process.

“Given that, and with no source provided, we can only assume this is the opinion of the county officials/staff who authored the document, or of those who may have instructed staff to include it in the draft PEIR.”

Embrey reiterated that the issue is the location, not renewable energy. “We’ve stated many times that it we are not opposed to solar energy, or other renewable energy sources. But the Owens Valley is the wrong place for such development, especially when other options exist.

“Centralized, industrial solar facilities are not a wise use of resources. “Centralized solar farms are less efficient and more expensive than distributed, rooftop solar systems.

“As we’ve stated in the past, we stand with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, the Bishop Paiute Tribe, the Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians, the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, the Owens Valley Committee, and others in Inyo County in their demand that the Inyo County Board of Supervisors truly represent their constituents when they consider the REGPA. That includes protecting the Manzanar National Historic Site from intrusions into its viewshed.”

The Manzanar Committee’s full comments on the draft PEIR that were submitted to Inyo County are available for download at: http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org/2015/02/03/inyopeircomments.

The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

For more information, email [email protected], call (323) 662-5102, or visit http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org.

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