The following are comments by Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey, delivered at an April 1, 2014 press conference at the Inyo County Courthouse, Independence, California, in which a coalition of organizations opposed to the County’s called for significant revisions to the proposed Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA), which would open up large swaths of land, including portions of the Owens Valley that would intrude upon Manzanar’s viewshed, to large-scale renewable energy development.
The Manzanar Committee is here today to urge the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to protect the Manzanar National Historic Site. Specifically, we hope the Supervisors will reject the false promises of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power about economic development and vote to maintain the environment surrounding the Manzanar NHS.
It took decades for our country to come to terms with the injustices visited upon the Japanese American community during World War II. But we did. America apologized and resolved to tell this story so it would never happen again. Through an act of Congress, the Manzanar NHS was created, and in 2004, a mere ten years ago, the National Park Service opened the Visitors Center at Manzanar.
Yet, now, in the name of progress, the Manzanar NHS is faced with a threat from the LADWP, the Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch (SOVSR). The SOVSR, a massive industrial solar energy facility, some 1,200 acres, or almost two square miles of solar panels, would be built a stone’s throw away from Manzanar’s Visitors Center. The SOVSR would qualitatively alter the environment surrounding Manzanar, and, in effect, completely undermine the mission of the Manzanar NHS—the SOVSR would destroy the character of the Owens Valley and the ability to truly understand what it was like to be locked up behind the barbed wire with nothing but open desert and mountains all around.
We’d like to be clear that we believe we are faced with an environmental crisis of unprecedented proportions. Climate change is a real and present danger and we must, rapidly, and without hesitation, transition to renewable energy and get off fossil fuels. We must make the most of our resources and maximize the impact of every thing we do.
This is precisely why we believe it makes no sense to build a massive solar facility hundreds of miles away from where the electricity will be used. Moving electricity from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles is both costly and inefficient. It makes much more sense to invest in rooftop solar in Los Angeles, where the electricity will be used. Studies have shown thousands of jobs will be created in Los Angeles, not just the ten permanent jobs that LADWP has promised here in Owens Valley. It also makes eminently more sense to install rooftop systems here in the Owens Valley. In fact, the Manzanar NHS itself has a solar array on the roof of their Visitors Center.
In Los Angeles, we are fortunate to have a Mayor and City Council who understand the challenges facing us. Mayor Eric Garcetti has already taken steps to make our great city greener and more sustainable. We are encouraged by his words and his deeds and look forward to much progress in the days ahead.
The steps we take today will shape our future for years to come. We hope our political leaders, both here in the Owens Valley and in Los Angeles, see the importance of preserving the Manzanar National Historic Site and the Owens Valley by rejecting the LADWP’s proposal.
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 Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. For more information, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, call (323) 662-5102, or check their blog at https://manzanarcommittee.org. You can also follow the Manzanar Commitee on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.
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