LOS ANGELES — On May 6, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to move their Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA) to the next step, which will be to draft a Programmatic Environmental Impact Report.
The amendment no longer includes the Owens Valley as a “Renewable Energy Development Area,” (REDA) where large-scale, industrial solar energy facilities would be allowed.
The Manzanar Committee joined with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley, the Bishop Paiute Tribe, the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, the Owens Valley Committee and residents of the Owens Valley and Los Angeles in opposing the REGPA when it was passed on to the Board of Supervisors by the Inyo County Planning Commission on February 26, primarily because much of the Owens Valley was included as a REDA.
Since then, the Board of Supervisors has listened to their constituents, and other stakeholders, who called for greater protection of cultural and historic resources, and protection of the environment and wildlife habitat.
“We applaud the Inyo County Board of Supervisors for their decision to remove the Owens Valley REDA from the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “This is an important first step towards protecting the Manzanar National Historic Site from intrusions into its viewshed. It is also a significant step towards protecting and preserving other priceless cultural sites in the area, and it is a step towards protecting the tourist-based economy of Inyo County.”
Although this is a positive step taken by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, Embrey warned that the battle against large-scale solar energy facilities that would pose a grave threat to Manzanar is far from over.
“While we appreciate the Board of Supervisors taking our concerns, and the concerns of others in the Owens Valley, into consideration, they have virtually no say in what the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) might do on land they own,” Embrey noted. “Their Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch proposal is still moving forward.”
The Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch (SOVSR) is a proposed 1,200-acre (1.8 square mile) industrial solar energy generating facility that would be built on the east side of the Owens River, approximately 3.5 miles east of the Manzanar National Historic Site, but would be clearly visible from any location at Manzanar.
In addition, the proposed Northland solar project is slated to be built on private land, just north of the SOVSR. The industrial solar facility would be slightly larger than the SOVSR, and it too would be clearly visible from any location at Manzanar.
Such large-scale solar energy development within Manzanar’s viewshed would destroy the ability to teach current and future generations about the reasons Manzanar was chosen as a site for one of America’s concentration camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.
Indeed, Manzanar was chosen as one of those sites because of the desolation and isolation of the area. These factors were also used as a means of control, instilling a sense of fear and hopelessness in the minds of the 11,070 people who were incarcerated at Manzanar—the ability to teach this critical part of American History at Manzanar will be lost forever.
“We remain vehemently opposed to any development that would interfere with the operation, goals and purpose of the Manzanar National Historic Site, including forever marring its viewshed,” Embrey stressed. “We intend to continue to speak out against all industrial, environmentally destructive projects in and around Manzanar, and throughout the Owens Valley, and we urge everyone to remain vigilant and to speak out against these proposals.”
Community members are urged to sign an online petition targeted at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Commissioners and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, opposing LADWP’s proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch.
To sign the petition on Change.org, click on: Halt LADWP’s Plan To Build A 1,200-Acre Solar Energy Generating Station Adjacent to Manzanar National Historic Site.
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.
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