Gann Matsuda of the Manzanar Committee addresses the Inyo County Planning Commission last Wednesday. Speaking for the Committee, Matsuda said the REGPA is a mistake that will have lasting consequences for Manzanar and the community as a whole. Photo by Charles James
With the Inyo County Board of Supervisors scheduled to make a final ruling on the controversial proposed Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment at its Tuesday, March 18 meeting, a number of community members and organizations are publicly opposing the amendment.
Last Friday, two days after the Inyo County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve the REGPA as presented and to forward it on to the Board of Supervisors for final approval, the Manzanar Committee issued a press release officially denouncing the plan amendment. A group of local residents has also created a petition calling on the Board of Supervisors to reject the REGPA.
Nearly 70 residents attended last weekâs Planning Commission meeting, with 31 out of 32 speakers expressing serious reservations about the REGPA, which identifies 11 areas in the county as suitable for industrial-scale renewable energy development.
One of those areas is directly across from Manzanar National Historic Site between Independence and Lone Pine where the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is proposing to build a solar ranch facility despite protests from residents and representatives of Manzanar.
The Manzanar Committee said via press release Friday that it opposes the 2013 REGPA because it would allow the construction of such facilities âthroughout a huge swath of the Owens Valley, a large portion of which would be visible from the Manzanar National Historic Site.â The committee said it feels that any such development within Manzanarâs viewshed would destroy the ability to teach current and future generations about how the desolation of the area was a key factor in the decision to build one of the 10 American âconcentration campsâ at Manzanar during World War II.
According to the committee, the desolation of the area was used to control the behavior of the 11,070 Japanese Americans incarcerated there, instilling in them a sense of isolation. The committee says that development of nearby land will be detrimental to efforts to preserve Manzanar and efforts to maintain it as an educational opportunity.
The Manzanar Committee also said it opposes the REGPA âbecause allowing large-scale renewable energy facilities to be built in the Owens Valley, forever marring its beauty, makes no sense, given that Inyo Countyâs economy is based on tourism. Furthermore, such facilities would not contribute positively to the local economy because they do not create a significant number of permanent jobs â the economic benefit for the county would be inconsequential.â
The Manzanar Committeeâs press release restates a point several residents have brought up â that the REGPA does not affect large-scale renewable energy development on land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. âAs such, it has no impact on LADWPâs Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch,â a proposed 1,200-acre solar energy-generating facility that would be built on LADWP-owned land, adjacent to the Manzanar National Historic Site. âHowever, by including such a large portion of the Owens Valley as a Renewable Energy Development Area, the 2013 REGPA would open other lands in the area to such development as well, posing an even greater threat to Manzanar.â
At the Feb. 26 Planning Commission meeting, only one person spoke in favor of the REGPA. But after more than three hours of public comment, with very little deliberation, the commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Bill Stoll the lone dissenter, to move the plan along to the Board of Supervisors.
Along with former incarcerees Kanji Sahara and Hank Umemoto, Gann Matsuda represented the Manzanar Committee at the meeting.
âWe are absolutely outraged, not only by the Inyo County Planning Commissionâs apparent total lack of understanding of the issue before them, but also by their rubber stamping of this horribly flawed amendment,â said Matsuda. âThey were clearly in over their heads. Based on the questions the commissioners asked, and the comments they made, it was blatantly obvious that they were utterly confused and totally unprepared to consider this matter. They clearly did not understand the amendment at all, yet they ignored overwhelming opposition and approved it.â
Matsuda went on to say that âthe Planning Commission disregarded and disrespected their constituents, as well as those of us who made the long drive from Southern California to explain how the amendment green lights large-scale renewable energy development that would intrude on the viewshed of the Manzanar National Historic Site, on top of what the LADWP has proposed,â added Matsuda.
The Manzanar Committee said it supports organizations and residents in the Owens Valley who contend that the 2013 REGPA does not reflect earlier community input which heavily opposed the amendment.
âThe will of the people of Inyo County is being ignored by their county government,â Matsuda said. âOne Inyo County resident after another who attended the earlier public meetings where input into the amendment was received told the Planning Commission that the 2013 REGPA does not, in any way, reflect the overwhelming opposition that was expressed at those meetings.â
Those residents have organized a petition, available at www.deepestvalley.com, asking that the Inyo County Board of Supervisors reject the REGPA at its March 18 meeting.
âWe believe that opening the door to industrial development will forever damage the most important characteristic of Inyo County: its stunning and awe-inspiring natural beauty,â the petition states. âWe ask that the Inyo County Board of Supervisors reject the REGPA, not only to help protect Inyo County, but also on the basis that the documentation itself represents unsound logic, invalid arguments to support its claims, and faulty and erroneous policy-making.â
As of press time Monday, the petition had received 272 signatures and counting, with more coming in hourly.
The Manzanar Committee vowed to support local residents in their fight against the REGPA and encouraged all opposed to the amendment to attend the upcoming supervisors meeting.
âWe stand with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, 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 2013 REGPA, and that includes protecting the Manzanar National Historic Site from intrusions into its viewshed,â Matsuda said. âThe Inyo County Board of Supervisors must recognize that the 2013 REGPA is horribly flawed. We call on them to protect the countyâs economy, its residents and the Manzanar National Historic Site, by preventing large-scale renewable energy development in the Owens Valley.â
Inyo County Planning Director Josh Hart was unavailable for comment at press time. He said recently that, while the REGPA does identify areas of the county that are suitable for renewable energy development, it also serves another purpose, by excluding areas that the county feels are inappropriate for renewable energy development.
At its March 18 meeting, the Board of Supervisors has the ability to approve the REGPA as is, approve an amended version or reject the plan altogether. The board may also ask for the plan to be amended and brought back for future approval.