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L.A. preparing for 3-year solar project on Owens Lake

November 12, 2010

As the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power begins exploring the potential for a solar farm on the Owens Dry Lake, county leaders are voicing concerns about increased demands on local services and housing. File photo

Officials in Los Angeles are considering two different locations on the Owens Dry Lake that may suit its needs for a proposed 1,600-acre, 200 megawatt solar ranch.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power recently released a Notice of Preparation for an Environmental Impact Report that will determine which site is most suitable for the project, and what impacts the solar ranch will have on the surrounding environment and the community of Lone Pine.
The purpose of the NOP is to solicit input into the scope of the EIR and start dialog on possible mitigation measures and alternatives for the project.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday to discuss the NOP and solar ranch project, and approved a letter to the LADWP that outlines areas of concerns for the county, and items local leaders would like to see addressed in the project EIR.
In a draft letter of response to the NOP, the board said the project will provide Lone Pine with a significant increase in population.
The NOP says the project will require an average of 175 workers, who will most likely stay in Lone Pine, which has a current population of about 2,000 residents.
“The EIR should evaluate potential impacts in regards to population and housing in light of the existing Lone Pine population and identify mitigation measures for such impacts and alternatives that will reduce the impacts to less than significant,” the county’s response states.
The LADWP has said it would construct “temporary” housing for employees working on construction of the solar farm, which is scheduled to last from 2012 through 2015.
Rather than building lodgings and tearing them down again, the board asked that the department consider looking at rentals that are currently available in the community, or even constructing permanent housing in the area.
The board also said in its response to the NOP that the EIR should evaluate potential impacts on public services, both during construction and operation, and identify mitigation measures for impacts to local law enforcement, hospital services and other impacts.
“The increased population will increase demand for other county services that may not be quantifiable, and may be limited on an individual basis, but are cumulatively considerable to the county,” the letter of response states.
For example, the county said that use at public libraries or other services in the county will increase.
“The cumulative effect of small incremental impacts will be considerable overall. The EIR should address such impacts and DWP should work with the county to evaluate this overall cumulative issue, both during construction and operation,” the letter states.
The board also expressed concerns about the aesthetic impacts the solar ranch may have on the southern end of the county.
“The EIR should evaluate potential impacts on scenic views and aesthetics and should identify mitigation measures for such impacts and alternatives that will reduce the impacts to less than significant,” the letter states.
Because the proposed project would be visible or partially visible from U.S. 395, Diaz Lake, the Owens River, Whitney Portal Road, Horseshoe Meadows Road, the Alabama Hills and from most points in the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains, the board said potential impacts from light and glare and “particularly nighttime lighting” should be evaluated in the EIR.
The LADWP will hold a scoping meeting for the project some time later this month. County representatives will be in attendance to discuss the project.

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