As the state moves forward with its Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, local officials fear Inyo is identified mostly as a mitigation area for projects in other counties rather than its potential for solar, wind and geothermal energy potential.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors, last week, reviewed seven alternatives that have been developed for the DRECP, which identifies areas throughout the West that are suitable for renewable energy projects along with areas that are suitable for mitigation projects associated with large-scale renewable energy projects.
In response to the seven alternatives released by the California Energy Commission, the board approved a letter outlining some concerns it has about the proposal, including economic impacts to the county and the properties identified for mitigation projects.
Ordered by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the DRECP is designed to “provide binding, long-term endangered species permit assurances and facilitate renewable energy project review and approvals.”
The seven alternatives being considered for the plan are part of a 700-page document that identifies suggested areas for various kinds of renewable energy projects throughout the west.
Local leaders said they are dismayed about the lack of suitable renewable energy lands identified locally in the alternatives, and concerned that a large portion of Inyo County is identified for mitigation projects.
“We are concerned about the broad-brushed approach to mapping, and as we have previously conveyed, we object to new designations that further burden our private land base,” a letter from Board Chair Linda Arcularius to the CEC states. “In particular, private and disturbed lands in and around Lone Pine, Cartago and Olancha are designated moderate biologically sensitive public lands. Obviously, since these areas are private and/or are developed and otherwise highly disturbed, this designation is erroneous, and these areas should instead be mapped as urban or undesignated.”
The letter goes on to say that other areas proposed to be “burdened” with new designations include developed lands in Shoshone and Tecopa, Charleston View and Trona.
The board did say it approved of the use of public land for mitigation projects.
“We are reassured that the DRECP is considering providing mitigation for renewable energy development on public lands, since less than two percent of our county remains in private ownership,” the letter states.
The letter goes on to say the county would “strongly encourage the DRECP to begin mapping areas of Wilderness for potential mitigation,” to ensure that mitigation projects related to renewable energy projects that are streamlined by the DRECP don’t negatively impact local recreational opportunities.
Local leaders also said they are “deeply concerned” about the potential for direct economic impacts to Inyo County associated with the DRECP. “We also worry about the DRECP’s inconsistencies with the County General Plan and other county policies, including the potential loss of lands for biology-related mitigation, impacts to agricultural and mineral resources, impeded recreational access and other degradations to multiple uses; impacts to public services, utilities and infrastructure; demand for housing; and, the society, culture and economy of the county,” the letter states.
Residents can view the seven alternatives and associated maps for the DRECP at www.drecp.org .
The CEC said it hopes to select an alternative for the DRECP and release the plan for public comment later this year.