Letter Calls On LADWP To Abandon Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch Project

The following is a letter written by Edward R. Bosley, a resident of both the Owens Valley and Los Angeles.


Edward R. Bosley
(click above for larger image)
Photo courtesy Edward R. Bosley

April 28, 2014

Mayor Eric Garcetti
200 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Commissioner Mel Levine
Los Angeles Department of 
Water and Power
 (LADWP)
Room 1555-H, 15th Floor

111 North Hope Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Garcetti and Chairman Levine:

As an LADWP ratepayer in the Owens Valley and a Los Angeles County resident, I’m writing to respectfully express opposition to LADWP’s proposed “Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch” (SOVSR).

Most Californians rightly support renewable energy, and many are even aware of the State’s 33% renewable energy mandate by 2020. On the surface, LADWP’s proposal for Southern Owens Valley is understandable, but it is deeply misguided.

This is surely a case of picking the low-hanging fruit while killing the tree. The understandable part is that the City of Los Angeles owns land on the floor of Owens Valley (history of this is well known) and has transmission lines in place. The human population directly affected is relatively small, and 200 miles out of sight of most Angelenos. But to install an industrial-scale solar array on two square miles of one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world (ask any of the tens of thousands of tourists who visit annually from the four corners of it), while obliterating at least five rare plant populations, almost 60 archaeological sites and unleashing a host of other long-term environmental tragedies, is mystifyingly shortsighted. The opportunity for LADWP to get this wrong is abundant. Fortunately, the better path—point-of-use renewable energy generation—is equally clear.

The significance of the site’s cultural and environmental resources would take pages to describe. In brief, the site is of great significance to the Japanese American community (and in truth to every American) due to its close proximity to the Manzanar National Historic Site, which Commissioner Levine helped to establish. The proposed site is also sacred to Owens Valley Paiute, who have resided in this area for more than ten thousand years and have numerous creation stories related to this land. The site also includes a portion of the historic narrow-gauge Carson and Colorado Railroad, the famous “Slim Princess” line, and so on, and on.

From a legal and public policy perspective, in addition to violating Inyo County zoning laws, the SOVSR project is inconsistent with the goals of Land Management Plans required under the MOU for the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement.

When will LA’s exploitation of Owens Valley end? Los Angeles has enough of its own sunshine to meet the 2020 mandate through point-of-use generation (don’t take my word for it, or DWP’s; independent science studies confirm this).

Owens Valley has already sacrificed one of its most valuable resources—water—for the growth of Los Angeles. Rather than increasing its dependence on Owens Valley resources, shouldn’t LA and Inyo both work toward resource self-sufficiency, particularly since we all have rooftops and much would be lost along the 200 miles of transmission lines? DWP’s 2008 Management Plan calls for reduced dependence on imported water. Why should DWP not seek to reduce dependence on imported power as well?

At the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon last fall, the University of Southern California’s entry (an affordable 1,000 s.f. house designed by students of the School of Architecture) used rooftop PV panels to generate 140% of its energy needs, which included a plug-in vehicle! The point is, we know how to affordably generate energy at the point of use. Large-scale, “solar ranch”-type technology is already passé (as many people in the PV panel business know), and many of us worry that a 1,200-acre array, as proposed, will be obsolete by the 2020 mandate deadline, leaving environmental devastation in its wake (who will dispose of the one-million PV panels?), and ratepayers paying for the clean-up. Investing in rooftop solar on Los Angeles’ existing infrastructure is a far greener way to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals as compared with taking the path of little (but rapidly growing) resistance and outsourcing environmental impacts to Owens Valley.

We deeply appreciate Mayor Garcetti’s stated commitment to make the next 100 years different. We equally appreciate Commissioner Levine’s demonstrated commitment to the integrity of the Manzanar National Historic Site. Abandoning the SOVSR project would be an excellent way to demonstrate a break with antiquated, exploitative practices and show meaningful commitment to a sustainable, and environmentally/culturally-conscious 21st century.

Thank you for considering these comments.

Sincerely,
Edward R. Bosley
Pasadena and Lone Pine, CA

Bosley is the James N. Gamble Director of the The Gamble House, USC, in Pasadena, California, part of the University of Southern California School of Architecture.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.


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