The Unknown Knowns: First-Day Impressions of the Manzanar Concentration Camp

Now 84 years old, long-time community and political activist Wilbur Sato was twelve years old when he was unjustly incarcerated at Manzanar in April 1942.
(click to view larger image)
Photo: Geri Ferguson/Manzanar Committee

by Wilbur Sato

My first impressions of the Manzanar concentration camp came on April 2, 1942, when we were asked by the United States Government—our own government—to report to the Los Angeles train station so we could be “evacuated” or “relocated.”

At the station, we were met by officials and soldiers with sidearms and rifles with bayonets. We were given name tags with identification numbers to be attached to our clothing, and we were then escorted by the soldiers to the train cars, their windows covered with shields.

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Inyo County Shouldn’t Sell Out To Large-Scale Renewable Energy Development

Here’s another view from the Owens Valley, from Spotted Dog Press, about the threat to the Manzanar National Historic Site and the rest of the Owens Valley from large-scale renewable energy development. That threat is two-fold: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s proposed 1,200-acre Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch, which would be built near Manzanar, and Inyo County’s proposed 2013 Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment, which would open the door to even more of that same kind of development in the Owens Valley, including the area that would intrude upon Manzanar’s viewshed.

Wynne Benti, CEO, Spotted Dog Press, Inc.
Photo courtesy Wynne Benti

by Wynne Benti, Spotted Dog Press, Inc.

There is big money in renewable “green” energy, particularly a few years ago, when these projects were receiving billions of dollars in federal subsidies.

There are over 37 million people living in California. We found an old press release for PG&E/BrightSource’s Ivanpah solar project in the Mojave Desert that estimated the project’s cost at $2-3 million to provide power to 375,000 homes. At least three-quarters of that project was subsidized with tax dollars. Recently, we read it is currently providing power to 140,000 homes, whose owners are still paying standard rates. For the sake of argument, we’ll say there are four people per household for a total of 560,000 people. That’s still a long way from 37 million-plus and a lot of desert land that must destroyed to make up the difference. By comparison, little of this money is being directed towards research to develop new technologies with a smaller environmental footprint.

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Manzanar Committee Calls On Inyo County To Shut Door On Large-Scale Renewable Energy Facilities In Owens Valley

Looking east from the visitor’s center at Manzanar National Historic Site. The floor of the Owens Valley, along with the
Inyo Mountains in the background, are visible. But this view could be destroyed by a massive solar energy generating
station, proposed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo courtesy National Park Service

The latest development regarding the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch (SOVSR), a 1,200-acre (approximately 1.8 square mile) solar energy generating facility that would be built adjacent to the Manzanar National Historic Site, is a step backward for the Owens Valley. The County of Inyo appears to be moving very quickly towards opening up vast swaths of land, including a large portion of the Owens Valley where the SOVSR would be built, to large-scale renewable energy projects.

The following are the Manzanar Committee’s comments, written by Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey, that were submitted to the County of Inyo’s Planning Department regarding their Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDA), as defined in their 2013 Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment, which you can read at:

Planning Department
County of Inyo
P.O. Drawer L
Independence, CA 92526-0611

The Manzanar Committee, which sponsors the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar At Dusk programs, and has played a key role in the preservation, protection and creation of the Manzanar National Historic Site, is vehemently opposed to any development that would interfere with the operation, goals and purpose of the Manzanar NHS, including forever marring its view shed. As such, we strongly oppose Inyo County’s Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDA), as defined in your 2013 Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment, which would open the door to large-scale renewable energy projects in the Owens Valley.

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Owens Valley Resident Criticizes LA Times’ Support Of LADWP’s Proposed Solar Facility Near Manzanar

On January 2, 2014, the Los Angeles Times published an unsigned editorial in support of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s proposal to build a 1,200-acre solar energy generating facility adjacent to the Manzanar National Historic Site.

You can read their editorial at: A Solar Array Won’t Hurt The Mood At Manzanar.

Daniel Pritchett, an Owens Valley resident, submitted they following response to the Times’ editorial shortly after it was published. However, the Times has apparently chosen not to publish it, so he has submitted it to us for publication.

Daniel Pritchett
(click to view larger image)
Photo courtesy Daniel Pritchett

A recent editorial argued in support of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (DWP) proposed two-square mile solar facility adjacent to Manzanar in the middle of one of the most scenic and historic parts of Owens Valley. The editorial asserted that the need for sustainable energy outweighed the objections of the Manzanar Committee. Ignored were objections of Owens Valley Paiutes and virtually everyone else in the Valley.

However unjust the means used by Los Angeles to take over Owens Valley a century ago, it was at least plausible to argue that the city had exhausted its water resources and needed more if its growth were to continue. Today, it cannot be argued that Los Angeles has exhausted its solar resources and has no choice but to go to Owens Valley. DWP’s proposal is simply business as usual: take advantage of Owens Valley. Outsource the impacts and reap the benefits in L.A.

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