On Saturday, Nov. 16, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) held a hearing in downtown Los Angeles regarding the proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch near Manzanar National Historic Site.
Construction of the 200-megawatt, 1,200-acre photovoltaic plant could begin as early as 2014, concluding sometime in 2019. The Solar Ranch would be located on the north side of Manzanar Road and east of the Owens River.
Residents of the Owens Valley and Japanese-Americans, some of whom are former internees of Manzanar, expressed their opposition to the project. According to Owens Valley resident Mike Prather, nine residents from the Owens Valley attended to voice their disapproval of the Solar Ranch. These residents cited concerns about the impact to the area’s viewshed, dust pollution, hazard to birds, and lack of a reclamation plan once the project concludes. Owens Valley residents had also previously expressed concern about the LADWP’s proposal to install two new wells as part of the project and whether those wells should be permitted under the 1991 Inyo County/LADWP Long Term Water Agreement.
Representatives of the Big Pine Paiute tribe were also present at the hearing, said Prather, and spoke of the harm to their lands where they have lived for centuries. Meanwhile, “The Manzanar families spoke of the area [in relation to] the story of their family, and how any change to that landscape impacts their families,” he said. Prather called Manzanar a “‘site of conscience’” akin to the Trail of Tears, Little Rock High School, and Martin Luther King National Historic Site.
Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey agreed in his own address to the LADWP. “Manzanar stands as a stark reminder to all Americans of both the fragility and the resilience of our country’s democratic traditions,” he stated. “In this sense, Manzanar is actually a monument to our Constitution, to civil rights and to our democratic way of life … The natural environment surrounding Manzanar is an indispensable element in understanding what those incarcerated in America’s concentration camps experienced …
“It is precisely because Manzanar is such a unique and powerful reminder of America’s strengths and weaknesses that we strongly urge the LADWP to consider alternate sites for this solar farm,” Embrey concluded.
While LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols was in attendance at the meeting, Prather said there was no real exchange between Nichols and attendees of the hearing. However, the LADWP did agree to extend the comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Solar Ranch to Nov. 26.