Dear Inyo County Supervisors,

I would like to commend you for having the vision to conduct the upcoming meeting about the REGPA as a workshop, postponing your decision on whether to adopt the amendment as written until you have given a full hearing to your constituents. As you can see from my address below, I am no longer one of your constituents, as I have relocated from my 22-year home in Bishop to San Diego. We do, however, maintain a home in the Eastern Sierra and have deep roots here and remain abreast of the issues involved in land and water use in the area.
The renewable energy issues have caused a lot of deep thinking among us who are concerned with the natural environment, both here and in the world at large. We recognize the huge importance, not to mention legal mandate, of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. The abundance of solar radiation in the deserts of Inyo County appear to make it ideal for the large-scale development of solar power. The prospect of additional revenue to a perpetually cash-strapped county also does not escape us. But it is paramount to take a long view of this issue, and the pending consideration of the REGPA is an opportune time to do so.
The land in the Owens Valley is not just “empty land”. It is a landscape that continues to draw people from all over the state, indeed the world, for admiration, renewal, and spending money. It is not just any other undeveloped landscape. It is a treasure that is not protected in any special way by state of national park status, but only because it has so far been protected from development due to its ownership by LADWP. The County has already entered into agreements with LADWP to protect this land. The agreements are centered on the use of water; but thus far, those agreements have protected the land from development. It was not foreseen in the 1990′s when the LTWA and the MOU were crafted, that there would be threats to the land that were not directly related to the withdrawal of water. By not engaging in groundwater pumping and in development, protection for the lands was assumed. Large scale solar development, however, does not require a great deal of water and so would appear to not violate any agreements. But the vegetation, and the landscape, would be unalterably changed, to the distinct detriment of Inyo County.
As a consultant, I have worked on some solar developments down near Mojave. Some people there are concerned about dust blowing, which can be mitigated so that it is not a problem. The landscape near Mojave, however, is not so much of a concern, as there is already a lot of development there, and the region is nowhere near as scenically compelling as is the Owens Valley. Mojave will benefit from this kind of development in a way that Inyo County will not.
I urge you to consider this issue as a highly local one. There are no doubt ways in which Inyo County can benefit from renewable energy development, but it is not necessarily by adopting a plan that includes every area preliminarily identified by DRECP as suitable for large-scale renewable development. You will hear at your workshop numerous ideas of other kinds of development that I urge you to consider carefully. Your REGPA grant in no way obliges you to adopt every DRECP consideration; it only obliges you to work towards adapting a REGPA that benefits your County. I am confident that you will be able to do so.
Thank you for your consideration,
Carla Scheidlinger
San Diego, CA

Leave a Reply