Carroll Creek Builders

There seems to be a regular drum beat of negative letters to the Inyo Register regarding the DWP proposed solar industrial site near Manzanar….. allow me to add my voice.

I have been in construction since 1970 when I worked for an engineering company that helped construct Interstate 80 across Northern Illinois. I have been a licensed general contractor in California since 1985.

When DWP proposes building this solar array and attendant buildings there is absolutely no mention in their proposal as to the soils problems at the site or the logistics involved with solving those problems. They seem only to make the appeal that 1. we need the energy 2. you really will not be able to see it from Manzanar or Highway 395.

I have hiked this area quite a bit and can tell you that the soils in evidence at the site are either loose sand or the clay bed that lies underneath this entire area. You cannot build on either of these soils. The sand blows around and the clay expands and contracts depending on how wet or dry it is. Suitable fill soil must be imported. By my calculations, if you wanted to cover the entire area with 2 feet of the right type of soil you would need about 387,000 cubic yards of fill. Let’s be really conservative and say that they will only actually build on half of the 1200 acres, well that’s still almost 200,000 cubic yards of fill soil. This would probably mean bringing in road base (gravel with fines) and high quality decomposed granite. You can quibble with me about whether 2 feet of fill soil is too much for some purposes and not enough for others but the fact remains that a lot of trucks are going to be hauling a lot of dirt and rock to this site….. so where will they get this material? I don’t know, but I do know that Manzanar Reward Road and Owenyo Road are going to be seeing a lot of truck traffic. I am guessing that Owenyo Road will be too long of a haul so Hwy 395 to Manzanar Reward Road will be the route of choice. This will mean that this road will have to be paved as well to avoid trashing all of these trucks that will be doing the hauling. That is probably a good thing as long as the County does not have to pay anything towards the construction and maintenance of the improved road.

I would further like to suggest that all of this filling and compacting will raise the grade of the building site not lower it; this will make the whole project a lot more visible. To my eyes this site sits on a high point already; the land slopes down to the west towards the river and down to the east to the base of the Inyos. There is an arroyo on the northern part of this site but no evidence of any debris flows so I think this proves my point about the topography of the site.

In short, what I see is a more visible industrial site and a large fleet of trucks roaring past Manzanar as they haul materials to the site. Do we want this? Is the best we can do? I don’t think so. There are other projects afoot and new zoning laws making this type of project easier. I wonder what our supervisors see when they drive up and down 395 or out towards Death Valley? Is the Sierra Crest really the only worthy scenic wonder visible in the Owens Valley?

To all of you I say watch out. Inyo County should not be the repository for the State’s solar projects just because people in charge think our landscape is expendable.


Coale Johnson

Lone Pine, CA

One Response

  1. Paul Fretheim

    The Department has already built an enormous gravel platform, albeit only 10 inches thick, at the north end of the dry lake. i don’t want that monster solar array here at all, but a reasonable compromise would be to build it long and narrow over and alongside the already disturbed aqueduct corridor.


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