Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

LADWP holds public meeting to get input on controversial solar facility in Owens Valley

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A large array of solar panels the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is proposing for the floor of the Owens Valley will get a public meeting in downtown Los Angeles Saturday.

In scheduling the meeting, the DWP has again extended the public comment period for the project it calls the Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch, which, as we reported a few weeks back, would send 200 megawatts of energy down an existing transmission line from the Eastern Sierra to the LA Basin.

Photovoltaic solar panels on tall metal poles would cover miles of city-owned land near the Manzanar National Historic Site north of Lone Pine. During World War II, the U.S. Government rounded up Japanese Americans and confined them in remote internment camps, including Manzanar. 

Community groups, like the Manzanar Committee and the Owens Valley Committee, have criticized the project, in part, because they say the solar ranch will industrialize the area near the former camp and degrade its historical value.

The current superintendent of the Manzanar National Historic Site, Les Inafuku, has also spoken out in opposition to the project. As I reported a few weeks ago:  

“The war relocation camp was actually placed here because it was undeveloped,” Inafuku says. “If we develop this area, it will be so much harder for visitors to get that understanding of why this place was selected in the first place.”

DWP is holding the public meeting at its L.A. headquarters in part so that elderly Japanese Americans here can weigh in on the issue. A cluster of former internees lives in Los Angeles, with a strong presence in Little Tokyo. 

Officials say they’ll consider the opinions expressed at the meeting when finalizing plans for the solar ranch. The utility is hoping to finish an environmental impact report and break ground on the project next year. 

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