Keywords: Lone Pine, DWP solar project, Inyo energy development, rural land conservation, wilderness preservation
The Owens Valley solar project is being called a test project by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or DWP.
Perhaps it is a test on technical aspects of the department's plans because it is proposed to be a fairly small footprint between Independence and Lone Pine on the east side of the valley -for its first phase.
But it is also a clear statement of the lengths we are being driven to by our waste of power and natural resources.
Wildness and Lightning
The biggest test will be whether the magnificent Owens Valley can survive this first industrialization in anything like the shape it has so gracefully existed in since the DWP bought the land and water rights so long ago.
This valley is one of the signature features of California and the west, with the dramatic drop of the eastern Sierra Nevada forming the valley on one side and the White Mountains, home to ancient Bristlecone Pine forests on the other.
For thousands of years humans descending the dramatic canyons of the eastern Sierra have been awestruck by the scenes before them. I know I was a number of times on the long haul down from 12,000 ft passes such as Sawmill and Taboose creek to the Owens Valley.
One lucky night I laid awake in my sleeping bag with sore knees from a full day's push to the valley floor 9,000 ft straight down. The midnight payoff came with a grand lightning show that ran for hours over a very wide stretch of White Mountains 20 miles in the distance. What an experience!
First step or last?
This is not the kind of place that should be degraded by solar projects.
To place the first industrial facility in this area, even though it may be a beneficial alternative energy project - is a mistake. Solar projects should only go in the lowest value areas of the west, if there is such a thing as 'low value' desert.
The Owens Valley and indeed much of the vast areas around it must remain for future Calfornians and world citizens to get in touch with places of solitude and wonder.
We don't need data to explain the aesthetic effects of this.
But if data must be used, lets start with the simple equation of ZERO current industrial development in this area, add that to the general scenic values, then figure the size and ramifications of this project over time. How then would the impact of a large solar plant be quantified?
If people inside the DWP would like to present their case for this project to justify it against its highly important surroundings, I invite them to do so by contacting Nature Commission. We will then post this reasoning for readers to inspect.