Environment & Science

DWP hears from public on proposed solar ranch near Manzanar, former WW2 Japanese American Internment camp

About 50 people gathered for a meeting to give and listen to public comments on a proposed LADWP solar ranch in the Owens Valley on November 16, 2013.
About 50 people gathered for a meeting to give and listen to public comments on a proposed LADWP solar ranch in the Owens Valley on November 16, 2013.
Hayley Fox/ KPCC

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

About 50 people gathered at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Saturday morning to discuss a proposed solar ranch in the Owens Valley.

The photovoltaic solar panels mounted on tall metal poles would cover miles of city-owned land near the Manzanar National Historic Site in the Sierra Nevada mountains. During World War II, the U.S. Government rounded up Japanese Americans and confined them in remote internment camps like Manzanar.

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

The goal of the meeting is to offer more information about the project and to receive public comment on the environmental impact report that's been out for three months. About 30 people were registered to speak. Most of them are opposed to the proposal.

Many complained that adding an industrial infrastructure in the middle of a natural setting would be an eyesore. The open landscape surrounding Manzanar is important. It helps give visitors context to what it would have been like for those incarcerated there during WWII.

Stacey Toda is a fourth generation Japanese American. She was at the meeting speaking on behalf of relatives who were held at Manzanar.

“This is part of my family’s legacy, my family’s history," Toda said. "And I’m looking forward to the point where I can take my kids and take my grandchildren and explain to them about the injustice of what happened to them.”

The gathering started with a presentation by the DWP staff. They emphasized the project is designed to comply with laws that mandate the utility diversify its electricity sources. DWP needs to move toward more alternative energy and also reduce greenhouse emissions.

DWP officials said the proposed site in the Owens Valley is one of the best locations in the state to generate solar electricity. Officials said they'd looked closely at the environmental impact of the proposal ­ including wildlife migration corridors ­ before selecting the site.

The project will be built in four, 50 megawatt blocks of photovoltaic solar panels that would take more than 5 years to build. At its height, more than 300 people would be employed. Once built, the site will be managed and monitored by a remote system of cameras.

“The Owens Valley has very good solar because it’s high, you don’t have a lot of particulate matter or pollution and stuff,” said Chuck Holloway, of the DWP.

Saturday's meeting was held in downtown Los Angeles in part because of its proximity to Little Tokyo, a neighborhood where a number of former Manzanar camp evacuees live.