September 8, 2013

Residents speak out against solar, wind development

Peter Day, Staff Writer | Victorville Daily Press | September 07, 2013 |

LUCERNE VALLEY • Residents of “ground zero” were invited to speak up about the solar and wind farms springing up in their community. Speaking up is exactly what they did – and then some.

“We work here, our children grew up here, and our lives are here,” said Dennis Morrison, of Lucerne Valley. “This isn’t going to happen without a fight.”

A plan that could pave the way for large renewable energy projects throughout the desert was the topic of the three-hour meeting Friday night at the Lucerne Valley Elementary School multi-purpose room.

Chris Carrillo, deputy chief of staff for 3rd District Supervisor James Ramos, called the event “an historic meeting” and credited Ramos and 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood for working together to ensure their constituents have a voice in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan process.

Proponents say the DRECP will conserve and manage natural resources while allowing for compatible renewable energy projects. Two years ago, Gov. Brown signed into law a requirement for California to use renewable energy for one-third of its energy usage by 2020.

Lovingood noted it may be the first time ever that two county supervisors have joined forces on such an important issue in the High Desert, and Ramos agreed.

“We’re all working together to make sure your voice is heard,” Ramos said. “Our job is to listen and be advocates for you.”

A number of officials were on hand to field an assortment of questions about the DRECP, which when finalized will serve as the framework for renewable energy projects in the Mojave Desert.

The top official present was Karen Douglas, who was appointed to the California Energy Commission by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008. She was reappointed to a second five-year term by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Is this too late?’ It’s not too late,” she said. “We expect a lot of dialogue, a lot of debating between a lot of parties.”

The DRECP is expected to take several years to finalize.

While the majority of those attending expressed concern about the DRECP and the possibility of more industrial-grade renewable energy projects, a few spoke in favor of large projects.

Mike Roddy, a contractor in Yucca Valley, said the recent solar moratorium has hurt the area economically.

“I think this kind of opposition has been devastating,” Roddy said.

But most residents disagreed.

“We feel like we’re being pushed out and controlled,” said Bill Lembright, a longtime resident of Lucerne Valley. “We don’t want a bunch of new Edison wires coming through.”

Brian Hammer said his 360-degree view of Lucerne Valley will soon disappear when a nearby solar project is completed.

Newberry Springs resident Dave Wood talked about the solar project across the street from his home. Each solar unit is 47 feet long and 28 feet high, he said.

“What have I gained since they put it in?” Wood asked. “Blowing sand, and I can’t see the sunset anymore.”

Comments ranged from intellectual to highly emotional.

The main complaint was that the projects would disturb or destroy desert wildernesses and compromise the rural character of places such as Lucerne Valley – which Lucerne Valley/Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council chair Richard Selby called “ground zero” for renewable energy development.

“We’re surrounded by one of the most beautiful places,” said Roger Peterson, another member of the Municipal Advisory Council. “Don’t put (the projects) here. We don’t want ’em here. We’re offended that you want to take the Mojave Desert and turn it into a sea of glass.”

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