Inyo County Drops Renewable Plan Amendment

September 8, 2011 - Inyo County officials settled a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club by rescinding a county general plan amendment setting up renewable solar and wind energy zones (see map above).

The proposed BrightSource Energy project at the Hidden Hills Ranch on the Tecopa Road would be located in the Charleston View renewable energy zone, but the suit would not affect that application.

The lawsuit by the two environmental groups said Inyo County was required to conduct an environmental review before adopting the plan amendment.

The Center for Biological Diversity said renewable energy projects should avoid impacts to sensitive species and be sited close to where the electricity would be used or existing transmission lines to reduce the need for extensive, new transmission lines.

The Sierra Club said the plan would not adequately identify impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The suit said the plan amendment should have considered alternatives including limiting renewable energy to previously disturbed private lands that don’t provide habitat for sensitive species; have fewer or smaller zones; limit renewable energy zones to areas with existing transmission lines; prioritizing approval for renewable energy projects that supply local energy needs first; strictly limiting water use by requiring one-to-one offsets in each hydrographic basin; and focus on distribution generation in the Los Angeles basin.

Inyo County Planning Director Joshua Hart said, “We can’t afford to fight the Sierra Club and the Center so we are withdrawing our general plan amendment. But last summer we adopted a renewable energy ordinance that is not challenged, it is still in effect.”

“We had hoped we could provide guidance and environmental protection through the county, through our general plan and comprehensively address the demand to develop renewable energy here. But apparently the Sierra Club and the Center didn’t want that,” he said.

Hart said some other renewable energy projects proposed in Inyo County include a solar ranch just north of Lone Pine, a wind project has been discussed in the Rose Valley between Lone Pine and Ridgecrest, and a large geothermal plant is located in the Coso Mountains.

Inyo County will be working with BrightSource Energy on a development agreement as the company gets farther along on its application with the California Energy Commission.

Renewables Draft Amendment to County Plan

^Industrialize this view? Owens Valley as seen from Onion Valley Road above Independance.

January 4, 2011 - It appears Inyo County feels anything flat or undeveloped or outside designated wilderness should be used for solar or wind. The county is in the process of encouraging renewables in Panamint, Owens, Fish Lake, Deep Springs, Rose, Chicago and Sandy Valleys, as well as Centennial Flat, Charleston View, Death Valley Junction, Laws, Tecopa and Trona-Searles Valley.

Maps and documents are at
Other than the maps, the relevant document is the Plan Amendment at

Inyo County has issued a draft amendment to the County General Plan, and is looking for comments. The deadline is January 17. Send comments to:

Joshua Hart, Director
Inyo County Planning Department
Post Office Drawer L
168 N. Edwards Street
Independence, California 93526

Proposed Renewable Energy Map

Inyo County in eastern California has a Proposed Inyo County Renewable Energy Ordinance that was voted on August 10, 2010. The proposed renewable energy zones include such remote places as Deep Springs Valley, Panamint Valley, Fish Lake Valley, southern Owens Valley, and part of Amargosa Valley around Death Valley Junction surrounding the famous Amargosa Opera House. The county is seeking to regulate renewable energy in its area.
Inyo County granted an extension of time to comment on this until August 10 thanks to a request by the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, at which time they will adopt the ordinance and map. Comments should be submitted to Inyo County Planning Deptartment.

^Deep Springs Valley.

Benefits and Adverse Impacts

The Board declared that:

"The development of solar and wind resources to generate and transmit clean renewable electric energy for use in and outside the County, can provide a great benefit to the citizens of the County by providing employment in the County and increasing economic activity within the County.

"The large scale development of solar and wind resources to generate and transmit clean, renewable electric energy within the County will have significant beneficial and adverse impacts on the environment, economy and way of life of the County.

"Potential adverse impacts resulting from the development of the County’s solar and wind resources may include, but are not limited to, the following:

"1. During construction, there will be an increase in air pollution and noise and impacts to vegetation, wildlife, public trust resources and/or archaeological sites due to ground disturbance and vegetation removal. Wear-and-tear on County roads will increase due to the delivery of construction materials. Due to new construction workers, demand for already scarce housing will increase, as will the demand for domestic water and sewage disposal, health and emergency services and law enforcement services.

"2. Following construction, the disturbance of large areas of land will impact native vegetation, wildlife and habitat, including sensitive plants, wildlife and air quality, as well as disrupting ranching, animal husbandry, other agricultural activities, Due to the use of water for cooling and other operational purposes, the County’s water resources may be depleted which may affect vegetation, wildlife and habitat. Scenic views may be blocked or degraded, which may affect the attractiveness of the County for tourism. Wind generation will impact wildlife, including birds. Other impacts may result, including, but not limited to, light and glare, noise, and increased demand for housing, utilities, and public services."

From Inyo County Board of Supervisors Draft Ordinance (107 KB PDF), August 3, 2010.

^Panamint Valley.

^Deep Springs Valley.

^Southern Owens Valley and the Sierra Nevada.



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