Power Play

We’d like to congratulate Mono County Supervisor Fred Stump and the Wilderness Society’s Sally Miller for keeping us up to date on what could be another head-on collision between the federal government and Mono County.


Citizens who might think the flap over the Bi-state sage grouse was a big deal are going to be surprised that it would be nothing compared to the “West-Wide Energy Corridor” project.


If allowed to go forward as written, residents in Mono County District 5, Stump’s district, as well as residents in Inyo County and everyone who enjoys unfettered views of our gorgeous corner of the world, are going to have a problem.


Imagine a viewscape of tall power line towers, carrying cables that are to deliver electricity to Los Angeles, running down the east side of Long Valley, along the foot of the White Mountains.


It could happen.


Last week at the Board of Supervisors meeting, Stump succeeded in forming a workshop, whose principal guest was Michael Sintetos, the Renewable Energy Coordinator with the federal Bureau of Land Management office in Sacramento.


The overall purpose was to get an update, then deliver in no uncertain terms that we in Mono County have the jitters about this project, and not only because of visual impacts.


We, like Stump and Miller, have concerns such as sage grouse habitat, and how the construction of large power structures jibes with other federal proposals that seek to protect the Bi-state sage grouse without resorting to a listing on the endangered species list.


We also would like to explore alternative corridor routes so they match up with current general plan policies.


The West-Wide Energy Corridors were planned by the Bush administration using streamlined environmental reviews under the 2005 Energy Policy Act.


The originally proposed 2008 plan would have connected coal and other fossil-fuel power plants to the West’s electric grid while often overlooking areas with solar, wind and geothermal potential. 


Its web of corridors threatened wildlife habitat, wilderness and national parks, and brought litigation from a variety of plaintiffs.


Since then, there has been a settlement in the legal cases, and the federal government is again in the process of collecting comments from local citizens and governments as to how to re-start the project.


For those of us who care deeply about our environment, there is now an opportunity to revise corridors in the West that will help reduce carbon pollution by facilitating clean energy and protect wildlands by avoiding special or sensitive areas altogether.


To say that Mono County has a stake in this is an understatement.


“This is a big concern of mine and my constituents,” Stump said at the workshop. “We don’t feel it’s the right way to get power to Los Angeles.”


Supervisor Larry Johnston also weighed in.


“It disturbs me that it took a lawsuit for this to come to us,” he said.


“We need to get in front of this, and decide what we’re doing as a society. We’re going to maintain what people from L.A. want to see in Mono County, which is not power lines and freeways.”


In a detailed response from the county’s Community Development Department, Director Scott Burns wrote the twin objectives for Mono County are to “meet the utility needs of the public and be designed to minimize disruption of aesthetic quality,” and also “to not adversely impact wildlife or fisheries.”


By the look and feel of it, the discussion of the West-Wide Energy Corridor is bound to gather steam as the process moves along.


We are grateful that Stump and Miller, as well as Burns and his staff, are keeping us informed.