August 14: Recurrent Energy has rescinded their application for a Conditional Use Permit and Zoning change for the 262 acre Yakima solar project west of Sierra Highway. This means that Recurrent is no longer trying to put a solar project on that site. Recurrent may pursue sites elsewhere in Mojave, but according to Recurrent: “We will explore this in accordance with the needs and wishes of the community”.
The Mojave Foundation is an avid supporter of solar energy in Mojave, but we were greatly concerned about the project’s proposed location, and and the potential for dust and respiratory diseases. We consider this development a huge “win” for Mojave, and the health and safety of our residents; and we look forward to helping companies invest in Mojave while working in harmony with the community. We will no longer be organizing rides to Bakersfield on August 19th.
May 25: Recurrent Energy has made arrangements to initiate a “demonstration project” just south of the proposed Yakima project. The announcement came at the Mojave Chamber of Commerce meeting on May 22, despite assurances from Kern County that the project was in “deep freeze”. According to Recurrent’s Seth Israel the demonstration project will be much smaller than the Yakima project, only 22 acres, and located at Purdy and Holt in southwest Mojave. The demonstration project will only mow the vegetation instead of grade it, and will include fencing around the area to block the wind and reduce fugitive dust. The project will also be monitored by a contractor hired by Recurrent to measure air quality and particulate matter at a time of year with mild wind. The results of this data will be used in future months to persuade the Board of Supervisors to issue the zoning changes and conditional use permit that will allow Recurrent to break ground on its much larger 262 acre Yakima solar project.
The Mojave Foundation is an avid supporter of Solar Energy but we are opposed to the location of the Yakima solar project, which poses a health and safety risk to our residents. The proposed Yakima project is only 1,400 feet upwind of a densely populated area (Mojave Gardens), as well as a trailer park, the Sheriff’s Office, CHP, Hotels, and millions of dollars of investment on the Mojave Air & Space Port. We also reject the scientific method which is being used, since the measurements will be taken at a time of year that is far less-windy than the time when construction would begin on Yakima, and we do not consider the experiment to be objective since it was designed and conducted by Recurrent’s own contractor, Environ. This project poses too grave a health risk to the children and elderly directly downwind, as evidenced these pictures taken throughout the month of April of Recurrent’s Columbia-I and II projects, despite the acre foot of water spent daily (2 million gallons per week) to control dust. We urge residents and interested parties to write letters to the Kern County Planning Department to voice their concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or 2700 M Street, Suite 100, Bakersfield, CA 93301-2323.
February 8: The Kern County Planning Department is revising its previous recommendation to approve the Aquahelio Fremont Valley water/solar project that would extract 114,000 acre feet of water per year (37 billion gallons per year) within 8 years. The Planning Commission approved the Aquahelio project by a vote of 3:2 on January 23rd amid much concerns from local water departments and communities. The planning department is now recommending that the Board of Supervisors refer the project “back to staff to revise and recirculate the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)”, according to a Feb 7 memo issued by the Planning Department. Although this does not permanently kill the project, it does raise questions about whether Aquahelio will continue to pursue an application process that has taken years. Click here for the memo from the Planning Department.
The decision by the Planning Department comes amid a “water emergency” issued by Governor Brown, and recent revelations that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is likely the reduce this year’s allocation of water to zero. Since a cornerstone of the Aquahelio project relied on “water banking” (temporarily storing some water from the LADWP Aqueduct in the Fremont Valley aquifer) to recharge the ground water extracted by Aquahelio, the Governor’s decision to restrict water allocations “calls into question the sufficiency of the project”, said Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt in an interview with the Bakersfield Californian. Since water banking typically requires depositors leave 10 percent of the water they store in the bank, the Planning Department took that 10 percent into account when reviewing Aquahelio’s EIR, Oviatt explained. Click here for the full article.
Locals estimate the Fremont Valley Aquifer’s natural “recharge rate” is historically 15,000 acre feet per year, but nobody knows what the aquifer’s actual rate of recharge or depletion has been since the drought which has lasted in east Kern County for over four years. The Board of Supervisors will hear the case and the Planning Department’s recommendation on February 25th at their normal meeting place at 1115 Truxton Ave in Bakersfield.