Posted: September 21, 2019
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
Mammoth solar project is about to happen.
Home values in Newberry Springs quietly dropped Thursday afternoon,
September 19, 2019, as the San Bernardino County Planning Commissioners certified
Clearway Energy's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the huge Daggett Solar Power
The certification of the EIR is a major step forward for the 3,500-acre
(5.5 square miles) utility-scale project that will surround three sides of the Barstow-Daggett
Airport and extend into Newberry Springs with power towers 125-feet to 159-feet tall for
1.75 miles along Valley Center.
The EIR approval came during a Commission meeting at the county's
hub office building in San Bernardino. The EIR is a requirement of the California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for projects of this size and having major effects on
The Daggett Solar Project will now go before the Board of Supervisors for
Planning Commission Hearing
Newberry Springs was represented by residents and farmers.
Most of Newberry's residents voiced opposition to the EIR for not addressing the Social
Justice effects that will have significant impacts upon Newberry Springs.
"The Daggett Solar project will have a significant environmental and
health burden upon the disadvantaged community of Newberry Springs," stated local
resident, Ted Stimpfel, "causing community decay. This is not addressed in the EIR."
County Land Use Services, the writer behind the EIR, is claiming in
responses to the public's written input throughout the EIR that CEQA only requires an
analysis of the physical impacts on the environment; and may not consider the social
and economic impacts on communities.
During the hearing's public comments, Stimpfel emphasized, "This is
dead wrong! The state's Attorney General opined differently on May 8, 2012, declaring
that social and economic impacts must be considered in CEQA studies." Stimpfel
continued, "Land Use Services doesn't want to touch Social Justice violations because this
project is riddled with them."
Steve Bardwell, of the Morongo Basin Conservation Association, further stated,
"The developers have also failed to establish a minimum 2-year baseline air quality
study for Particulate Matter (PM) 10 and 2.5 - sand and dust - for the site.
The air monitors used to guestimate occurrence are miles up-wind - west of the Sand
Transport Path on which the Project is sited. The EIR is missing critical data
for any air quality analysis during construction, operation, and beyond decommissioning."
Newberry resident, Vickie Paulsen, a member of the Newberry CSD
board, welcomed the solar project, citing the need to combat Climate Change.
She believes that a few adjustments made by Clearway Energy are "significant
changes to its original design" that now makes the project acceptable.
Representing the Newberry Springs Economic Development Association (NSEDA),
Vickie Paulsen writes on NSEDA's official
"perhaps the workers will eat lunch in Newberry and bring their families to play
in the Park."
Major alfalfa farmers, who don't live in Newberry Springs, also favor
the solar project. With the continued Adjudicated water rampdowns, they have been
looking for an exit strategy to flee from Newberry after having exhausted the water.
Public commentators at the hearing also included unionized laborers
who want the solar project for a few months of work.
Should the project be built, property values in Newberry Springs are
expected to drop. As forecasted repeatedly by this news blog since January 2018,
the Daggett solar project represents a tsunami threat to Newberry's existence.
Mona Doles, who has her residence across from the Soitec solar
farm on Mountain View, has seen the value of her home plummet. Because of
her proximity, her property has been impacted so hard that she fears that
her property may no longer be marketable.
The solar facility across the street from her is approximately 22-acres,
compared to Daggett's proposed 3,500-acre facility.
Newberry Springs has a large number of renters. They may
represent the first exodus over health concerns. With them go children,
possibly forcing the closure of the elementary school. From there, a
sliding closure of the "Senior Center" and churches.
Any community is dependent upon new arrivals. With Newberry
becoming a carcinogenic silica trap, new renters and homebuyers may become an
extreme rarity. The community's growing cottage industry of BnB's will
As the health issues are a major material fact, Realtors and
sellers will be required to disclose the PM 10 silica dust hazard to potential
Despite promises by Clearway Energy that the PM 10 windblown silica dust
will be controlled, they haven't demonstrated how.
Nor, is there any evidence from existing projects that Clearway's
mowing and soil compacting plans will work in a Sand Transport Path. Clearway's
other suggestions, such as fencing, will not work. The Los Angeles DWP's experiences,
after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Owens Lake, has shown that blowing dust
can only be partly managed.
CSD An Opportunity
The Newberry CSD is in a position to respond by filing an appeal and
contacting a CEQA attorney for advice.
With the mere approval of the EIR, the total valuation of Newberry Springs'
properties has probably already dropped millions of dollars. With the solar facility
poised to move in, the economic assault upon Newberry has begun.
The only practical chance that Newberry has to stop the project
is to file an appeal to the Board of Supervisors - halting the project until the major
deficiencies are addressed and presented again to the Planning Commission.
An appeal has merit based on a number of factors, including the fact
that the project does not meet the criteria of the County's own Development Code
Section 84.29.035 and
the California Public Resources Code
and that the EIR does not address the role of social and economic impacts on communities
under CEQA. This matter further has violations of federal Civil Rights.
The opportunity to appeal has a quick deadline of only 10 calendar days
from the date of the EIR's certification. Because that final filing date falls on a
Sunday, the deadline is Monday, September 30th.
Newberry CSD director, Jack Unger, has stepped-up and has placed the
possibility of the CSD appealing on the CSD's agenda for the next meeting
to be held Tuesday, September 24, 2019, at 6 P.M. at the Community Center located
at the south end of Newberry Road.
Director Jack Unger is to be highly commended for his agenda action,
however, the CSD board is going to need to hear a strong voice from the community
to persuade it to take action. The CSD board has been hesitant to date.
This is a CALL TO ACTION for everyone
to attend Tuesday's CSD Meeting. This is a very critical meeting for Newberry
Springs! Especially, for property owners who may have tens of thousands of dollars
in property equity at stake.
The money lost this week in property values is only the
tip-of-the-iceberg. With only a few days remaining, the community
itself needs to act.
Please pass along the word to your neighbors.
Share this link everywhere!
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