Planning Commission Slams
Newberry Springs with Approval
of Daggett Solar's EIR

    Planning Commissioners, with two Airport Commissioners seated as advisors, certified the Daggett Solar Power's EIR.

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 project.

    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 environment.

    The Daggett Solar Project will now go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

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." Note

    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 website, "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.

Community Decay

    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 dry up.

    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 newcomers.

    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 Section 85.06.040(a)(4), the California Public Resources Code Section 21000-21004, 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.

CSD Responding?

    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!

N.S. Community Alliance related past news blogs:
Newberry's leadership is crashing. - 5/1/19
CSD betrays community with embezzlement. - 4/16/19
Time is out, Newberry in peril. - 3/29/19
CSD Continues To Jeopardize Community. - 3/24/19
County planning deadly dust upon High Desert. - 2/10/19
Newberry Springs January 2019 update. - 1/28/19
Newberry Springs' true poverty. - 1/1/19
Rational thinking was a no-show. - 7/27/18
Painful 7-months of CSD inaction. - 7/22/18
Newberry CSD Board exposing themselves. - 6/25/18
Newberry CSD remains paralyzed. - 6/24/18
Crucial Meeting on Newberry's Existence. - 4/9/18
Newberry families may move for health reasons. - 3/26/18
CSD Board's mismanagement may lead to deaths. - 3/11/18
Newberry CSD struggles with solar development. - 3/2/18
Newberry CSD's inaction threatens community. - 2/24/18
Communities collaborating for protection. - 2/11/18
Newberry CSD falls short against solar opposition. - 2/4/18

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