NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS NEWS
941 E Ridgecrest Blvd
Ridgecrest, California 93555
November 3, 2013
Lorelei Oviatt, Director
Planning and Community Development Department
1115 Truxtun Avenue
Bakersfield, California 93301
Attention: Craig Murphy
Re: Fremont Valley Preservation Project
Ref: (1) NPLNews Letter dated 12/07 /12
(2) NPLNews Letter dated 10/20/13
To Whom It May Concern:
In our last letter written to the Planning Department, we asked for an extension of time due to significant circumstances. A reply to that letter was never received therefore we are still requesting an extension of time. We are now requesting the extension of time until the Williamson Act Land Use Contract expires on December 31, 2015 as was asked for under Jan 10, 2006 Kern County Notice.
In 1981, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) known then as the Soil Conservation, released a system designed to provide a quantitative method or rating the agricultural suitability of land compared to demands for non-agricultural uses of lands. This system became know as the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA). LESA was adopted as a procedural tool at the federal level for identifying and addressing the potential adverse effects of federal programs on farmland protection. The formation of a California LESA Model is the result of legislation adding Section 21095 to the California Environmental Quality Act (Chapter 812, Statues of 1993). This section directed the Resources Agency, in consultation with the California Office of Planning and Research to amend Appendix G of the CEQA Guidelines to “provide lead agencies an optional methodology to ensure that significant effects on the environment of agricultural land conversions are quantitatively and consistently considered in the environment review process.” Section 21095 also required the California Department of Conservation to develop a state model land evaluation and site assessment system, which in turn could be adopted by the Resources Agency as its amendment to Appendix G.
In 1997, the California Department of Conservation published the California Agricultural Land Evaluation and Site Assessment Model. Appendix G of the CEQA Guidelines, as revised in October 1998, includes the provision that “In determining whether impacts to agricultural resources are significant environmental effects, lead agencies may refer to the California Agricultural Land Evaluation and Site Assessment Model 1997 prepared by the California Department Conservation as an optional model to use in assessing impacts on agriculture and farmland. The LESA model is useful to CEQA studies because it utilizes several basic factors, which can capture much of the variability associated with the determination of the relative value of agriculture lands.
The LESA model uses a point-based approach to rate various factors related to agricultural characteristics that ultimately result with an overall score for the project wide.
1. We would like Kern County to show us where this LESA evaluation took place and where it is included in this DEIR for the 3,318 acres.
2. The segmentation of the projects (4 sites) minimizes cumulative impacts, which will be felt in the whole Freemont Valley. There are 2 DWMA’s, the Desert Tortoise Natural Area, historical monuments and impacts to Red Rock State Park to be considered, just to name a few. Why is this project listed as a Project EIR and not a more encompassing Program EIR.
3. Due to the high probability that land subsidence will occur if the water part of the project is allowed to go through, we are requesting that the USDA, USGS and DOI be included in the NEPA Analysis. To do otherwise is segmenting NEPA analysis and bypassing critical tiering of CEQA.
4. Why are not the solar project and the water project listed as one project versus two separate projects as the cumulative impacts are so different? The alternatives do not clearly identify the specificity nor do they address just the solar project without the water project. The purpose and need should clearly identify Kern County’s responsibility to all the laws pertinent in this instance.
5. The Kern County Notices defined purposes, title changes and CUP area acreages seem to be different from one notice to another. Which one is correct?
6. The Pre-existing Water Rights to the residents of that area are being ignored. Compliance with Senate Bills 610 and 221 are not being addressed. When groundwater is proposed for a project, there are required assessments and analyses that need to be completed. Requirements include: detailed analysis of historic, current and projected groundwater pumping; data to show sufficiency of the groundwater basin to sustain the projects’ demands; supply and demand analysis over single and multiple dry years for five year increments over a twenty year projection.
7. A water assessment of the water that is being projected to be pumped from Inyo County into this aquifer also needs to be addressed under Senate Bills 610 and 221 with compliance from Inyo County.
Please make a written reply to address these concerns and our previous concerns so that we may make a reasonable review and response to this EIR.
Very truly yours,
Sophia Anne Merk (SAM)
CC: Clerk of the Board
Lahonton Regional Water Quality Control Board
California Natural Resources, California State Clearing House
Inyo County Planning Department
San Bernardino County Planning Department
Rand Community Water District
Carl Symons, Ridgecrest BLM Office
NEPA Coordinators USDA, USGS, USF&W