The two candidates running for Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 1 have found common ground on the North Livermore Valley solar projects, issuing a joint statement this week calling on the county to stop review of individual proposals in favor of comprehensive planning.
While falling short of calling for the projects' outright denial, election opponents Dublin Mayor David Haubert and Fremont City Councilman Vinnie Bacon urged the county to hit the pause button as part of a shared quote released late Monday through the resident group Save North Livermore Valley.
"We call on Alameda County Board of Supervisors to place a moratorium on the review of new solar power plants on agricultural land until the county completes a comprehensive study and mapping project on the appropriate siting, scale and operation of solar power plants, if any, on agricultural land, and incorporates this work in a solar ordinance and General Plan Amendment," Bacon and Haubert said in a joint statement.
"The East County Board of Zoning Adjustments for Alameda County should likewise defer review of any individual proposed utility-scale solar facilities on agricultural land until the solar ordinance and General Plan Amendment are adopted," they added.
Dubbed the Aramis and SunWalker projects, the two proposed solar plant developments are located near each other, along Livermore Avenue between Manning and May School roads in the unincorporated Livermore Valley. The Aramis project is 410 acres of developed land and is being planned by Intersect Power while the smaller SunWalker project will consist of about 70 acres.
"After nearly three years of environmental study, the County's comprehensive Environmental Impact Report for the Aramis project provides a wealth of both site-specific and landscape-level data and analysis to serve decision-makers and the public in making independent judgments about whether the project is well sited, well designed and appropriately mitigated," officials from Intersect Power said of the Aramis project.
Intersect Power added that the Aramis project is located on land that has "impaired soils with no viable water source" making it unsuitable for agriculture, is located next to an existing power substation and is "devoid of critical habitat."
Certain residential groups such as Save North Livermore Valley have come out in opposition to the projects however, in part citing Alameda County lacking a comprehensive plan for how to expand renewable energy in rural areas.
"The residents of North Livermore Valley deeply appreciate and thank Councilmember Bacon and Mayor Haubert for listening to our concerns. We are all committed to addressing climate change through the development of more solar power, but insist the county proceed in a thoughtful, environmentally sound manner," stated Chris O'Brien of Save North Livermore Valley.
"The first location in rural Alameda County for new utility-scale solar power plants should not be the location that poses the greatest conflict with agriculture, natural habitat, open space and visual and scenic resources," he added.
Intersect Power officials have opposed the moratorium, saying that they have already gone through extensive review in order to support wildlife and agriculture, while minimizing any negative effects, and a moratorium would lead to depicting "the work already done for this project."
"Furthermore, drafting a solar policy would achieve some, but not all, of the environmental review obligations of any individual solar project proposal," Intersect Power added. "For a solar policy, the county would prepare an Initial Study, or an Environmental Impact Report, to evaluate the opportunities and impacts of siting large-scale solar facilities throughout the County; however, the information will be coarse in scale and not sufficient to inform the public and decision-makers about any particular site."
Save North Livermore Valley group says it was told that the first project is anticipated to be presented by staff to the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments during the board's meeting on Oct 22.
Bacon and Haubert face each other on the Nov. 3 ballot to represent Alameda County Supervisorial District 1, which includes the north Livermore Valley among other areas.