Speak Out Against Proposed Solar Ranch Near Manzanar!

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I strongly urge anyone who is available to come out to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power THIS SATURDAY to make your voice heard!  This project would impede upon the cultural landscape of the Manzanar Historic site.  See Press Release below

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LOS ANGELES — A public information meeting will be held on Saturday, November 16, 2013, at 10:00 AM, at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles where members of the community are urged to speak out against a proposed solar energy generating facility that would be built near Manzanar National Historic Site.

The LADWP’s proposed Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch Project is a 200-megawatt solar energy facility that would consist of solar photovoltaic panel modules and associated infrastructure. The approximately 1,200-acre project site is located on City of Los Angeles-owned property east of the Owens River, but in a direct line of sight with the Manzanar National Historic Site, whichlies to the immediate west.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report is available at http://www.ladwp.com/envnotices.

The Manzanar Committee believes that the proposed solar ranch would destroy a significant portion of the historic landscape surrounding Manzanar National Historic Site.

“The importance of maintaining and enhancing the physical characteristics of the Manzanar National Historic Site cannot be downplayed or overlooked,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “One of the most powerful parts of Manzanar is the unobstructed view, and that many of the structures, gardens and other features of the World War II American concentration camp have not been bulldozed over or destroyed by ‘development.’”

Craig Tomiyoshi, Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Board of the Japanese American Citizens League, echoed those concerns.

“The Manzanar site is not only an important piece of the Japanese American story and experience during World War II, but also a visible reminder to all Americans about the importance of protecting the civil rights and liberties for all,” said Tomiyoshi. “The natural environment surrounding Manzanar plays a huge part in preserving for future generations the context of what those incarcerated at that site might have felt at that time.”

“I would strongly encourage anyone concerned about protecting the cultural landscape of Manzanar to attend this Public Information Meeting to let decision makers know why building the project on the proposed location is wrong, and encourage them to consider alternate sites,” added Tomiyoshi.

A coalition of community groups and individuals are working to ensure that the politically powerful LADWP, which owns the vast majority of the land in Owens Valley, understands their concerns and the implications of building the solar ranch in such close proximity to Manzanar.

“It’s easy after all these years to put what happened to the Japanese American community during World War II on the back shelf, as more ‘pressing’ or ‘important’ events occur,” Embrey noted. “If we are complacent, all the hard work of so many will be for naught. Tule Lake is facing a similar situation where the Federal Aviation Administration is attempting to build a fence that would bisect the site. Now, a massive solar farm with thousands of solar panels could distract from, and negatively impact, the Manzanar National Historic Site.”

“The Manzanar National Historic Site stands as one of the most impressive, thorough exhibits on the Japanese American incarceration experience,” Embrey added. “The National Park Service staff does an incredible job, day in and day out, of telling the story. It is essential that LADWP hears and understands the impact such a massive project would have on the site.”

“So many people fought so hard, endured and persevered to make sure our story, our history, is told and never forgotten. We have to be vigilant that none of that is denigrated in any way.”

The LADWP headquarters building is located at 111 North Hope Street, Los Angeles, California, 90012 (see map below). The meeting will be held in Conference Room 1, Level A. Parking is free in the LADWP’s underground parking garage. Signs will be posted to direct attendees to the meeting room.

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LA DWP on google maps

See more information at: http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org/

Manzanar: What You Get, Only If You’re There

By: Eri Kameyama, PSW District Staff

I woke up at 5AM this past Saturday to get ready for the long drive to Manzanar, the incarceration camp that held thousands of Japanese Americans from the Los Angeles area.

I was partaking in the Annual Pilgrimage program organized by the Manzanar Committee and the National Park Services, being a participant along with the rest of the Bridging Communities Program. Bridging Communities, now in its fifth year, has always made a trip to Manzanar; bringing the Japanese American and American Muslim high schoolers to this historical site. This year, there were 9 Bridging Communities students, 3 program leaders, and 5 family and friends who went together as a group. We caravanned in 3 cars and made the four hour journey from Little Tokyo…

When I first learned about the Japanese American camps, I was a junior in high-school, and I recall seeing this photo of children behind the barbed wires. In the background were the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Since then, I’ve learned so much more about the history and heard personal stories of Manzanar. I’ve probably seen a few dozen photos of the camp and always noted the beautiful mountain range that sat at the backdrop of this prison camp.  Therefore, it didn’t surprise me that I knew exactly when we were near Manzanar because I recognized these mountains from miles away.

I was the most moved when I saw the monument in the cemetery because it was no longer just a story or a just a picture in a textbook. It became a lived experience being at Manzanar in near 100-degree heat. As I sat through the program in the beating sun, I thought, “for me, it is just one day, for the incarcerees, it was as long as three years.”

Wilbur Sato, a former incarceree, gave us a tour of what was left of Manzanar. He showed us a site where a garden used to grow and where a small pond used to be. A garden! In the middle of the desert! To me, this was the sign of resilience of the Japanese Americans. To thrive and the make the best of what is given. The Japanese mentality of shikataganai turning into the will power to survive, ganbarou.

Wilbur Sato leading us on a tour of Manzanar

Wilbur Sato leading us on a tour of Manzanar

Although it was not easy driving almost 8 hours round-trip to be a part of this pilgrimage, I do not regret the experience. Many things can be learned through textbooks and oral-histories but physically being at a site where history occurred is an emotional experience that can only be understood by being there. I truly hope that the Bridging Communities participants gained something valuable from this mini road trip. I sure did.