The appeals hearing for the Aramis Solar Energy Generation and Storage project will take place next Thursday, March 4. We hope the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will consider the information that has come up since the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments (EBZA) approved the Aramis environmental impact report on Nov. 24, 2020.
We have heard disapproval from our federal agencies, environmentalist groups and many residents. The resounding concern is that by pushing forward with the project that will alter approximately 700 acres of open space in North Livermore, we are destroying the environment in order to save it.
In January this year, the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (SFWO) called out the county for failing to follow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Revised Guidance on Site Assessments and Field Surveys.” Had the county asked the Service if the surveys that planning staff had conducted were adequate, SFWO stated it would have confirmed that they were not.
The SFWO further called for the Aramis applicant, Intersect Power, to acquire an incidental take permit for the federally listed species likely to be killed during construction. This week, Intersect announced for the first time that it will pursue a voluntary incidental take permit. The company also proposed to provide compensatory mitigation.
However, even if implemented, the actions won’t change the fact that a utility-scale development is not the intended use of this agricultural land. The loss of habitat is still a loss no matter how much money is paid to federal agencies. The project site is a designated conservation area. It must remain a preserved habitat in order to protect endangered species.
Furthermore, the Aramis project violates Measure D, which was adopted by county voters in 2000 to protect open space from development.
East Bay Regional Park District, Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Alameda Creek Alliance and Ohlone Audubon Society have all announced their opposition to the project that will cover hundreds of acres of grazing land with shimmering solar plates.
While the Sierra Club supports the project, it is largely backed by unions.
Scores of residents have sat in on lengthy county meetings to voice concerns about how this project would not only impact the ecosystem, but also decimate ranching and dry crop land.
The groups that filed appeals set to be considered by the board next Thursday include Friends of Livermore, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, Save North Livermore Valley and Intersect Power. The first three believe the project would be detrimental to the region’s ecosystem and the integrity of the land.
Intersect’s appeal mainly objects to the conditional-use requirements spelled out by the EBZA, including setbacks from the road, which would result in reduced acreage. However, when they lost 38 acres from a soured lease negotiation with landowners Richard and Mary Stanley, they denied that the withdrawn acreage was a problem.
Before approving any solar projects, the county needs to approve a solar policy that would identify utility-scale sites appropriate for solar power generation. The county and cities should prioritize distributed scale solar opportunities on rooftops and parking lots. Open space should be a last resort.
If the county were to approve this project, it could set a precedent that would result in the loss of even more agricultural land in the Tri-Valley.
To represent its constituents, and respect well-established environmental and energy policies, the Board of Supervisors should reject the Aramis industrial development.