KERN COUNTY, CA — A Los Angeles based company has its sights set on a tiny desert community in eastern Kern County for a massive solar facility.
But the community worries this power won’t help Kern but instead it will be used to light up Los Angeles. The Fremont Valley Preservation Project comes before the Planning Commission set to put 3.6 million solar panels and use the area’s ground water.
“You certainly won’t see any of this,” said Trisan Deu Pree, who’s family has lived in the unincorporated town of Cantil for four generations. “It’s a small community. We really don’t know how many of us there are.”
But this small community is about to get some company, a Beverly Hills based company, Aquahelio is proposing a solar project to surround Cantil.
“It has nothing to do with preservation,” Deu Pree.
According the proposal the facility will provide power to 300,000 homes, both in and out of Kern County but will change Deu Pree and her neighbor’s landscape forever.
“We’ll be nothing but power lines millions upon millions of solar panels,” said Deu Pree.
But power poles are the least of Deu Pree’s worries.
“This is really a water grab piggy backing on a solar project,” said Deu Pree.
The county says in addition to solar Aquahelio is proposing two groundwater projects. One would sell some of the basin’s groundwater, a limit of 114,000 acre feet of water per year for ten years, to Kern County. This does not sit well with residents who all get water from wells in the ground.
“Our aquifer should be ours,” said Ted Wyatt, a Cantil resident.
“We’re talking about messing with something on a very grand scale,” said Deu Pree.
They say their aquifer is already depleted because of the drought. However Kern County Planning Department officials estimate the basin has 7 million acre feet of water left and with a 1 million acre feet cap they feel safe in allowing some extraction.
Residents also have concerns about the water banking part of this project. This part would allow Aquahelio to inject foreign water resources into the groundwater to be stored for later use. Cantil residents worry pumping surface water into their natural water resource will contaminate their wells.
But the Kern County Planning Department said the Regional Water Quality Control Board will monitor the water going into the aquifer.
“There’s a lot of people that could use this water,” said Craig Murphy of the Kern County Planning Department. “The question really is if the water is available and there is a way for the water to be extracted should we allow for that to take place.”
But residents fear we won’t be sharing with Kern because of this group.
“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the L.A.D.W.P, the elephant in the room,” said Deu Pree.
L.A.D.W.P not only has stake in not only this project but owns the Beacon Solar Project. Kern County said the power may be used by L.A. but in any case go to the grid.
AC Electric Company, a Bakersfield based company, is handling approval and construction of the project for Aquahelio. They said this project will not only create power and provide water to Kern County but supply jobs.
“The direct benefits to Kern County are creating up to 2000 additional jobs, 105 jobs on an ongoing basis and an investment of 300 million dollars in the county,” said David Morton, Vice President of Operations for AC Electric Company.
But for Deu Pree these jobs and money should not be more important than her way of life.
“Now all we are to them is a few scattered residents but I am one of them and this my home,” said Deu Pree.
Kern County said their are many mitigation factors meant to protect these residents water and they will all be explained at the Planning Commission hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday at 1115 Truxtun Avenue.