Wednesday, 24 July 2024

News

It’s unusual for Congress to pass a comprehensive bill to help thousands of veterans with a final legislative sprint that leaves veterans’ service organizations wondering what just happened.


But that’s what the Senate and House did last week. After a burst of closed-door compromises, they agreed to and separately passed the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (HR 3219), sent it on to the president.


The package has no clear blockbuster initiative. But it improves many veterans’ benefits including some allowances for disabled veterans and various veterans’ insurance options. Employment protections are toughened for those returning to civilian jobs.


Service members moving out of phone service areas will be able to sever cell phone contracts without penalty. And new federal grants will be authorized for job training and counseling, childcare services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.


“I think it’s fantastic and I’m truly incredulous that it went through as fast at it did,” said Tim Tetz, the American Legion’s legislative director.


A week before passage Tetz said he and the Legion’s national commander had visited with Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the veterans’ affairs committee. Knowing Congress would adjourn soon and not return until after the November election, the Legion had urged Akaka to clear an omnibus benefits bill at least during the post-election lame duck session.


Akaka said a bill was being worked. A week later, to Tetz’s surprise, a bill chock full of initiatives had passed both the House and Senate.


“It’s quite expansive,” said Tetz. “It will be hard to find a veteran that in some way won’t be touched by it.”


“The package is excellent,” said Joe Violante, legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. “There are new and expanded provisions for disabled veterans that should help them in a lot of different areas.”


“We have about 20 to 25 separate bills in there,” said Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in a phone interview. “It’s an incredible move forward for all our veterans, whether talking about those on the street or those suffering from mental illness or women veterans facing sexual trauma. I mean it touches virtually every issue that we’ve been working on for several years.”


The House passed an original HR 3219 in July last year with a contentious provision to establish a $1,000-a-month payment to former World War II merchant marines regardless of need or disability.


Senators and even many vet groups refused to support it, arguing it created a benefit not available to other vets.


WWII-era merchant marines, they argued, already have full veteran status and can apply for VA benefits including a needs-based pension for the elderly.


When House negotiators agreed to remove the merchant marine language, the benefit package came together, expanded by a final packet of Senate amendments, many of them bills already passed by the House.


Here are highlights to take effect when the bill is signed:


– An automobile assistance allowance for veterans who have lost limbs or have other qualifying disabilities will increase from $11,000 to $18,900. It also will be adjusted for inflation on Oct. 1 each year.


– The funeral or burial payment for veterans who die in a VA facility or who are eligible to be buried in a VA cemetery will increase from $300 to $700. This payment too will increase annually for inflation but after 2011.


– Supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans will increase from $20,000 up to $30,000.


– Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage for totally disabled veterans will be permanently extended to two years, from 18 months, after they leave service. This change will be applied retroactively to persons separated from service on or after June 15, 2005.


– The maximum loan guarantee amount under the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance program will increase from $90,000 to $150,000. It will increase again, to $200,000, on Jan. 1, 2012.


– Individuals who qualify for retroactive traumatic injury protection coverage under SGLI (called TSGLI) will be expanded to include veterans who incurred qualifying traumatic injuries on or after Oct. 7, 2001, but before Dec. 1, 2005, regardless of where the injuries occurred.


– Veterans will be able to increase Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) coverage by $25,000 every five years until reaching age 60.


– The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will be modified to allow service members to terminate cellular telephone contracts when ordered to relocate for a period of 90 days or more to an area not supported by the contract.


– The SCRA also will give service members a “private right of action” to file their own lawsuits against those who violate their legal rights. They no longer will have to wait for enforcement action by a federal agency.


The SCRA is strengthened in two other ways, said retired Navy Capt. Samuel F. Wright, a legal expert with the Reserve Officers Association. It now will allow for the Department of Justice to bring a civil action against SCRA violators and those found guilty will have to pay court costs and service members’ attorney fees.


“That’s very valuable,” Wright explained, because SCRA claimants will find it so much easier to find a lawyer.


Architects of the bill found a way to pay for these improvements and many more by extending a reduction in VA pensions for veterans who have no spouse or children and who are covered by a Medicaid plan while residing in a nursing home. This allows the bill actually to save the VA $394 million over five years and a total of $8 million over the next decade.


To comment, send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Military Update, P. O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111.


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CLEARLAKE, Calif. – An official dedication ceremony for the new Clearlake Veterans Affairs Clinic will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 13.


The event, will which begin at 1 p.m., will feature Congressman Mike Thompson and other local dignitaries.


The new clinic is located at 15145 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake.


Beginning earlier this year, the building underwent a complete remodel to prepare it for its new use as a clinic. Previously, it had housed county mental health services, as Lake County News has reported.


The VA reported that the new clinic will have approximately 8,600 square feet of clinic space and will offer primary care, mental health services and limited specialty care through tele-health technology, linking the clinic with specialists at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and Santa Rosa VA Outpatient Clinic.


The Clearlake VA Clinic will officially open for patient care on Nov. 1.


Veterans who are interested in receiving care at the Clearlake Clinic may register at the San Francisco VAMC or any of its outpatient clinics.


In addition, veterans can register at www.va.gov or www.sanfrancisco.va.gov or contact the VAMC Eligibility Office at 415-750-2015.


For more information about the Clearlake VA Clinic call Ken Browne at 707-468-7704.


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THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CORRECTED AND EXPANDED; PREVIOUS REPORTS OF MOSTLY CANDY BEING TAKEN WERE NOT CORRECT, AND MORE INFORMATION ON WHAT WAS TAKEN HAS BEEN ADDED.


LAKEPORT, Calif. – Hungry youngsters are believed to be behind the weekend burglary of a local school.


The Lakeport Police Department received a report early Monday that Terrace Middle School's kitchen area had been ransacked.


A school employee found the evidence of a break-in shortly before 5:30 a.m., and Officer Jim Bell took the report.


Bell said the suspects appear to have pried open a side window to gain entry. They then used paper and plastic bags to cover a window while they were inside.


They ransacked and emptied a cappuccino machine – tossing coffee powder all over the place, he said.


Based on details supplied to Bell by the school, the suspects took 20 fruit snacks, 24 cereal bars, 12 whole grain Pop Tarts, numerous frozen yogurts, eight cans of juice, about 20 bags of baked chips, 10 packs of chile picante and 5 pounds of lunch meat.


A two-way radio stolen from the site later was found, Bell said.


He said he found a few footprints on the stainless steel counters, and also got some smudgy fingerprints.


Bell said he's sure that children are behind the caper.


“It wasn't a professional hit, that's for sure,” he said.


Although he can't be sure exactly when the burglary happened over the weekend, Bell pointed out that homecoming for the nearby Clear Lake High School took place on Friday night, with the homecoming dance on the following evening.


After the burglary was reported Monday, Bell said he did a quick sweep through the Terrace Middle School campus, which is located next to Lakeport Elementary and Clear Lake High School on Lange Street.


“It's amazing to me that these kids did not leave a trail,” he said.


Anyone with information on possible suspects should call Bell at the Lakeport Police Department, 707-263-5491.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – There's still time to register to vote, according to county election officials.


The Lake County Registrar of Voters Office is advising new residents of Lake County and registered voters who have moved to a new address, changed their mailing address within the county, or changed their name, that you may need to reregister in order to be eligible to vote in the upcoming statewide general election.


The last day to register to vote for the Nov. 2 general election is Monday, October 18.


The completed voter registration form must be either personally delivered to the Registrar of Voters

Office on or before Oct. 18 or postmarked on or before Oct. 18 and received by mail by the Registrar of Voters Office.


Section 2101 of the California Elections Code states, “A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election.”


Residents may register to vote at the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office, Room 209, Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport, or may phone the Registrar of Voters Office at 707-263-2372 for information.


Registration forms are also available at most local post offices, libraries, senior centers, city offices and chamber of commerce offices.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

CLEARLAKE – A teenager who went missing earlier this week has returned home.


Sixteen-year-old Janea Armstead, who is developmentally disabled, had last been seen Tuesday night and Clearlake Police put out a request for help from the community to find her, as Lake County News has reported.


However, the young woman returned home on Wednesday night, according to Clearlake Police Sgt. Tim Hobbs.


Hobbs said the teen was fine and said she had wanted to spend the previous night out on her own.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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Northshore Fire personnel look at the scene of a fatal crash on Highway 20 between Lucerne and Clearake Oaks, Calif., on Wednesday, October 6, 2010. The crash claimed the life of the pickup's lone occupant. Photo by Gary McAuley.





LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The California Highway Control confirmed Thursday that the man whose pickup went off Highway 20 and into Clear Lake on Wednesday night has died.


The name of the 40-year-old victim was not released by the CHP Thursday.


A CHP report said that the driver was headed eastbound in his 1991 Chevrolet S-10 pickup on Highway 20 east of Rosemont Drive between Lucerne and Clearlake at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday when the incident occurred.


The driver – for reasons the CHP is still investigating – allowed his truck to go off the south roadway edge where it overturned and came to rest upside down in the water, the report said.


Lake County News received information from a witness that the driver may have been pulling off the road to let other drivers pass him.


The man was reportedly trapped upside down underwater. Northshore Fire reported that he was extricated using the jaws of life.


A Northshore Fire ambulance transported the man to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, according to Battalion Chief Steve Hart.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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A pickup ended up in Clear Lake on the evening of Wednesday, October 6, 2010, after it and its single occupant went off Highway 20 between Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Photo by Gary McAuley.


 



LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A pickup truck went off Highway 20 and into Clear Lake Wednesday evening in a crash that officials indicated may have ended in a fatality.


The single-vehicle crash occurred just before 6:30 p.m. on Highway 20 at Pepperwood Cove, between Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks, according to the California Highway Patrol.


Reports from the scene initially indicated trouble extricating the driver from the pickup, where he was said to be trapped underwater and upside down.


Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Steve Hart said firefighters were able to get the man out using the jaws of life.


Hart said the man – whose name wasn't immediately available for release – was transported by Northshore Fire ambulance to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.


It was not clear what the man's condition was late Wednesday.


The CHP had reported a possible fatality and Lake County News received witness reports that cardiopulmonary resuscitation was started on the man at the scene and that he later died.

 

 

 

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Firefighters check out a totaled pickup that landed in Clear Lake on October 6, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.
 

 

 


However, a CHP officer had reportedly been sent to Sutter Lakeside Hospital to pick up a blood sample from the driver.


Northshore Fire sent two ambulances and four engines, Hart said. Along with CHP, reports from the scene indicated that the Lake County Sheriff's Office also responded.


Fuel from the pickup leaked into the lake, with Northshore Fire bringing in booms to surround it, according to radio reports. The wind was said to have aided bringing the fuel back to shore.


Less than five gallons of fuel got into the lake, Hart said.


Because of the spill, the local Office of Emergency Services and Lake County Environmental Health responded to the scene, Hart said. Fish and Game also was called but did not go to the crash site.


The CHP reported that the tow company was still responding to the scene just after 8 p.m. to remove the totaled pickup. Hart was still on the scene with firefighters shortly before 9:30 p.m., and the roadway was completely opened and cleared by 9:47 p.m., according to the CHP.


A radio report stated the booms were left in the water overnight.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

 

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Northshore Fire firefighters, California Highway Patrol, Lake County Sheriff's Office, Lake County Environmental Health and Lake County Office of Emergency Services responded to the single-vehicle crash along Highway 20 in Lake County, Calif. Photo by Gary McAuley.
 

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New sign lettering is installed on the Carnegie Library in Lakeport, Calif., on Friday, September 17, 2010. Photo by Richard Knoll.


 



LAKEPORT, Calif. – Lakeport's Carnegie Library recently got some new touches to its exterior signage.


In 2009, vandals broke the historic sign lettering at the Lakeport Carnegie Library.


The Carnegie Library Building, built in 1918, is on the National Register of Historic Places and as such it is required that replacement of the letters be of original style and like-kind materials.


After looking at options, the city selected Sleeper Woods Design in Lakeport to fabricate the new letters.


John Moorhead and Rose Davidson, the owners of the Lakeport-based Sleeper Woods Design, specialize in such projects. The business' motto is “Honoring Tradition with Technology.”


After coordinating with city staff, Sleeper Woods Design began the process of fabricating the redwood letters in a style consist with the original lettering, no easy task.


It was decided that Sleeper Woods Design would fabricate two sets of redwood letters reinforced with plastic backing to ensure longevity.


Created from tight-grained old growth redwood, these isometric letters were carved with a CNC router, then adhered to an 1/8-inch plastic backing using marine epoxy.


A golden burnishing sealant was then applied as an undercoat, followed with the bright 23k gold leaf.

 

 

 

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The bright new lettering on the Carnegie Library in Lakeport, Calif., had to be historically accurate because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Richard Knoll.
 

 

 


Ben Mansell and Travis Costs, students at Clear Lake High School, participated in the project as part of a job shadowing program.


The students reviewed the proposal with the city of Lakeport and assisted in the production of the replacement letters.


They observed the CNC operation, cutting out the letters, and also assisted in sanding – lots of sanding – and the application of the gold leaf, under Davidson's direction.


Moorhead, the woodworking instructor at Clear Lake High School, sourced and prepped the redwood for cutting and worked with Mansell and Costs in the job shadow program.


On Sept. 17, with the help of the Lakeport Public Works Crew, Moorhead and Davidson installed the new lettering and restored the Carnegie Library Building to its full glory.


Funding for the sign lettering project was provided by the Lakeport Redevelopment Agency.


The city of Lakeport is very pleased to have worked with Sleeper Woods Design and the students of Clear Lake High School on this great example of historic preservation and community involvement.


Richard Knoll is Lakeport's community development and redevelopment agency director.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

 

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John Moorhead and Rose Davidson, owners of the Lakeport, Calif.-based Sleeper Woods Design, fabricated the new library letters. They were assisted by Clear Lake High School students Ben Mansell and Travis Costs, who took part in a job shadowing program. Photo by Richard Knoll.
 

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – A new, people-powered local group is planning a community celebration this Sunday, Oct. 10, in an effort to share its ideas for creating a healthier, happier Lake County.


Transition Lake County – or TLC – will host the event from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Clearlake's Redbud Park, 14655 Lakeshore Drive.


In case of rain, the event will move to the Clearlake Community United Methodist Church, 14541 Pearl Ave.


The celebration will include an afternoon of local music, a potluck barbecue and a chance to network with other active citizens and celebrate the great work being done all around the county to build a healthier, happier and more resilient community.


Oct. 10, 2010, is a worldwide day of action – part of www.350.org’s “Global Work Party” – intended to decrease the contribution to climate change.


TLC supports building local resilience, which has the effect of decreasing the use of fossil fuels. For example, by having a more localized economy, less gas is used and the products people want travel a shorter distance from the producer to the consumer; and supporting local organic farmers results in less pesticide and gas usage.

 

The key to developing that local resilience is building local networks – essentially, linking people who otherwise might not have connected even though they share similar interests.


There are amazing skills and resources here in Lake County, and also great need. If everyone works together to link up resources and needs, the county will be able to create greater health and happiness for everyone.


This 10-10-10 event is both a chance to celebrate the work done to improve the community and a chance to build a network and amovement toward true sustainability.

 

If you are part of a local community organization that is interested in building local resilience and have done some work to improve the world, come prepared to celebrate that contribution and to share and network with others.


Groups and individuals are welcome to bring a table or booth, information about their interests, and willingness to connect and co-create.


If you’d like to set up a table, please contact Karen or Nils at 707-928-0159.

 

To learn more about this event and all the great work-days actions leading up to Oct. 10, visit www.transitionlakecounty.org .


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Lake County residents who vote by mail should be getting absentee ballots in their mailboxes this week.


Lake County Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley said that her staff delivered absentee ballots for the Nov. 2 general election to the Lakeport Post Office on Monday.


Approximately 16,072 vote-by-mail ballots went out, she said.


Fridley – who noted she got her own absentee ballot in the mail on Wednesday – said voters should have the ballots no later than next week.


Her office already is getting some completed ballots back from voters, she said.


It's also still possible to register to vote. The deadline to vote in the Nov. 2 primary is 15 days before the election.


“We received quite a few registrations today,” she said on Wednesday.


Sample ballots for county voters went out in the mail from a Sacramento vendor on Wednesday morning, according to Fridley.


An addressing glitch on the vendor's end caused a delay, said Fridley, noting that she likes to have the sample ballot and vote by mail ballots go out at the same time.


Missing from local mailboxes is the state's voting information pamphlets, said Friday.


“We're waiting for the state to give us a schedule,” she said, noting that Lake appears to be one of the counties that hasn't received the pamphlets.


For the general election, there are 32,098 registered voters, Fridley said. That's down from the 32,763 voters registered at the time of the June 8 primary.


In the primary, 6,279 precinct ballots were cast, for a 19.2 percent voting rate, as opposed to the 9,280 vote by mail ballots cast that time, a 28.3-percent return, based on county election records. Overall, 47.5 percent of the county's registered voters cast ballots in the primary.


There were 14,167 Democrats registered to vote in the primary; of that group, 7,628 cast ballots for a 53.8 percent voting rate, records showed.


Democrats cast more ballots by mail than at precincts, with 4,493 absentees, or 31.7 percent, versus 3,133 ballots, or 22.1 percent, cast at polling places.


The county's registered Republicans, 9,574 in all for the primary, also favored absentee voting, with 3,526 absentee ballots case, a 36.8 percent return rate, and 25.6 percent, or 2,546 voters, casting their ballots at precincts. Overall, 6,072 Republicans cast ballots, amounting to 63.4 percent of the registered voters for that party.


The two major parties had higher turnout rates among their own voters than the American Independent, Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom parties, according to the Registrar of Voters Office. For a full rundown, see www.co.lake.ca.us/Government/Directory/ROV/Final_Election_Results.htm.


The last general election, which was the 2008 presidential election, “was rather unique,” said Fridley, with high voter interest and turnout.


“The turnout and interest always seems to be greater in a presidential election than a general election,” she said.


A better comparison for looking at potential voter turnout in the November election is to look at the November 2006 election, she suggested.


However, there are still marked differences between this year and 2006, when the District 3 supervisorial race was heavily contested, but the sheriff and district attorney's races – which this year are producing the most interest – were single-man races.


In November 2006, there were 31,564 registered voters in the county, slightly less than the 32,098 voters so far registered for this November, according to Fridley.


In the general election four years ago, actual voter turnout was at 62.6 percent, with 10,316 absentee and 9,441 precinct votes cast, said Fridley.


Fridley said county residents can still request absentee ballots through the mail, with the deadline set at Oct. 26. Voters needing a vote by mail ballot after this date must appear in person in the Registrar of Voters Office on the second floor of the Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport.


In order to be counted, ballots must be received at the Registrar of Voters Office by 8 p.m. on Election Day – Tuesday, Nov. 2.


However, Fridley recommended that voters return ballots no later than Oct. 27.


She said vote by mail ballots returned close to Election Day – including ballots dropped off at the polls – will be processed and counted during the 28-day official canvass following Election Day.


For candidate statements for the races for Congress, state Senate, Lake County district attorney, Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees, and council races for the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport, visit www.co.lake.ca.us/Government/Directory/ROV/2010statements.htm .


For additional information about absentee voting or the upcoming election, the Registrar of Voters Office can be reached at 707-263-2372.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

WASHINGTON, DC – In the first-ever decision of its kind, on Tuesday Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved large-scale solar energy plants that will be built on public lands.


The two projects, both located in California, are the first in a series of renewable energy projects on public lands under final review by the Department of the Interior that would potentially provide thousands of U.S. jobs and advance U.S. clean energy technologies.


“These projects are milestones in our focused effort to rapidly and responsibly capture renewable energy resources on public lands,” Salazar said in signing the final Records of Decision for the initiatives.


Salazar said the projects advance President Barack Obama's agenda for stimulating investment in cutting-edge technology, creating jobs for American workers, and promoting clean energy for American homes, businesses and industry.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the development.


“Today’s announcement only further cements California’s national leadership in renewable energy development – and it couldn’t have been done without our federal partners,” Schwarzenegger said. “Our great partnership is helping to improve public health, grow our green economy, promote energy independence and strengthen our national security.”


Salazar’s approval grants the U.S.-based companies access to almost 6,800 acres of public lands for 30 years to build and operate solar plants that could produce up to 754 megawatts of renewable energy, or enough to power 226,000 to 566,000 typical American homes. The projects will generate almost 1,000 new jobs.


The projects Salazar approved will employ two different types of solar energy technology. The Imperial Valley Solar Project, proposed by Tessera Solar of Arizona, will use Stirling Energy System's SunCatcher technology on 6,360 acres of public lands in Imperial County. The plant is expected to produce up to 709 megawatts from 28,360 solar dishes, enough to power 212,700 to 531,750 homes.


The Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, proposed by Chevron Energy Solutions of California, will employ photovoltaic solar technology on 422 acres of public lands in San Bernardino County, and will produce up to 45 megawatts from 40,500 solar panels, enough to power 13,500 to 33,750 homes.


The project has also gotten support from national environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Johanna Wald, the group's senior attorney, called the permitting of the projects “a major milestone in renewable energy on public lands and a down payment on America’s transition to a clean energy economy.”


She added, “Perhaps most importantly, the process provided valuable lessons that careful planning, siting and designing up front will lead to renewable projects that are smart from the start.”


Wald said the Natural Resources Defense Council, Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife played “an instrumental role in getting these projects to where they are today, and encouraged important mitigation measures to minimize their impacts on diverse wildlife, precious water supplies and other key desert resources.”


In April of 2009, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) committed to helping the nation reach its clean energy future by guaranteeing coordinated processing, full environmental analysis and public review for specific renewable energy projects where the companies involved demonstrated they were ready to advance to the formal environmental review and public participation process.


“We’re confident that our solar program is smart from the start. With something as momentous as the introduction of large-scale solar development on the public lands, we have one chance to do things right,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “That's why we did complete environmental analyses on both these projects with expanded opportunities for public participation.”


The “fast track” program is part of the administration’s overall strategy to spur a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy on public lands.


Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, renewable energy developers that have their projects under construction by the end of 2010 or meet one of the program’s safe harbor provisions can qualify for significant funding.


The recovery act’s payment for specified energy property in lieu of tax credit program makes Tessera and Chevron eligible for approximately $273 million and $31 million, respectively.


Each project has undergone thorough environmental review, including public scoping, draft environment impact statements (EIS) and final EISs.


The companies have undertaken extensive mitigation efforts to minimize any impacts to wildlife, water and other resources. State and federal agencies have set up a joint compensation fund operated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to ensure that impacts are mitigated.


“There are 11 million acres of public lands in the California Desert, and a large majority of those lands are managed for conservation purposes,” Salazar said. “These projects, while a significant commitment of public land, actually represent less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of that total area. Given the many benefits, the extensive mitigation measures, and the fair market value economic return, approval of these projects is clearly in the public interest."


Salazar also praised the unprecedented partnership between Interior and the State of California in encouraging renewable energy projects. On Oct. 12, 2009, Salazar and Schwarzenegger signed an agreement directing Interior agencies and California state agencies to create a unique federal-state initiative to advance development of environmentally appropriate renewable energy on U.S. lands in California.


The Imperial Valley Solar Project is one of the projects being jointly processed through the BLM and the California Energy Commission cooperative model.


“Our collaborative approach shows how separate government processes can be streamlined, without cutting any corners or skipping any environmental checks and balances in the process,” Salazar said. “I commend Governor Schwarzenegger and the people of California for their leadership and partnership on these important renewable energy projects.”


Schwarzenegger reported that there are more than 250 renewable energy projects interested in building and running facilities in the Golden State.


The California Energy Commission approved six large-scale solar projects totaling nearly 3,000 MW in clean, renewable energy which are expected to start construction in California by year's end. Those include the world’s largest solar energy project, which is expected to reach 1,000 MW.


The projects are part of a group of nine solar thermal projects scheduled to go before the California Energy Commission for decisions by the end of the year in order to qualify for federal stimulus dollars, the Governor's Office reported. If all nine projects are approved, more than 4,300 MW of solar power will be added to our grid, providing more than 8,000 construction jobs and more than 1,000 operational jobs.


Additionally, there are 12 other large wind and photovoltaic projects working to break ground in California, the Governor's Office reported.


On top of being home to the world’s largest solar energy project, California is also home to the world’s largest wind energy project, the Alta Wind Energy Center, officials said.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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