Posted by: caryandjohn | August 11, 2011

Panoche, Clear Creek

Our friends Maxine and Kevin own a place in the beautiful and austere Panoche Valley, southwest of Hollister. The valley gets well over 300 days of sunshine a year, so some carpetbaggers decided it would be a good place for a colossal solar farm, bigger than four Golden Gate parks (4000 acres)!

The locals banded together to form Save Panoche Valley and sued the Board of Supervisors of San Benito County for having approved a smaller version of the project without having conducted a proper Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Solargen was the initial developer, but they promptly went bankrupt after spending over $800,000 on EIR reports trying to minimize the solar farms impact on the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and other endangered species that make their home in Panoche Valley.

There was a contested hearing on Monday, so I rode down on the KLR on Sunday night and stayed at Maxine’s place and attend the hearing to support Kevin and Maxine.

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I think the hearing went very well, with Rose, their attorney, making an excellent argument that the mitigating factors promised by the new developer (who rose phoenix-like from the ashes of Solargen) would not protect the endangered species, and that there were for more suitable sites for solar farms elsewhere in the state.

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The visiting judge from Monterey will issue a written decision in about three months … Keep your fingers crossed!

After the hearing, I took off for the county roads in Clear Creek to camp out for the night and to go see New Idria on Tuesday.

Clear Creek is a remote area famous for mercury mining in the early part of the last century and after the mines closed the area became, for 50 years, a sixty thousand acre off-road riding area … But the BLM has shut it down recently due to asbestos in the area. Most right-thinking people realize that this is a vile canard (there is asbestos all over California, a safe mineral until it is processes into a building material).

Anyway, San Benito county is getting sick of he BLM, and have recently re-opened the old county roads through the old mining district.

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I camped out at the top of the ridge and saw a beautiful sunset and had a nice campfire. I’d had a small crash on the water crossing and broke my kill switch, making it impossible to start the bike! Agh! But I soon fixed the trusty KLR with duct tape. Anyway, I was sore and tired and was soon asleep.

The next morning it was down to see New Idria, the ghost town where the old mercury smelter can still be seen.

Bad actors have recently burned half the town, so I was a bit sad to see the damage.

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I stopped at Pacines on the way home … I love the little store there …

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A fun trip!

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