Western Antelope Valley: Steep Increase in Hwy 138 Traffic Likely as AVSR1 Hits 4 Shifts

Update Neenach / Fairmont / Three Points / Antelope Acres, CA (Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 at 9 p.m.)—Residents are warned to be very cautious on Highway 138 / Avenue D because the traffic will be more than doubling on that two-lane highway, perhaps as soon as Wednesday or Thursday this week.

A spokesman for First Solar, Inc., builder of the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) near Neenach and Fairmont told a community meeting at Fox Field this evening that they are behind schedule and will be ramping up four (4) work shifts spanning 7 days a week until December 31. They said AVSR1 will be increasing crews to 1,200 workers—about 1,050 personnel during daytime hours (from  6:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.) Monday through Saturday. They are also adding an evening shift of about 150 workers who will work "no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays."  A Sunday shift of about150 workers will be on site 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. 

First Solar’s James Woodruff said voluntary vanpooling and staggered shift hours will keep traffic increase during “peak hours” to a minimum. Peak hours are defined as 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. on weekdays.

What rural neighbors reply is that "peak hours" for rural commuters begin earlier than L.A. County’s definition of ‘peak hours’ in the urban areas. Many Mountain Community workers begin their commutes between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. With that in mind, they say, congestion on Highway 138 will be a problem to them as twice the number of workers and an increase in supply trucks are using Highwya 138 to come into the AVSR1 facility early in the morning.

See more by checking back here and in this week’s issue of The Mountain Enteprise.

Below is a report leading up to the October 9 meeting

Update Neenach / Fairmont / Three Points / Antelope Acres, CA (Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 at 11 a.m.)—Another letter from another rural town councils also rejected the unilateral meeting called by Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) for next Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. at Fox Field. Town Council representatives have shown concern that field deputies for Supervisor Michael Antonovich and the AVSR1 management appear not to be responsive to the structure and requirements of the representative bodies’ need to consult with area residents. Below is a series of reports and the latest letter. So Fairmont, Oso and Antelope Acres Town Councils—all the councils surrounding the AVSR1 site—have rejected the meeting date and asked for one that will take place after they have a chance to meet with their constituents.

From Fairmont Town Council:

Dear Mr. Hickling
In regards to the proposed Oct 9 2012 meeting by AVSR1, there has not been enough lead time to inform the local populace as to the intentions of AVSR1.

As you know Fairmont does not have a meeting till October 18, 2012 and can’t possibly get much of a consensus without placing it before the public. In that respect, until a meeting is convened the general opinion is NO to the expanded hours, till we get sufficient info to make an intelligent decision.

In the future we would like to be informed in advance of these decisions so our residents can have a say over the outcome, this doesn’t seem to be the case in this instance.
We also understand that there are no requirements in the CUP addressing this problem, subsequent CUP’s should address this subject, please advise DRP of our concerns.
Fairmont Town Council

Update Neenach / Fairmont / Three Points / Antelope Acres, CA (Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 at 7:44 p.m.)—Today, Friday, workers said "it was the worst dust storm ever," in commenting about lack of availability of masks to protect workers from Valley Fever risks. There is also concern that the dust abatement measures were not effective in today’s dust storm. Workers are working 10-hour days, up to six days in a row. The company is calling a community meeting to announce a 6a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule, Monday through Saturday, and a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift on Sundays. 

Today, also, Fairmont Town Council member David Kerr said hazards are being created on Highway 138 / Avenue D when big rig tractor trailors delivering supplies are missing the Avenue 170 turn off becuase of inadequate signage. He said they are trying to do ‘U’ turns in the middle of the highway, blocking traffic in both directions, creating hazards.

First Solar public relations officer Alan Bernheimer and AVSR1 community liaison officer Adam Eventov are still not answering requests for information from this newspaper regarding the company’s willingness to reschedule a "community meeting" called unilaterally by the company for discussion with community representatives, after allegedly cutting off all communications with community neighbors for about six months.

Below, see a letter from Antelope Acres Town Council about the meeting called for Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. at Fox Field airport, and see below that the original news report on Wednesday, with the "invitation to our neighbors" from First Solar, followed by rapid letters of protest and outrage from Oso Town Council.

From Robert Kerekes, president of Antelope Acres Town Council—

Adam Eventov,

I did not receive your AVSR1 notice as you did not have the correct address for me which is qnet, not gnet. So I am just learning of this second hand, so to say.

Why are you having a public meeting? According to your message you state that according to your EIR you are going to increase your labor and work hours and I see nothing in there that relates to a need to inform the public and we all know what your attitude is to the public.

So why are you calling for a meeting?

My understanding is that for you to be increasing your work hours you need the County to OK and the communities affected to OK that. Has the County given you permission? Do you need community support? If so, good luck to that.

Please update me.

In order for the communities to respond we need time. We’re democratic. Our next exec. meeting is next Wed. followed by our public meeting the following Wed. Tues. Oct. 23 would be the earliest we could have a meeting with you and know what the community wants to do.

I will attend your upcoming meeting on Tues, the 9th of October at 5:00 pm. I will not be supporting your labor schedule.Robert Kerekes
AATC Pres.

Neenach / Fairmont / Three Points / Antelope Acres, CA (Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.)—
A flap arose this week in the Western Antelope Valley when First Solar, Inc., builder of Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1), called suddenly for a community meeting after six months of abandoning community dialogue (according to Oso Town Council officres Richard Skaggs and Gerard Conroy). The October 9 meeting at Fox Field is set for 5-6:30 p.m. But members of the Oso Town Council had earlier announced a trip to Washington, D.C. which would likely have them out of state at that time.

The Mountain Enterprise requests for comment from First Solar were not answered on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

A flurry of protest letters were fired off in reply (see below). The protest letters asked the company to reschedule the meeting for Tuesday, Oct. 19 to give the community time to plan ahead and attend.

Here is the announcement of the meeting, and the letters in response.

Sent: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 4:37 PM
Subject: Community Meeting Invitation (from AVSR1)

To Our Neighbors:
The team at AVSR1 would like to invite you to a community meeting, October 9, 2012, at Fox’s Air Field from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., at which we will provide information about a temporary increase in workforce and work hours at the site.

As you may have heard, AVSR1 will be increasing its workforce on site to approximately 1,200 personnel. AVSR1 will have approximately 1,050 personnel on site during daytime hours (from approximately 6:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.) Monday through Saturday. In addition, there will be an evening shift, limited to approximately 150 workers who will work no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays. Further, the project will add a Sunday shift of approximately 150 personnel between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Activities during the evening shift and on Sundays will be limited to testing, commissioning, termination of cables and other similar activities. These types of activities create little noise and require only limited lighting. First Solar will ensure that noise generated during these periods is within the limits of Los Angeles County ordinances. Lighting for nighttime work will be limited to battery operated task lighting in interior spaces and in exterior work areas.

As provided in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), this temporary increase in work force and expanded hours is necessary to make up schedule and to complete critical construction activities. First Solar has worked extensively with the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning to provide analysis of the impacts associated with this increase in work force and expansion of hours. First Solar has worked to ensure that the temporary increase in work force and expanded hours will not result in impacts beyond those that were analyzed in the EIR for the project and contemplated at the time that the County approved the Conditional Use Permit for the project in 2010.

Representatives from First Solar and the Los Angeles County Departments of Regional Planning and Public Works will be on hand at the meeting on October 9 to give a presentation regarding the increased work force and expanded work hours as well as the impacts analysis undertaken to support this temporary program.

We look forward to seeing you at the meeting.
Very Truly Yours,
Adam Eventov
AVSR1 Community Liaison


1. From Richard Skaggs, president of the Oso Town Councl

Are you serious? The 9th?
Even when Oso Town Council holds one of our monthly meetings we try to have the courtesy of giving the community about a month’s heads-up.
There are too many issues involved and too much past baggage to expect us to rally the community and present a coherent case in this short amount of time. If you insist on such short notice it will likely appear to the community as yet another First Solar filthy trick. Maybe everything has already been decided and First Solar considers community input irrelevant, but we’d like to have the illusion that we have some say over what you do to our valley. (Note: our valley, not yours.) The locals deserve more respect than this.
This meeting needs to be postponed to at least the 16th. Otherwise it will just be another sham.
Will you be handing out paper and crayons?
Richard Skaggs

2. From Stefan Ghika-Budeski, Treasurer of the Oso Town Council
Hi Adam,
By the way, you are not the problem, you are just a buffer/firewall used by First Solar to hide behind. Therefore this message is not addressed to you personally.

Once again it seems First Solar seems to follow its pattern of behavior established from the beginning:

1. Blatant lies and misinformation
2. Meetings that purportedly will take community input, but really never do.
3. Decisions that are brokered before any attempt to get community input. You then have meaningless meetings with the community supposedly to get input, but this is never the real deal since the permits and final planning were already set in stone.

On the surface you are supposedly showing us how "thoughtful" you are and how in tune you are with the needs of the West Antelope Valley community.

But let’s THINK here a minute.

Are you not TELLING us what you will do (work around the clock) and will you not ignore all input from the community?

Is this meeting REALLY going to change anything on your stance of "we got our permits and we don’t need to do anything more so you can go …." toward our community ?

Working 24 hours a day IS NOT part of you original EIR and you know it.

And as far as the community is concerned we DO NOT want you to create and even bigger problem with bigger and longer shifts.

ONLY when you come to our community with real interest and you start doing those things the community has asked for SO MANY TIMES, can you then ask for us to support you.

Modify you landscape plan to start with. Your site is a terrible eyesore.

Come back after that and we can discus things further.

PROVE you are changing into a GOOD NEIGHBOR first, as you have severely worn out your welcome with the locals.

YOU need to show a change in your attitude!

3. From David Jefferies, secretary for the Oso Community Foundation

This is so typical of First Solar!
Again, they act as if they owe our community no minimal level of courtesy. They propose a meeting next week. Mr.Eventov, did it occur to you that some of us have employment based services to the public as private enterprises. We cannot suddenly cancel every commitment to clients, knowing that tax payer funding will pay for everything anyway.

I know that you were made aware of the need for this meeting over a month ago. Yet again, First Solar arrogance predominates, our community is called to like small children being ordered back to class by a teacher who has been absent for over SIX MONTHS.
Where is the proposed agenda for the Meeting?
What documentation will be made available for review?
Might it be possible that those monthly statements re water usage could suddenly appear. On that, too, you are over six months behind?
In keeping with First Solar’s established policy of lacking transparency, could you provide us, in advance, with a list of our questions that will necessarily be answered with your traditional "We will have to get back to you later with an answer." I am sure you can see how much time that would save.
You fail to identify the names and positions of the Members of L.A. County Planning who will be there.

I, hereby, requested printed copies of all materials that you intend to use at this meeting be delivered to my office by noon on October 5, 2012. You have the address. A check for $975.00 to cover my time would be necessary. I would be happy to return it if the meeting, surprisingly, was productive.

This event shall not be yet another demonstration of First Solar having a pointless, last minute "community meeting" just so they can claim they "communicated with community". It would be more productive to have Mr. Piggott do a return performance at the next O.S.O. Meeting.
Back, by popular demand, it’s Mr. We-Don’t-Need-You-People-Anyway.-We-Have-The-Permits!!!!!!!!

This is part of the September 28, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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