Bouquets and Brickbats: Unravel Wild Cherry Canyon snag

Just when it appeared that public acquisition of Wild Cherry Canyon was practically a done deal, along comes another snag. The American Land Conservancy has successfully negotiated purchase of the property from long-term leaseholders, but it turns out that PG&E owns the underlying title to the 2,400 acres near Avila Beach. While PG&E expressed its willingness to deed the land to State Parks early on in the process, now it says the timing isn’t right.

“Our sole focus is the safety of our gas and electric systems and everything else is on hold,” said spokesman Kory Raftery.We won’t argue that PG&E needs to put safety first. But couldn’t it pencil in Wild Cherry Canyon somewhere on its short-term “to do” list, especially since American Land Conservancy says the bulk of the paperwork for the title transfer is already done? (For the record, PG&E doesn’t quite see it that way.)

The utility has indicated that it may be able to get to the Wild Cherry Canyon project by next summer, when it expects to be finished with the permitting for 3-D seismic studies at Diablo Canyon.

The American Land Conservancy believes that date could still work. That’s good, because with the deal so close to fruition, it would be a shame to see it slip away.

Sooner would be even better, but we’ll toss PG&E a huge cherry blossom bouquet if it can make the summer projection.

Public meetings not a competition

Speaking of Diablo Canyon, it may have been a weird coincidence that three separate meetings dealing with nuclear power were scheduled on the same day, but that didn’t make it any easier on the public.

Here’s the rundown: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was in San Luis Obispo on Thursday for a day-long hearing on long-term storage of nuclear waste. At the same time, the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee held a public session that included discussion of lessons learned from Fukushima and an update on seismic issues. PG&E followed with a Thursday afternoon/evening open house on Diablo Canyon at the San Luis Obispo library — at least that was later in the day, after the other meetings had ended.

We aren’t going to take sides here, but we wonder, do these agencies not communicate?

In lieu of brickbats, we’ll send each entity a calendar. Agencies should be cooperating — not competing for the same audience.

Shortsighted limit on solar plant

Even before the first solar panel has been installed — indeed, even before it has financing sewn up — First Solar has agreed that Topaz Solar Farm will be shut down after 35 years.

That’s better than nothing, we suppose, but it seems stupendously shortsighted to put a 35-year expiration date on Topaz, a 550-megawatt solar plant approved for the Carrizo Plain.

So why did First Solar agree?

Short answer: To settle a lawsuit brought by North County Watch and Carrizo Commons.

Speaking on behalf of the litigants, Susan Harvey said she was concerned that the area “not be a big industrial site forever.” OK, so let’s shut down solar, and drill more oil wells, shall we?

Not that we expected the solar farm to operate indefinitely — the county use permit is good for only 30 years, and the equipment has a limited life span —but the need for renewable energy is not going to disappear in a few decades. That being the case, we believe our kids and grandkids should at least have the opportunity to weigh in on whether this remains a suitable location for solar, and not have their hands tied by a NIMBYish agreement signed back in 2011.

On their behalf, we’re lobbing solar-powered brickbats at the “environmentalists” behind this ill-conceived settlement.