March 2, 2012 - Dust blows up off areas of graded desert for a construction materials yard associated with the Sunrise Powerlink near Ocotillo, California. The Imperial Valley has a very high rate of Valley fever caused by fungal spores in windblown dust.
Photos of Construction
August 24, 2011 - Tower sites, construction yards, and night-lighting disturb the desert >>here.
Opponents File Appeal
July 22, 2011 - Opponents of the Sunrise Powerlink have appealed a lower court decision in their federal lawsuit challenging construction of the project across federal lands to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and are preparing an opening brief. The 9th Circuit has asked opponents to file their motion to stay construction on federal lands with the same lower federal district court in San Diego that ruled against opponent's lawsuit in June. Opponents plan to file their motion to stay construction with the 9th Circuit once the stay is rejected by the local district court.
In the meantime, SDG&E has stated in legal filings that it will not enter lands that are the subject of the lawsuit, Bureau of Land Management land in McCain Valley, before August 16 at the earliest and that it has not yet sought final permission from the US Forest Service to begin construction on the Cleveland National Forest.
Powerlink opponents involved in the federal lawsuit are: The Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps, East County Action Coalition, and Donna Tisdale.
Court Dismisses Case
<On June 7, a helicopter dropped a middle section of a Sunrise Powerlink tower near Plaster City along the Evans Hewes Highway. No one was hurt. (courtesy Imperial Valley Press, http://www.ivpressonline.com/news/quicknews/ivp-witness-statement-reports-a-piece-of-sunrise-powerlink-fell-near-interstate-8-20110607,0,5642375.story)
July 1, 2011 - A federal judge rejected the lawsuit aimed at halting construction of SDG&E's Sunrise Powerlink through East San Diego County, California. In a decision issued late Thursday, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez refused to block the $1.9 billion transmission line, despite arguments that the federal government failed to fully assess the project's environmental impact.
He questioned the underpinnings of the suit, saying that those behind it had failed to follow through on a related legal appeal filed in 2009 with the U.S. Department of Interior.
That argument disappointed Powerlink opponents like Laura Cyphert, with the East County Community Action Coalition, one of the groups that pursued the suit. She and others believe Benitez sidestepped the environmental issues posed by the 117-mile project.
The line would bring power to San Diego from Imperial County, but also apparently will hook into lines from Mexico. The Powerlink was supposed to feed renewable energy like that from the stalled Imperial Valley Solar Project to San Diego. Construction started last fall and is at least 15 percent complete.
The lawsuit filed by backcountry activist Donna Tisdale, the East County coalition, the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps. The suit argued that the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to fully scrutinize the impact of the project on wildlife, wildfire prevention, and related issues. Attorney Stephan Volker, who represents the project opponents, said he would appeal the Benitez decision.
Donna Tisdale told us, "The Sunrise Powerlink was sold as a way to reduce costs, green house gases, and to increase reliability. It has failed on all accounts.
"It looks like the 4th judge on our case was the one SDG&E had been waiting for. Judge Benitez's demeanor in court left no doubt that he would be supporting the 900 pound gorilla in the room.
"San Diego is a company town and Sempra/SDG&E is that company. Their tentacles, extensive donations, and political influence reach far and wide. In my opinion, based on over 7 years of extensive personal involvement in the BLM Resource Management Plan and the Sunrise Powerlink case, Sempra and SDG&E are shameless, arrogant, and unethical bullies. I also believe that their former lobbyist, David Hayes, now a high-ranking Department of Interior appointee, played a role in Sunrise approvals, despite denials.
"Regardless, the law is on our side on this case, so we will seek relief at the 9th Circuit."
Fight Against Massive Transmission Line Continues In and Out of Court
March 11, 2011 - In San Diego, protesters continue after judge denies them a live day in court: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/5669
February 25, 2011 - Marches and lawsuits:
Lawsuit Challenges Sunrise Powerlink
January 18, 2011 - The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the Federal Southern District Court in San Diego by Protect Our Communities Foundation. It questions the approval by the U.S. Forest Service and two other federal agencies allowing San Diego Gas and Electric to build the 120-mile long transmission line. David Hogan with the Protect Our Communities Foundation said the lawsuit also asks that construction to be put on hold until the legal challenges are heard.
"This new lawsuit is the first case brought against the U.S. Forest Service for approving the line across the Cleveland National Forest through extremely delicate lands in a very fire prone landscape," said Hogan. "And the concern is that the agency never seriously considered the proposed southern route for the Sunrise Powerlink, and never considered harm to natural resources and increased fire risk to communities."
It also questions approval of the project by the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
^Protest rally over San Diego Gas & Electric's proposed new transmission line through rural backcountry San Diego County. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
December 11, 2010 - McCain Valley, California - Report by Terry Weiner:
What a time we had today at the phony Sempra/SDG&E "groundbreaking" for the $2 billion so-called Sunrise Powerlink transmission line. Some 150 of us gathered in McCain Valley, one of the most pristine and beautiful valleys in San Diego County, to protest the ceremonies. We booed the attendees coming in on buses and made lots of noise when the Gubernator [Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger] was whisked by in a cavalcade of shiny black cars. (Onell Soto of the San Diego Union Tribune arrived late and got the number wrong. I am asking for a correction.)
Sempra knows this is not over and we were LOUD. Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a stalwart friend to the communities opposing this line, attended and told folks the line will not carry renewables and will be dangerous. Congressman Bob Filner sent a representative who participated in the rally.
Now we are asking people to email the White House. The Obama Administration appointed Sempra/SDG&E lobbyist (who lobbied for this line) to the #2 spot in the Department of the Interior. This means that David Hayes (formerly of Latham & Watkins law firm) is over the Bureau of Land Management. The Protect Our Communities Foundation, among others, is suing the BLM for violating environmental laws of our country in order to make this line happen. Please add your emails to ours. The White House email address is: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.
^Kathleen Beck. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^The rally was peaceful. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^The governor did open his window in his back seat of the SUV he was riding in and looked at us and smiled, says Terry Weiner. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^The first busload of SDG&E revelers. There were about 6 buses. Who paid them we wonder? (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^People had other names for the proposed Sunrise Powerlink, such as "Sunrise Profitlink" and Sunrise Firelink" (because transmission lines have caused fires in the dry chaparral of southern California). Ratepayers will have to pay for this unnecessary transmission line. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
(Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a steadfast opponent of the powerline, addresses the group. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^Donna Tisdale addresses the crowd. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^Great signage by Terry Weiner! (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^Donna Tisdale at the podium. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
^Rooftop solar and distributed generation of electricity in the city of San Diego are more modern alternatives to long transmission lines hundreds of miles out to remote central station power plants in the desert. (Photo by Geoffrey Smith)
See stories in the Los Angeles Times
^Beautiful rural San Diego County backcountry in McCain Valley National Land Cooperative and Wildlife Management Area (Photo by Pierre La Plant).
December 2, 2010 - Boulevard, California - A rally will be held on December 9th to protest San Diego Gas & Electric's premature Sunrise Powerlink groundbreaking ceremony for 300 guests -- including Governor Schwarzenegger.
The protest will be held at the entrance to Boulevard's ruggedly beautiful McCain Valley National Land Cooperative and Wildlife Management Area where the Bureau of Land Management illegally downgraded the Visual Resource Management Classification from Class II to IV and approved a brand new utility corridor for the 500 kV transmission line, where no lines exist -- all to accommodate SDG&E's Sunrise Powerlink and Iberdrola Renewables 200 MW Tule Wind project. Tule Wind is currently off the fast-track due to Golden eagle presence in the area. There are also significant cultural resource impacts that have Native American monitors very alarmed.
Parking will be allowed along McCain Valley Road without a permit as long no one impedes traffic. After the protest, be sure to drive out to the northern end of McCain Valley road where you can see expansive views of the Anza Borrego and the Badlands, Coyote Mountain, Corrizo Gorge and more. It is breathtaking. Pepperwood Trail leads all the down to the Bow Willow area along Highway S-2. Tule Wind's 136 turbines will be highly visible from a broad array of protected wilderness and state park area along the desert floor and up into the Lagunas.
Groundbreaking Planned For December
November 19, 2010 - Yesterday an Imperial Irrigation Board member announced in a meeting in El Centro that the Sunrise Powerlink would break ground and begin construction on December 9 in the town of Boulevard. An event is planned by SDG&E.
Forest Service Denies Sunrise Powerlink Appeals
October 16, 2010 - San Diego, California -
Cleveland National Forest Approves Sunrise Powerlink
July 13, 2010 - More than five years after first proposing a big power line linking San Diego to the Imperial Valley, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. today is getting the news it has been waiting for — the last big roadblock to construction of the $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink is gone.
The Cleveland National Forest is approving construction and operation of the 1,000-megawatt line on 19 miles of forest land. See The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The US Forest Service approved this unnecessary transmission line despite these points below, extracted from the comments of former Cleveland National Forest Supervisor, Ann Fege.
"The need for the project is not substantiated, as outlined in the application to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the Final EIR/EIS, and the Supplemental Information Form for the Special Use Authorization application.
"It is assumed that the powerline would transmit electricity from large-scale renewable energy plants located in the desert, when there is undeveloped (and unplanned for) capacity for solar energy production at the point of consumption. Such plants would occupy thousands of acres of land that now has high ecological value. All of San Diego County has high solar radiation and hundreds of thousands of houses, parking lots, and other buildings that could be retrofitted with solar energy panels and generate electricity and eliminate the need for the long-distance transmission line.
"During deliberations for approval of this powerline, the CPUC and others have determined that the existing transmission lines serving San Diego County have unused capacity, and that additional power generation capacity could be generated within the County that would not require transmission by this or other powerlines. The dedicated use (special use authorization) could open the door to FERC designation as a regional power corridor and could expand the 200-foot wide easement up to 3,000 ft and destroy natural ecosystems through 19 miles of the Forest."
Forest Service Public Comment Period
June 25, 2010 - The official public comment period for the US Forest Service decision on the Sunrise Powerlink is June 29. Please send letters to:
Mail: William Metz, Forest Supervisor, 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127, ATTN: Sunrise Powerlink Comments. Fax: (858) 673-6192. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, with a subject line of “Sunrise Powerlink Comments.” Phone: (858) 673-6180.
•Thank the Forest Service for delaying the project but ask that they follow the law and prepare a full “Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” and to distribute this for public review.
•Ask for a public hearing during this 45-day comment period.
•Oppose the Sunrise Powerlink because it’s not needed and would irreparably harm nature, communities, and property.
Talk about your experiences in the Cleveland NF and how important this wild forest is to you and your family
•Express your concern that the Sunrise Powerlink would unnecessarily undermine existing forest plan goals to limit fire risk, protect scenic natural views, and to protect riparian and roadless areas.
•Remind the Forest Service of its independent duty to protect the Cleveland National Forest and to consider smart, local, renewable energy alternatives to the powerlink. The Forest Service is not bound to the bad decisions and ignorance of other agencies.
•Express that the Forest Service’s internal “supplemental information report” cannot replace a legitimate Supplement Environmental Impact Statement. Point out that the supplemental information report hasn’t even been made public and ask that this be made available for public review with another public comment period.
San Diego Gas & Electric Co. promised investors that its biggest project ever, the controversial $1.9 billion Sunrise Powerlink was needed to bring power to San Diego from wind turbines in the East County and Mexico, plus solar and geothermal plants in the Imperial Valley. It would be a 120-mile-long 500 kV transmission line. SDG&E wants to begin construction in June and have 1,000 megawatts coursing through the line by 2012. The project would be paid for by California utility customers through electricity bills. Approved by the Bureau of Land Management and the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the project is currently hung up over U.S. Forest Service permits and lawsuits.
The PUC gave the line the go-ahead in December 2008 after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger voiced his support, but only if the route avoided Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. SDG&E wanted to build the line through the park. The PUC’s approval came over the objections of an administrative law judge and a commissioner who had studied the line. The commissioner said it wouldn’t make environmental or financial sense unless it was dedicated solely to bringing power from renewable energy projects to San Diego. SDG&E said it could not promise that. There is question about how much fossil fuel energy SDg&E's parent company, Sempra Energy, actually wants to connect with in Mexico.
Environmentalists, consumer advocates and backcountry residents have gone to court to ask judges to set aside those agencies’ approvals. The line was not properly studied because much of the discussion in the 11,000-page environmental impact report focused on the route through Anza-Borrego.
One-sixth of the line crosses the Cleveland National Forest, and the company is pressing the forest supervisor, William Metz, to approve it without a new environmental review.
See Desert Protective Council >>here.
SUNRISE POWERLINK: A BATTLE FOR CALIFORNIA’S ENERGY FUTURE
By Lawrence Hogue >>495 kb pdf.
^Map showing transmission lines proposed by SDG&E.
^RETI map showing solar (yellow) and wind (blue) project proposals in western Imperial and eastern San Diego Counties (from California Energy Commission).
May 16, 2010 - The Cleveland National Forest chief, Forest Supervisor William Metz, said he still doesn’t have enough information and wants to hear from the public about possible impacts on the forest, another 45 days of comment. Construction, which was supposed to begin in June, will be delayed until after Metz analyzes the comments and decides whether to approve the permit or undertake an even more thorough environmental review. The San Diego Union-Tribune.
April 24, 2010 - San Diego Gas and Electric is awaiting one more government approval to begin the construction of the Sunrise Powerlink from the Imperial Valley to San Diego...Imperial Valley Press Online.
April 24, 2010 - The people in El Monte Valley came there to live in the country just a few miles from the city, with El Capitan mountain towering over the dairy and horse ranches along a two-lane road. Now the residents of this Lakeside community have banded together to fight two massive projects that many feel would destroy their way of life — the Sunrise Powerlink and a sand-mining and water-reclamation project...The San Diego Union-Tribune.
April 21, 2010 - Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, has officially asked the Department of the Interior to conduct a new environmental review for the route of a planned high-energy transmission line, according to a letter he sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week... North County Times.
March 26, 2010 - Feinstein pushes for Sunrise approval. Her comments surprise opponents of power line...SDG&E is about to sign a construction contract, has begun taking people’s land through eminent domain and has had special cable manufactured, said Niggli, who becomes the company’s president next month.... San Diego Union-Tribune.
February 15, 2010 - Cross(border) winds: California looks to Mexico for renewable energy projects...High Country News.