The California Public Utilities Commission whittled down the proposed alternative routes for San Diego Gas & Electric’s Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, which includes a rejection of a rerouting of high-voltage lines through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The CPUC and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed March 16 to put on the table a shortened list of alternative paths for the $1.3 billion, 150-mile transmission project in their upcoming joint draft environmental impact report. It also includes options for putting the wires underground in certain areas. SDG&E’s alternate route through Anza-Borrego, which would have been half the distance of the utility’s preferred route through the park – 10-11 miles instead of 22 miles – was rejected because of greater potential impacts. “We are very comfortable with the number of options,” said Stephanie Donovan, SDG&E spokesperson. The agencies cut the number of options from about 100 proposals to a dozen, including the utility’s preferred transmission route. Last month, officials from the CPUC and the BLM took input from residents and stakeholders on five sections of the proposed route – Imperial Valley, Anza-Borrego, and the Central, Inland Valley, and Coastal regions (Circuit, Feb. 9, 2007). The rejection of running a shorter segment of the line through Anza-Borrego was welcome news to some environmentalists, but they were upset by the lack of consideration of a system upgrade of another transmission project, GreenPath North, which they assert would nullify the need for Powerlink. In general, the utility’s 500 kV proposed line would run from southeastern Imperial Valley to northwestern San Diego. “This is a serious omission,” said David Hogan, conservation manager for the Center for Biological Diversity. He said a system upgrade on Southern California Edison’s Path 44, which would be part of the GreenPath transmission project, would allow San Diego to access geothermal energy and other renewable power in the Imperial Valley, negating the need for the Powerlink line. The GreenPath transmission project by the Imperial Irrigation District and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power would use some existing lines and substations. Hogan also criticized the inclusion of the proposed route “through the heart of the Cleveland National Forest” and on BLM land in the “pristine McCain Valley.” “SDG&E’s preferred route is still being considered though it would wreck communities, property, and protected national land and is totally unnecessary to provide for San Diego’s energy future,” he added. The CPUC and the BLM are expected to jointly issue a draft environmental assessment in July.