Powerlink Transmission Line Runs from the Desert to Coast

By Published On: March 24, 2006

The proposed route of the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line would include removing or consolidating lower-voltage wires and poles, according to Sempra Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric officials. During the unveiling of the new route March 20 in San Diego, utility representatives added that they are considering placing portions of the line underground. The high voltage line corridor project has drawn fire for months from residents who would be affected by the power lines. Monday’s public meeting was no exception. Many of the dozens of concerned residents, politicians and other stakeholders in attendance expressed strong opposition to the project. During the meeting, SDG&E senior vice president Jim Avery reminded those present that San Diego County?s population is expected to double over the next 20 years. “Virtually no additional infrastructure” is in place to accommodate such growth, he pointed out. Some strongly disagreed. “This is all about Sempra’s and SDG&E?s making more money,” said San Diego County supervisor Dianne Jacob. She represents part of the area that would be affected. “Until there’s a clear need, the project should not go forward.” Environmental consequences are also a concern. Kelly Fuller, a Sierra Club member, raised the specter of accidents because so much of the line is slated to be built in the backcountry. The area is prone to brush fires during the dry season. “It makes no sense to increase the fire risk in the most flammable part of our county that burns and burns and burns,” Fuller said. The proposed 120-mile, 500 kV line would bring 1,000 MW to roughly 65,000 homes. That represents about a fourth of total customer usage on a peak day in the region within the next four years, according to officials. The planned route from the Imperial Valley through North San Diego County would use SDG&E’s existing rights-of-way and land under the jurisdiction of various local, state and federal agencies, and some private property. SDG&E has divided its preferred path for the line into four segments. The desert segment would have the line run about 55 miles through a mostly uninhabited area. Another 35-mile central segment would include both 500 kV and 230 kV segments, which would end at a proposed new substation near where State Routes 2 and 79 meet. In the inland valley, a 230 kV line would travel 25 miles in the town of Ramona. Lastly, a 230 kV, 15-mile coastal segment, would run through existing utility easements. SDG&E says the lower-voltage segments are needed to connect the new 500 kV Sunrise Powerlink with the rest of its existing system. The utility proposes putting five miles of the line underground in the inland valley section and two miles in the coastal portion. Both are in areas with sizable populations. SDG&E plans an analysis of the proposed route before an environmental assessment is filed with the California Public Utilities Commission this summer. It held public outreach meetings all this week throughout San Diego County. Two more meetings on the proposed route are scheduled for next week.

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