Sunrise High Voltage Line Breaks Ground

By Published On: December 10, 2010

Despite unresolved legal challenges, San Diego Gas & Electric held a groundbreaking ceremony for its nearly $2 billion Sunrise Powerlink project. “For five years now, we have been fighting for this transmission line,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Dec. 9 groundbreaking held at a construction yard in a remote area of east San Diego County, near one of the planned transmission tower installations. “All that hard work and persistence is paying off,” he said. “We are witnessing a historic change,” said Jessie Knight, SDG&E chief executive officer. “This line will provide a solution to the acute transmission shortage” in San Diego County. The governor also talked about the need for the Powerlink and other projects aimed at promoting renewable energy to expand and fortify the state’s power infrastructure. At the same time, Schwarzenegger criticized the multi-year certification process, saying that five years was “inexcusable,” blaming it partly on project opponents. California Public Utilities Commission member Dian Grueneich, who also was among the 200 attendees, was quick to point out that the CPUC has streamlined its permitting process. It is now “among the best in the country,” she said. In the past three years, the CPUC has permitted five new transmission lines with a total capacity of 9,000 MW, all of which have a renewable power component. Also in attendance at the groundbreaking were some of the project opponents. Staged in an area about 200 yards away were protestors from the Backcountry Against Dumps, Sierra Club, and Protect Our Communities Foundation organizations. They and others have argued that Sunrise, which would stretch across 117 miles of Imperial and San Diego Counties, is unnecessary and would cause too much harm to the regional habitat. Michael Shames, executive director of the Utility Consumers’ Action Network, said that although SDG&E has begun construction his group may take further legal action. “If the company begins trying to build on any sensitive lands, we’ll likely pursue an injunction to prevent them from continuing,” he said. UCAN, which is one of the groups that has opposed the project since its inception, has filed briefs with the California Supreme Court and expects the court to issue a decision “in the coming months.” He also said when new members of the CPUC are seated in 2011, the commission’s full support for the project may change. The transmission project received the go-ahead on Nov. 30 when the CPUC issued a Notification to Proceed for the 500 kV line. “We’re looking to complete [the construction] by mid-2012,” said Jennifer Ramp, SDG&E spokesperson

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