Sunrise Powerlink Faces 7 Month Delay

By Published On: December 9, 2011

San Diego Gas & Electric received an extension of time for work on segments of its Sunrise Powerlink project near four golden eagle nesting areas. Construction delays were attributed to high winds and county noise limits. The area will soon be off limits to protect the eagles. Failure to meet the latest deadline could potentially cause a months-long halt. The California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Bureau of Land Management granted extensions on Dec. 2 to allow SDG&E to continue working through mid-December in the El Cajon Mountain and Barrett/Echo areas. The U.S. Forest Service granted an extension in the other two areas, Bell Bluff and Thing Valley, on Dec. 3, SDG&E spokesperson Jennifer Ramp said. The approvals were needed from the different agencies because the line transverses private and public properties, including Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land. Construction was originally expected to halt work in the four areas Nov. 30. Ramp said that the extra two weeks should be enough time to finish up work in the specified areas, although she said weather conditions prevented crews from working for two days earlier this week. “We are clear to work in all golden eagle buffer areas until Dec. 15,” Ramp said. “We really only estimated we needed three to five days to finish up the final touches of the project out there.” If the utility fails to meet its latest deadline, its options include asking for another extension, which could disrupt the eagle nesting process, or else put off work in the areas for as long as seven months. The additional work includes connecting conductor and insulator work, putting safety devices around towers so that people can’t climb them, putting up warning signage, and placing marker balls on power lines. Eagle nesting usually begins in December and ends in May or June, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During this time, according to the USDA, eagles are very sensitive to disturbances by humans and can abandon nests and eggs or chicks during nesting if the disturbances are too lengthy or frequent. Despite the delay, construction of the project as a whole remains on target, Ramp said, with completion of the $1.9 billion, 117-mile transmission line expected to be finished by late 2012.

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