March 28, 2009 (Alpine, CA) --The East County Community Action Coalition (ECCAC) has scheduled a Town Hall meeting on Monday, April 6, 2009, from 6-8pm at the Alpine Community Center. The meeting will be a chance for East County residents to get more information about the Sunrise Powerlink's Southern Route. The route affects communities and towns such as Alpine, Boulevard, Campo, Carveacre, Chocolate Canyon, El Monte Valley, Jacumba, Lakeside, and more. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a vocal opponent of the project for years, will be the keynote speaker.
On December 18, 2008 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved SDG&E's proposed Southern Route for the 123 mile high voltage transmission line, Sunrise Powerlink. Many East County residents have only recently become aware of the routing of the line. SDG&E has held several open houses in affected communities,which have been attended by hundreds of local residents opposed to the project.
The town hall meeting is a chance for groups who have been fighting the Sunrise Powerlink since its inception in 2006 to present information to the public. Although the route has been approved by the CPUC and the Bureau of LandManagement, the US Forest Service has still not given final approval. Several miles of the line will go through Cleveland National Forest. In addition, legal action has been initiated by several groups, and a stay on the project has been requested pending the results of litigation.
Groups such as Protect Our Communities (POC), based in Santa Ysabel, feel that the project is not necessary and can still be stopped. According to Denis Trafecanty, co-Founder of POC, "the majority of the renewables produced should be produced in the San Diego basin where the energy is needed. As far as big solar projects in the desert, these projects must be constructed only on already disturbed lands in the desert, and these lands should be near the already existing Southwest Powerlink which was built 25 years ago with the promise that it would carry renewable energy. There is no need to build a new transmission line into San Diego." Trafecanty hopes a combination of coordinated community action, political pressure, and legal action will at least delay commencement of work on the Sunrise Powerlink, if not completely terminate the project. The POC was one of several groups that successfully fought against the Northern Route, which would have taken the transmission line through Anza Borrego State Park.
Some of the concerns for residents and businesses along the route include increased fire danger due to both construction and the power lines, decreased firefighting ability in close proximity to powerlines, loss and destruction of habitat, noise pollution, loss of viewsheds, and loss of revenue and customer streams to local businesses due to power outages and road closures during construction. In addition, there is some confusion about whether or not the project will be used for green energy.
Supporters of the new transmission line say it is necessary for SDG&E to meet California's renewable energy mandate of 20% and to ensure that a growing population has the energy it needs. Opponents point to the fact that SDG&E did not agree to carry any renewable energy on the line, and that the utility company has not considered less costly local power solutions and rooftop solar projects. Other utilities, such as Southern California Edison, are projected to build solar facilities on 65 million square feet of commercial rooftop, enough to power about 162,000 homes.
The ECCAC was recently established to continue the opposition to the Sunrise Powerlink project. It was founded by Laura and Milton Cyphert of Lakeside. According to Laura Cyphert, "We believe it is the inherent right of our east county communities to have a voice in matters that have such enduring and significant importance. The fact that most of the community was not effectively informed of the proposed path during the public participation hearings is irresponsible. It is our intention that through coordinated community action, we will be able to protect San Diego from a future of renewable firestorms, among other dire consequences, while still addressing San Diego's need for clean energy."
The ECCAC will be pursuing legal action, along with several other local and national organizations. Their initial action was filed on March 23, 2009. The ECCAC is encouraging anyone who is affected by the Sunrise Powerlink project, or those who would like more information, to attend the meeting. ECCAC: www.EastCountyAction.org POC: www.protectourcommunities.org CPUC: www.cpuc.gov